WE COULD say we know how it is to spend the Holy Week during a pandemic since we already had restrictions on movement about the same time last year.
But, no, a second Holy Week under a community quarantine order by the government is as unique as it can get. It will be a different kind of Holy Week.
I remember last year that churches were still open until the start of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Cebu City that took effect at noon on March 28, 2020, or a year ago today. My family and I had time to go to mass and seek general absolution before the lockdown.
Holy Week last year was from April 5 to 12. This year it begins with Palm Sunday today, March 28, 2021, and ends on Easter Sunday on April 4. While there was time to go to church last year before Holy Week, the restriction on church activities this year is already in place and being implemented.
Masses will continue in Cebu City churches per their own schedules, but activities such as the penitential rite or general absolution, Way of the Cross, Visita Iglesia, Siete Palabras and the celebration of the Lord’s Passion and Easter celebration will be done online. The Visita Iglesia, or visits to at least seven different churches on Holy Thursday, is a popular Holy Week tradition that will also be done online. (Check out the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu account on Facebook for its schedule.)
Cebu City is fortunate to still be allowed to hold masses, including on Easter Sunday, because churches at the National Capital Region plus nearby areas were allowed to say only one mass a day from April 1 to 4 with the number of participants limited to 10 percent of capacity. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases that is leading the country’s coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response also said live singing should be disallowed during mass, no screens outside to show the mass as these would encourage people to flock outside churches, and that a reservation system be implemented to ensure they limit the number of people inside churches.
The other difference this year compared to last year’s locked-down Holy Week is that, aside from strict regulations for churches, there too are rules governing who and when people can go to beach resorts in Lapu-Lapu City.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan prohibited going to the beach in the city from Holy Monday, March 29, to Easter Sunday, April 4 without prior bookings in hotels and resorts. These are the days when people pre-pandemic went to the beach for summer vacation and work holidays. The prohibition covers going to either public or private beaches.
With clearer and stricter restrictions this Holy Week compared to last year, the outcome would hopefully be different and the spread of the Covid-19 virus better controlled.
This year’s Holy Week could provide the occasion for a deeper understanding of what’s important to us. Life, health, family, and our faith.