Pagadian City cancels Pasalamat Festival street dance, limits devotees in masses

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2019 Pasalamat Festival

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 10) — Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur has trimmed down activities related to the Pasalamat Festival on Jan. 17, including its highlight street dance, amid the pandemic.

Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co said they could not afford to be complacent despite the decline in COVID-19 cases in the city. Last November, the OCTA Research Group included Pagadian City among the country's high-risk areas but it has been off the list since then.

Co said limiting activities in the popular festival which draws thousands of devotees was needed to prevent big crowds from congregating. This year, a motorcade will be held in lieu of the procession while only a limited number of people will be allowed to hear novena masses, which will be conducted only three times during the festivities.

Bishop Ronald Lunas of the Pagadian Diocese encouraged devotees to carry on with their devotion despite the limitations on church attendance.

"Let this remain a meaningful celebration with an additional understanding and patience needed on the limits because of the pandemic," said the bishop. "But despite all, COVID-19 has given people learnings and experiences in life, strengthening the relationship with the family and friends, the environment and with God."

Other cities have carried out similar limitations on activities related to their respective festivals, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to put a damper on celebrations.

Earlier, the Kalibo local government and organizers of its Ati-atihan Festival announced it was not pushing through with the celebration's major events, citing insufficient funds to comply with the regional Inter-agency Task Force's requirement to conduct reverse transcription- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests on all festival participants.

Almost two dozen tribes consisting of 400 participants were supposed to perform on Jan. 16 and 17. Organizers will instead air a collection of videos from previous Ati-atihan celebrations during the weekend of the festival.

Meanwhile, Sinulog organizers in Cebu City announced that some of its live events will be scrapped this year. They said the ritual showdown among tribal dance groups will be pre-recorded and presented online on Jan. 17 instead, eliminating the need for the 22 contingents to travel for their performances.

CNN Philippines Zamboanga del Sur-based correspondent Leah Agonoy and Aklan-based correspondent Carla Doromal contributed to this report.