The community quarantine imposed in localities as a precaution against the new coronavirus (COVID-19) has snuffed out the fiesta atmosphere in Bohol.
May is a special month for Boholanos because it is during this month when every sitio, barangay, town and city in Bohol has a fiesta everyday.
But this year, the fiestas are being celebrated in isolation, as strict coronavirus lockdown measures remain in place around the province preventing social gatherings.
Tagbilaran City was silent on Friday, May 1 even as it celebrated its fiesta and transitioned to more relaxed measures against COVID-19.
The city was under a one-day “lockdown” to make sure there wouldn’t be too much merrymaking and to prevent people from converging.
In Tagbilaran City, residents have been advised to avoid gatherings with friends and family and are being told to celebrate in private.
May 1 marked the city’s fiesta in honor of St. Joseph the Worker, and starts the merry month of May, where there is a fiesta in every place in Bohol every day.
Fiestas in Bohol, which are very much embedded in the psyche of every Boholano, are characterized by an abundance of food, plenty of beer and tuba and mass gathering.
What made Bohol fiesta unique is that anyone can roam around the province for the entire month without having to pay money for food because everyone is putting up a feast to celebrate the fiesta.
But since the city was placed on lockdown on Friday, all was silent when the mood was supposed to be festive, colorful, and bright.
There were few vehicles along its thoroughfares. There were also no banderitas and fanfare or any indications of the fiesta celebration.
“It doesn’t really feel like fiesta,” said Booy resident Nita Niluag who was looking forward to continuing the tradition of celebrating fiesta with her children. Then the coronavirus disrupted life.
“Normally, the stores are opened and crowded. The house is full with friends and family with the joy and excitement of fiesta,” she added.
Churches were still closed and Holy Masses were still held in private.
Friday’s Pontifical Mass, for example, tend to bring in more parishioners
This year, it’s just Bishop Abet Uy, some priests and a four-person camera crew.
The sermon was shorter, without the “amens” from the pews.
It was different when parishioners have to type “amen” in the comments of a livestreamed service or shout “Hallelujah!” alone at home.
Sister Precy was one of those who came to the cathedral on Friday to pray before the closed doors of the St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral in to celebrate the saint’s feast day on May 1.
She said it was so different to watch Holy Mass online. She felt like she was just observing a show instead of participating in a worship.
“Here, you can feel the presence of the Lord. You can hear His voice through the bishop and priests who are officiating the mass,” said the 56-year-old visionary.
“It’s the music, it’s the people, it’s the Word that moves you,” she said.
Sister Precy said she prayed for the end of the pandemic.
“It’s important to remember that a quarantined fiesta does not detract from the holiday. It strengthens its messages of G-d’s love, helping and praying for other people in this moment of darkness and doubt,” Sister Precy said.
Many residents hooked up with the online mass of the diocese because it is better that way than not having observed religious practices at all.
The good of the pandemic, it has renewed spritual ties with the Lord with the nightly family rosary with special intention for protection against COVID-19, said Cogon resident Fiel Angeli Araoarao.
The realities of the fiesta season, Boholanos really roll out the best for their visitors — at all cost to the point of borrowing money from ” loan shark”.
Pigs were bought a month and others raised a pig three months before the fiesta. The bigger the pig, the better.
Others would slaughter additional pig for “bring house.”
Inasal (roasted pig) is the center piece of fiesta. Some have biggest “inasal” you’ll ever see – 80 to 90 kilos.
There is also a practice of “bandihay” wherein the “sangga” (partner) would support each other financially during fiesta. The first to celebrate the fiesta will be the first to use the money and return the favor in time he/she is celebrating fiesta.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fiesta celebrations in Bohol are going to look different for thousands of families.
Some residents still prepared food in their homes in thanksgiving to their patron and G-d.
“We have prepared a small feast just for the family,” said Hilda Vertulfo, 38, and a resident of Barangay Cogon.
“However, visitors and friends are not invited at this time,” she said.
The world is changing, but fiesta is here to stay.
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