ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 19 September) -– Every 20th of September, the St. Michael’s Cathedral in the heart of this city is usually filled with people, from the church grounds, all the way to the altar, the crowd drenched in sweat as devotees shout “Viva Senyor! Viva Senyor San Miguel!”
It will be different in this year’s version on Sunday, start of the nine-day novena until the San Miguel fiesta on the 29th.
With rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the city – 590 total confirmed cases as of Friday – Iligan has been placed on Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) for the whole month of September, depriving it practically of all fiesta activities. No carnival, trade fairs, pageants, fun runs, parades, street dancing, processions, etc.
Fr. Edgar Momay, officer-in-charge rector of the Diocese of Iligan, said in a press statement over Brigade news FM that during Sunday’s “pagpakanaug” rites, when the patron saint’s statue will be brought down from the pedestal and placed in a platform closer to the people, only a few lay people will be with Bishop Jose Rapadas III – a few lay ministers and five devotees will carry the statue.
The rest of the crowd will be Iligan’s government officials: Rep. Fredrick Siao, Mayor Celso Regencia, Vice Mayor Jemar Vera Cruz (who is a priest on leave, formerly vicar general of the diocese), and some of the city councilors, according to Momay.
The entire premises of Saint Michael’s Cathedral will be cordoned off by the police and the military to prevent entry of devotees.
The entire Mass, however, will be streamed live on the Facebook page of the diocese and to be aired over selected radio stations, Momay added.
After the pagpakanaug, Saint Michael’s statue, considered miraculous by Iligan devotees, is supposed to be carried around Iligan’s major thoroughfares in a procession. But Momay said there will be none \on Sunday.
At the end of the procession, the crowd would usually join a long queue under the scorching heat of the mid-morning sun in front of the cathedral so they could kiss the statue. This time, the few people allowed to witness the ceremony will only bow in front of the statue.
Momay said that even in the preparations on the eve of the pagpakanaug, only five people were allowed to bathe the statue and its elaborate garb so they could still observe standard health protocol. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)