Quarantined Christmas

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DAVAO CITY — For ages, the Christian world awaits the coming of Christmas day while the rest of humanity join them in celebration of the new year.

Merrymaking, gift-giving, and family gatherings are often held during the yuletide season, and the 13th-month salaries and bonuses are a major accessory to trigger such celebrations.

But that was before the novel Coronavirus virus disease 2019 or Covid-19 broke off until everything changed since then, and this year’s celebration is totally a new thing for everyone, thus they call it the New Normal.

 The traditional ‘Simbang Gabi’ or dawn mass is limited given the health protocol that the government is adopting. Attendance to Church celebration is dependent on the quarantine status of every region. Nevertheless, the general rule stands as all dawn mass attendees need to wear a face mask and face shield over and above the imposition of social distancing.

 “Misa de Gallo is allowed but limited, they need to follow the guidelines,” says Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. While inside the church, community singing is prohibited and also holding of hands.

 And the order needs to be followed as local government units have passed resolutions penalizing violators.

 Not only that, the Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) has considered family reunions as mass gathering, thereby prohibiting the same.

 Though Año said, “Christmas events should be limited to family members.”

The Davao City Hall glitters with a call for safety

 What changed?

Davao City, which has been placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) until December 31, has added another layer of measure and restriction as it prohibits Christmas caroling because singing or opening of mouth without cover invites transmission of the virus, a claim supported by health experts.

The city government prohibits activities except for the yearly gift-giving to the vulnerable people, the dawn and evening masses, all other activities have been scrapped to prevent mass gathering amid health pandemic. 

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio in a statement said “no Christmas activities will be held this year to prevent unnecessary gatherings and exposure to the deadly virus”. 

Duterte-Carpio said the city will not have the programs, games, and activities that can be the possible source of mass gathering of people where the minimum health protocols such as wearing of face mask, distancing, and handwashing cannot be followed.

Despite the absence of programs, games, and activities, the mayor said that the gift-giving to chosen sectors done every year will remain.

The city has also set that the Misa de Gallo or dawn masses will start at 5:30 AM while the evening mass will be at 7 PM. The city will also distribute food packs and “Noche Buena” packs to daycare volunteers, community-based and center-based children, the Indigenous Peoples’ group, people living with HIV, persons with disabilities, and senior citizens through the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO).

One of the Country’s tallest Christ Tree stands in Tagum City-CIO photo

The gift-giving is scheduled on December 1 to 5 for community-based children; December 3 to 16 for the indigenous people’s group; December 5 and 6 for the people living with HIV; December 12 and 13 for center-based children; December 14 to 18 for the persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

 The queen city of Mindanao also prohibits videoke singing from 7:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon except regular and special holidays.

 It also imposes a liquor ban, and of course the long been adopted firecrackers and pyrotechnics ban.

In other Provinces

The province of Davao del Norte shares the quarantine status of Davao City but allows pyrotechnics and firecrackers within residences while beverage and alcohol drinking is strictly private.

“We tighten our policies as we balance our economy without compromising the health protocol,” says Tagum City Mayor Allan L. Rellon.

On December 1, Tagum City lighted the 193-feet giant Christmas tree, the city glitters and people felt the essence of Christmas no matter how limited.

Rellon said they managed to hold a simple event this year, with a Holy Mass to be held as a kick-off for the “Paskuhan sa Tagum”.

With the aim to give hope among Tagumenyos this Christmas amid the pandemic, the holiday tree consists of thousands of LED and rope lights in five different colors that symbolize love, optimism, happiness, and hope.

The Christmas tree has a big star that represents the almighty God and 23 small stars, representing the 23 barangays in Tagum City.

Rellon said they sustained most of the holiday tree’s special features and highlights just like last year, as they are careful not to overspend during the pandemic.

The local government also installed at the city hall road entrance some Christmas lights forming the words, “Stay Safe” to caution visitors against COVID-19.

The Kidapawan City Christmas lights were opened to the public on December 1 but the city government shut off the P17-million decorations after residents failed to follow minimum health protocol.

Christmas decors at the Sunflower Garden area were also meant as a tribute to the frontliners.

Tagum City in Davao del Norte is placed under General Community Quarantine until the end of the year.

 “Our people can still enjoy our giant Christmas tree and sunflower garden from 5:30 to 8:30 but we limit movement,” he added.

Island garden City of Samal Mayor Al David has decided to shelve the fireworks display for the year as people need to be home and no mass gathering is allowed.

“It is better that we confine Christmas celebrations in our homes than get out of the house and run the risk of getting infected,” he stressed.

The traditional gift-giving for economically challenged families will start on the second week of December, said Davao del Norte Governor Edwin I. Jubahib.

People of Kidapawan City gathered in the City Plaza on December 2 o enjoy the concert sponsored by the city government but the following day, Mayor Joseph Evangelista announced that the city government will indefinitely suspend the activity.

In Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, the city government spent P17-million on the Christmas lights and decors for people to feel the spirit of the yuletide in the midst of the pandemic.

On December 1, Mayor Joseph Evangelista along with the city officialdom and the people lighted the glamorous Christmas display and on December 2, the city government hosted a concert at the park.

There were hundreds joining the activity, people were amazed and they forgot the observe the minimum health protocol, social distancing was disregarded.

Unfortunately however, everything was shut off on December 3. Evangelista issued an official statement saying “Due to reported numerous violations of minimum health protocols by several individuals in the City Plaza, City Hall lobby and Barangay Avenue, and refusal to heed these protocols despite efforts of your City Government’s Compliance Monitoring Team and PNP to enforce the same, the City Mayor has ordered the INDEFINITE cessation/stoppage of operations of the lighting of decorations in the City Plaza, Barangay Avenue, and City Hall lobby. “

It added “Until sufficient indications show that the general public can be enjoined to faithfully comply with the minimum health standards, the said areas shall remain to be physically closed for non-essential activities UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Your City Government regrets this inconvenience but please understand that this is for the benefit of everybody. Thank you for your understanding.”

In Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, the yearly Christmas Season kicked-off as usual, but this time, they require online booking to limit the visitors to 2,000 while having 1,000 for walk-in guests to enter the almost two-hectare Christmas Season installations.

Tangub Mayor Jennifer Tan said the opening of the Christmas season comes with the consent of the IATF in consultation with the Department of Tourism and health protocol is set for every visitor.

Each guest must register online for crowd control purpose at the same time contract tracing.

While other local government units prohibited the fireworks display, the people of Tangub and its neighboring towns already enjoyed the fireworks during its opening last December 1.

One of the Christmas attractions in Tangub City.

The celebration

Monsignor Paul Cuison D.D. the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Davao said the church “Always cooperates with the protocol set by civil authorities, though we still hold Misa de Gallo we are asking our flock to follow the health protocol and the health policies defined by the church”.

Cuison emphasized, the celebration of Christ’s birth must be centered on the family, “We should remember that Jesus was born in the manger, it was so simple and there was love, as Christmas reminds us of God’s love”.

Sharing to the less-privileged people is one of the essences of love, he added.

Christ’s love for humanity, according to Cuison is the greatest celebration that every family must bear in mind.

Given all the restrictions and variations in celebrating Christmas, still, Christmas will always be love and sharing even if everyone celebrates it in a quarantined fashion. -with reports from Neptalie A. Batolenio and Randy I. Patches

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