Police checkpoints set up in Antipolo City this Holy Week

Police checkpoints leading to the National Shrine of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo City, otherwise known as the Antipolo Cathedral, have been set up as part of the measures to ensure the ban on Lent-related convergence of people will be observed throughout the Holy Week.

The large crowd that gathered outside the Antipolo Cathedral on Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022. (Photo from Birhen ng Antipolo Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage’s Facebook page)

The office of Lt. Col. June Paolo Abrazado, chief of police of Antipolo City said the checkpoints were installed on Palm Sunday at the city’s boundaries in Barangay Beverly, Marcos Highway, and Sumulong Highway, the areas that serve as the entrances to and exits from the city.

The establishment of checkpoints came as the city government and the Diocese of Antipolo both issued an advisory as early as last month prohibiting Lenten activities that tend to attract mass gatherings of people including the annual Penitential Walk which is popularly known among pilgrims as "Alay Lakad" during Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Prior to the pandemic, an average of three to five million people, mostly in huge groups, trek to Antipolo Cathedral annually from various converging points in Metro Manila including Quiapo Church in Manila as part of the Penitential Walk.

The office of Mayor Andrea Bautista Ynares also issued an advisory banning activities that gather crowds such as the Alay Lakad and the festivities related to the yearly Maytime Pilgrimage Season, the season from May to July where pilgrims join parades or watch street dancing and other cultural presentations.

On Palm Sunday, thousands of churchgoers filled the compound of the cathedral and even outside the gate of the national shrine housing the centuries-old image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, to attend the Holy Mass that ushered in the Holy Week.

Hundreds of mass attendees who brought with them palm fronds to be blessed by the priest and lay ministers who were not able to get into the church compound stayed outside the cathedral’s gate occupying the intersection of P. Oliveros and M.L. Quezon Street and portions of Sumulong Park.

Traditionally, Palm Sunday at the cathedral always forms huge crowd with the faithful filling the entire cathedral and its surrounding streets.

Last Sunday’s huge crowd may be a sneak peak of what will be the scene on Holy Thursday and Good Friday if devotees who will try to perform the Penitential Walk despite the existing ban will be able to pass through the police checkpoints.

The Antipolo Police said its personnel have been deployed in places that used to be frequented by pilgrims during Lent to prevent devotees from forming huge crowds.

Processions and motorcades related to the observance of Lent are also prohibited this year as ordered by Antipolo Bishop Francis De Leon.