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mindaviews eviotaBERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 01 April) –  I decided to shut down on social media starting today, to give myself time to focus on what things are important in the Holy Week.

Not that I don’t consider lugaw as an essential food, but the lugaw arguments in the Philippines have taken on political tones to show that Filipinos have had enough of lockdowns and restrictions that are sometimes imposed haphazardly and arbitrarily in the barangays – a sign of unclear instructions from the national offices above.

This seems to be the people’s message to government: If we have to be on lockdown during this most holy week when we should be visiting our families or practicing our religious traditions, then we will comply to prevent more infections. But keep off our lugaw and essential food orders.

Here, the week has been sunny and warm offering spring-like temperatures, and the Filipinos are tempted to hop on a train and travel and see the mountains and smell the fresh air and forget the pandemic for a while.

But the continuing social restrictions – renewed until mid-April – are making us think twice.

While national travel is not restricted, tourism is under close watch by local governments. Outdoor gatherings of only up to 15 people are allowed. And restaurants and bars remain closed, cultural and sports events with spectators remain banned and the work-from-home policy has been maintained.

So what to do when the virus situation is still considered “uncertain” by authorities? Filipinos will use the long weekend to cook their favorite Lenten season food – binignit and rice cake and of course, the essential lugaw. This will be a time to cut down on meat and sweets and just partake of the simple and frugal food.

The bisita Iglesia tradition also remains. On Good Friday, groups of Filipinos will meet to visit at least seven of the Catholic churches to say the stations of the cross or simply to pray. No matter if some of the churches are Protestant, as some bisita goers realized after noticing that the churches they had entered had no Catholic religious figures on display!

It is also time to hear the special masses during Lent. This year there are changes due to the pandemic – there is no washing of the feet ritual during Maundy Thursday. And the palaspas (no palm fronds available here, so plant twigs are used) were pre-blessed and left for pickup outside the church during the Palm Sunday mass, instead of the communal blessing and basbas outside before mass.

I imagine there will be few meeting of families and friends, owing to the limit of ten people for meetings indoors.

Online masses and religious lectures also abound for those looking for spiritual food and guidance. I remember watching last year Pope Francis’ Easter homily delivered in a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica, calling for the world to come together in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. I will never forget that powerful image representing solitude and loneliness during the pandemic, but also the hope that the church offered to the fearful faithful.

Fear and despair. That was what the Holy Week tasted of last year. And also strangeness in the world. I remember writing in this column last year of the strange sight that my wife and I had in a city street – that of a man clad in boots and coat fishing in the rain from an open canal!

I am grateful that we are at the present free to hear mass here, even if the congregation is limited to 50 people in the main church. But my prayers will go to the Filipinos who will be locked in their barangays at this most holy time for Catholics. Again, Easter and the promise of the risen Christ will offer us hope for deliverance from the continuing pandemic and the anemic responses of inutile leaders. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their thoughts about their home country and their experiences in their adopted countries. Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)

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