CALABANGA, Camarines Sur---"There is a possibility that all religious activities in this town will be canceled in Holy Week due to threat of Covid-19", the local chief executive here said.
The local government unit (LGU) of Calabanga led by Mayor Eduardo Severo and the parochial council of the Nuestra Señora De La Porteria parish have started the implementation of the the dry run of "no touch, no kissing policy" to the image of Amang Hinulid, which will last for a week.
For decades, the Amang Hinulid has attracted thousands of pilgrims and devotees to the town of Calabanga especially during the Lenten season.
The dry run of the “no touch, no kissing” policy on the image of Amang Hinulid will last for a week prior to the implementation of further precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Paulo DS. Papa)
Every Maundy Thursday before sunset, devotees and pilgrims walk from neighboring places for several kilometers, called "alay lakad," to visit the Amang Hinulid church in barangay Sta. Salud. They touch and kiss the foot of the image to pray for forgiveness, miracles, and other intentions.
In addition to well preserved Hispanic structures, agricultural and fish products, the image of Jesus Christ has made the town popular to tourists. Vendors sell religious amulets (pangontra), herbal ointments (panghaplas), and herbal medicines to Hinulid visitors.
The shrine is open to the public, most of whom seek spiritual blessings and guidance. The staircase leading to the image is at present closed due to the new policy.
In an interview, Severo said that the dry run is intended for monitoring.
He said, the dry run will provide them information to be used as basis to conduct necessary measures in case of emergency.
Severo said the dry run will also provide them basis in deciding whether to continue the implementation of no touch, no kissing policy and the viewing of the image only with safe distance policy.
Due to this, the mayor said suspension of activities in relation to Paschal Triduum is possible but he clarified that they will suspend regular rituals only.
"Yaon an posibilidad na ikanselar and gabos na religious activities pero an pagtubod yaon sabi ni Fr. Romie Donacao. An hahaleon lang su regular rituals" he said.
Rey Hilario, 51, whose family maintains the shrine and the image said the dry run is already effective after morning mass schedule in the shrine last Friday, Mar. 13.
He said that even during ordinary days, visitors from Europe and the Americas visit the Hinulid shrine.
When asked about the sales of amulets, herbal medicine, and religious ornaments, he said that vendors earn a lot during the Holy Week, although he did not mention any figures.
He bared that the maintenance of the shrine and the image of Amang Hinulid has been the responsibility of his family for almost four generations.