Forego ‘fiestas,’ religious gatherings to avoid spread of COVID, Filipino Catholics urged

A 'fiesta' is commonly about the celebration of a city's or a village's patron saint, or of harvest especially during the month of May

President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipino Catholics to “forego” this year’s “fiestas” and other religious celebrations to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease as the country started to ease health restrictions.

He made the call in a television address Thursday night as he acknowledged that Catholic religious festivals are mostly held during the month of May.

“Forego to congregate, to crowd and to hold [fiesta],” said the president, adding that it’s “no problem” because “God’ knows we love Him.”

“The problem is the necessary consequence of it all. Be mindful of that because we are still in the pandemic,” said Duterte.

“I am saying that there are so many festivals in May,” he said.

“But I think I’ll be more direct …. I don’t attribute it to any particular religion or what but there are a lot of fiestas because we are a predominantly Catholic country,” said the president.

“What I am asking is that you only not tone down but forgo because we are implementing the law,” said Duterte.

“Fiestas” has been part of Filipino culture with every city or village having each own. A fiesta is commonly about the celebration of a city’s or village’s patron saint, or of harvest especially during the month of May.

People wearing protective masks and face shields walk along a street near a market in Manila as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions eased in October. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

The president announced that he has ordered the relaxation of health quarantine restrictions in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces.

The capital Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will be placed under “general community quarantine with heightened restrictions” from May 15 to 31.

Only “essential travel” into and out of these provinces shall be allowed under the quarantine.

Public transportation shall remain operational while indoor dine-in services will be allowed at 20-percent seating capacity.

Religious gatherings and gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 shall be allowed up to 10 percent of the venue capacity.

On Friday, May 14, the country’s Health department reported 6,784 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the overall tally to 1,131,467, of which 58,986 or 5.2 percent are considered active cases.

There were 137 people who died due to the disease on Friday, increasing the country’s death toll to 18,958.

Recoveries climbed by 2,972 to 1,053,523. The total number of recoveries accounts for 93.1 percent of the country’s running tally.

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