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P’francia fiesta still on despite coronavirus-19

NAGA CITY --- The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Penafrancia this coming September will proceed as scheduled amidst the existence of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), a church official said.

Father Pablo Carpio, Penafrancia Basilica Minore assistant rector, in an interview, said a meeting next week of the Penafrancia fiesta committee has been scheduled where church and local officials will discuss and study important issues related to the Marian celebration.

Carpio said Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona will preside the meeting of the committee.

Among the issues to be discussed are: how to strictly observe physical distancing and wearing of masks among devotees during the major religious activities such as the “Traslacion” and fluvial processions.

Many Bicolanos who are devotees of “Ina” have been asking and wondering if the Peñafrancia festivities will proceed this September amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Peñafrancia fiesta, the biggest religious event in the Bicol region, draws over one million devotees and tourists from all over the country and the world every year.

Carpio said that even if there is a pandemic, the devotion to “Ina” must continue.

He said that masses in churches have resumed with strict observance of wearing of mask, social distancing, sanitation, and limited number of people inside the church.

Most churchgoers who can no longer be allowed inside the churches still attend the masses by staying in church grounds and open spaces.

Under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), churches are already allowed to resume masses provided that only 50 percent of the church capacity shall be filled by churchgoers.

This 2020, the Peñafrancia May Festival, an annual religious even was cancelled due to Covid-19.

In a related development, the Naga City government is planning to cancel the Peñafrancia civic and military parades including the Miss Bicolandia pageant, however, no final decision on the matter has been made yet, Allen Reondanga, City Events Protocol and Public Information Office (CEPPIO) chief said.

All civic activities related to the Peñafrancia celebrations will depend on the guidelines of the IATF comes September, Reondanga said.

Alec Francis Santos, Naga City’s Arts Culture and Tourism Office head, said that tourism in the city during the Peñafrancia fiesta will surely be affected because of Covid-19.

Santos said tourism arrival in the city has already dropped by 75 percent as of May this year.

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