By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
THE province of Guimaras is now ready to welcome thousands of devotees and Catholic pilgrims who will witness the famous “Ang Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid” act on Good Friday, April 19, 2019, in the town of Jordan.
In a press conference on April 12, 2019, the local government unit (LGU) of Jordan headed by Mayor Ruben Corpuz together with the organizers, transportation unit, and the police convened to discuss the preparations for the 44th year of “Ang Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid”.
Bartolome Togonon, president of the Pagtaltal Foundation, assured devotees that they are now ready for visitors who will watch the re-enactment of Christ’s passion and death.
“We are ready and all set na for this year’s act. Ready naman ang aton mga stages and ang aton mga characters,” he said.
Jordan Motorbanca Cooperative operations manager Ernan Gedalanga said they expect the volume of passengers to increase starting Maundy Thursday until Good Friday.
Last year, Gedalanga said they recorded 15 trips for each of the 26 motorbanca units (with an average capacity of 40 passengers) from Ortiz Warf to Balaan Bukid Shrine in Barangay Balcon Melliza on Good Friday.
Gedalanga said around 52 units of motorbancas will be deployed in the two wharfs in Jordan and Ortiz (26 each) to ferry passengers.
“Sa 52 units of motorbanca, 26 will be assigned sa Jordan and the other 26 will be assigned to the Ortiz Wharf. Our trips will start as early as 5 am up to 12 noon,” he said.
Mayor Corpuz said they will also be deploying first aid teams from the Philippine National Police (PNP), Municipal Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO), and a team from the Philippine Red Cross to respond to emergencies.
Aside from this, Corpuz added that garbage sacks are spread across Balaan Bukid for garbage disposal.
In terms of security, Police Colonel Julio Gustilo, Guimaras Provincial Police Director, said they are 99.9 percent ready to ensure that no major incidents will occur during Pagtaltal.
Gustilo said that 504 police personnel will be deployed to man the province particularly in the venue of the event.
“We will have around 504 personnel to man the area including the augmentation from the Police Regional Office (PRO) 6. With that number, I can assure that we can manage and protect the devotees,” he stressed.
Gustilo added that police assistance desk centers will also be established to assist and monitor the devotees.
Around 121 characters, with six years old as the youngest, form the cast of this year’s “Ang Pagtaltal sa Balaan Bukid”, according to Production Director Deogracias Estolaga.
The stage play, which is now on its 44th year, depicts the life and passion of Jesus Christ.
It has evolved into a street presentation that starts from the smallest plaza in Brgy. Poblacion and ends with the “Pieta” at the Balaan Bukid Shrine.
Thousands of devotees follow the characters as they walk for almost three hours on the 1.7-kilometer route under the heat of the sun.
Togonon said the annual act done every Holy Week is a reminder for Christians to pray and reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.
“As Christians, ginahiwat naton na every Holy Week so that kita man makapamalandong kag mahatag kita tiyempo sa Iya,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gustilo appealed to the public to refrain from bringing backpacks and illegal items during the event.
He also encouraged the visitors and guests to report to the police any suspicious items or suspicious looking persons in the area.
Transportation of motorcycles, bicycles or cargo on motorbanca units will be banned starting Wednesday to prevent congestion at the wharfs, according to Gedalanga.
“Umpisa Wednesday indi na ta mag-accomodate para indi mag gutok ang pantalan. We also hope that passengers would be extra patient to prevent incidents sa pump boat,” he said.