The Return of Mega Crowds
Huge throngs of people gathered around three separate mega events this January. The huge crowds can only mean one thing—more and more Filipinos are gaining confidence to go out of their homes, and do not mind spending money for these events.
We started the year seeing over 500,000 devotees showing up at Quiapo Church in Manila to participate in the Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9, its first major celebration since the start of the pandemic. Thousands of devotees attended mass at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in celebration of the feast of the miraculous image.
The police estimated over 400,000 devotees in Quiapo Church, while 122,000 gathered in Quirino Grandstand, where the miraculous image of Jesus Christ bearing the cross was stationed. The crowd could have been bigger but authorities canceled the Traslacion—the traditional procession of the image—for the third straight year because of Covid-19. Millions celebrated the Black Nazarene feast in Quiapo three years ago before the start of the pandemic.
Over in Cebu City, around 2 million devotees and revelers on January 15 celebrated the Sinulog for the feast of the Sto. Niño at the South Road Properties in Cebu City, the first festival after a two-year break. Local and foreign tourists visited Cebu City to witness the Sinulog Grand Parade.
Tourists flock to Cebu City by the millions every year to watch the Sinulog-Sto. Niño Festival that highlights the Grand Parade, a full-day procession that lures dancers from across the country dressed in colorful costumes.
On January 14, or the eve of the Sinulog Festival, over three million residents and tourists participated in the four-hour solemn foot procession for the feast of the Santo Niño De Cebu.
A record crowd, meanwhile, watched Game 7 of the PBA finals featuring local team Ginebra and Hong Kong-based Bay Area on January 15. The Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan drew a crowd of 54,589 for the championship game won by Ginebra. The attendance broke the all-time record of 54,086 registered by the Philippine Basketball Association in the same Bocaue venue.
I am sure the same mega crowd would be repeated when the nation observes the four-day Holy Week on April 6 to 9. Such huge crowds will support local tourist communities and create jobs. The small entrepreneurs—from charter bus operators, owners of souvenir shops and the lowly carinderias and sari-sari-stores to bed-and-breakfast establishments will surely enjoy brisk sales from the surge of tourism activities.
I expect similar huge crowds attending festivities, concerts and other social events for the rest of year with the further easing of mobility restrictions. I can only agree with the expectations of both the private and government economists that the economy will expand 7 percent this year. The revenge spending and travel that we saw in the last quarter of 2022 is just the start of the economic recovery.
The administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wisely agreed to the opening of face-to-face classes that immediately led to an increase in economic activities. Coupled with the President’s infrastructure spending and commitment to undertake massive housing projects for the homeless, I don’t see any reason why the economy cannot surpass the strides it achieved in 2022.
The travel and the leisure sectors based on global trends are heating up. As I’ve mentioned in last week’s column, the reopening of tourism and educational establishments generated millions of jobs that effectively reduced the unemployment rate in the Philippines in the fourth quarter of 2022. Tourism also supported the growth of the labor market in the fourth quarter.
Oil prices, although declining, will continue to challenge the Philippine economy, along with the still elevated inflation rate. But I remain optimistic on the economy’s prospects this year. The huge throng who joined three mega events this month is just the precursor of a more vibrant consumer spending.