MANILA— Catholic devotees are expected to flock to the Quiapo Church as it reopens on limited capacity for its first Sunday Mass with physical attendance after Metro Manila shifted to Alert Level 4 under a new quarantine system.
This follows extended periods of closure of Catholic churches across the country, with only online Masses allowed as government sought to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Sa ngayon pasalamat na kami kaysa wala. Pasalamat na kami at least na-consider nila itong 10 percent, paunti-unti mahirap din naman po mabigla ulit ang dagsa ng tao” said Rev. Fr. Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.
(For now we are thankful instead of nothing. We are thankful that they considered 10 percent capacity, we reopen gradually because it's hard if people suddenly flock here.)
The Quiapo Church in the heart of Manila has always drawn high attendance from Nazarene devotees.
Badong said the church can actually handle 50 percent capacity with distancing, which has been done in the past. He is hoping that the Inter-Agency Task Force on pandemic response will understand that it is safe inside the church.
Badong said only vaccinated devotees shall be allowed inside the church at 10 percent capacity. Those who do not make it to the cap will have to wait for the next service or hear mass outdoors.
“Nire-require namin na dalhin nila vaccination card nila, kung pwede isuot na nila, lagyan ng ID lace para iwas na sa mabusisi, o kaya naman 'yung iba po kahapon sa observation namin, kahit sa cellphone 'yung picture ng ID ok na po 'yun. Mas maganda 'yung ginagawang ID na para talagang kita natin,” Badong said.
(We require them to bring their vaccination card, they can wear it like an ID, much better or from our observation yesterday, they can show a picture of their ID saved on their cellphones, that’s OK too. But its better if they wear it like an ID for us to better see.)
Badong is thankful that they have many volunteers eager to serve the Church together with local police to ensure that minimum health and safety protocols are followed inside and outside the premises.
“Kahapon, unang Biyernes ng pagbubukas ng simbahan naging maayos naman ang daloy ng tao at masaya 'yung mga tao kaya nga nagtitiis sila, naghihintay kahit may pila ok lang basta makapasok,” said Badong.
(The flow of devotees yesterday, the first Friday when the church reopened, was orderly and people were happy while patiently waiting for their turn to enter the church.)
He said devotees understand that they need to comply with the requirements before they could enter the church.
“Wala pong angal. Kung sakali naman na wala silang vaccination card at naipaliwanag naman sa kanila OK lang sa kanila na tatayo sa gilid,” he said.
(There were no complaints. If they do not have their vaccination card with them, they don’t mind standing outside after it was clearly explained to them.)
They are anticipating the same situation for Sunday when more devotees are expected to attend church services.
“Pinaghahandaan naman po maging ang loob at labas ng simbahan para ma-maintain 'yung social distancing,” he said.
(We are preparing the Church to ensure that social distancing is observed inside and outside the premises.)
But online Masses will continue to serve those who cannot make it to the church physically.
There are 9 masses starting at 5 a.m. on weekdays, except Fridays where there are 14 masses. All masses are streamed online.
Metro Manila was placed under the second strictest of 5 COVID-19 alert levels in a bid to curb infections and spur business activity. The capital region will serve as pilot area for the alert system with granular lockdowns.