Tighter measures at Devotee City to ensure out-of-town pilgrims get free accommodation
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Cebu City Government will implement stringent measures to screen the individuals who will reside at the”Devotee City” for the entire duration of the Sinulog Festival.
Councilor Philip Zafra, who was tasked by Mayor Edgardo Labella to take charge of Devotee City matters, said screeners are assigned at the check-in counter to make sure that the persons admitted to the Devotee City are the “real pilgrims” and not retailers or traders who are taking advantage of free accommodation.
The Devotee City will official open on January 17, 2020.
They are allowed to stay until January 20, 2020.
Rows of container vans are set up at an open space near the Compania Maritima building, which has since been known as the Devotee City. This is the city government’s way of providing decent accommodation for out-of-town pilgrims.
In previous years, Zafra said anyone with bus or boat tickets from towns and cities outside of Metro Cebu can seek temporary shelter at the Devotee City.
He said they noticed that vendors, who come to Cebu so they can sell their goods during this festive season, are not even believers of the Santo Niño or the Roman Catholic faith.
“Ang atoa lang pud, hatagan nato’g higayon ang mga deboto nga naay kapuy-an diri sa syudad kay sila man ang nianhi para sa Santo Niño. Kon negosyante ka, dili ka deboto, dili ka namo iprioritize,” said Zafra, chairperson of the Cebu City Council’s committee on urban planning and committee on public safety.
(We want to give the devotees top priority to have a place to stay in the city because they come here for the Holy Child. If you are a trader, if you are not a devotee, then we will not prioritize you.)
Zafra said 100 container vans are being set up at the empty lot beside the Compania Maritima building.
The Devotee City, which will be located just across the Cebu City Hall, can accommodate 2,500 individuals.
Portable toilets are being set up at the Devotee City compound to cater to the hygiene and personal needs of the devotees.
Zafra said they have also reached out to certain hotels to provide food for the pilgrims.
Pilgrims are expected to follow certain rules when they stay at the Devotee City. These rules include the prohibition of brining sharp objects and alcoholic drinks inside Devotee City.
Zafra said those will violate the rules will be told to leave the Devotee City.
A cooking area is also provided for the devotees so they can cook their own meals. Cooking is not allowed inside the container vans.
“Right now, this is what we have. Next year, we want to make things better for our devotees,but at the same time still useful to the city all year round,” said Zafra.
For 2021, which is also in time for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines, Zafra said they plan to purchase big tents that will house the devotees.
He said these tents can be reused especially when responding to the needs of the people who live in disaster-stricken areas.
Zafra said they are also planning to refurbish old buses so they can become mobile restrooms and shower rooms, which can be used not only at the Devotee City but also in times of disaster relief operations. / celr
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