EL NIDO, Palawan – The town’s Municipal Inter-Agency Task Force (MIATF) has allowed religious gatherings to resume here, provided that the institutions follow health protocols.
The local government unit (LGU) posted a form on their official Facebook page on May 22 that leaders of religious institutions could apply for special permission to conduct religious gatherings in their respective houses of worship. This is in accordance with the newly released Executive Order 20-061, allowing religious gatherings to resume if they strictly adhere to health protocols.
“Before holding religious gatherings, religious leaders shall present a plan for proper observance of minimum health standards, subject to the approval of the El Nido LGU through the MIATF,” the ordinance stated.
The form contains various health guidelines under which religious leaders and worshipers should follow while the town is under general community quarantine (GCQ).
Some of these guidelines include only allowing 50% reduced seating capacity, wearing of face masks, and presence of foot baths and handwashing areas. Physical contact activities are also prohibited, such as holding or shaking of hands during the religious service.
A churchgoer of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish, the town’s main Catholic church, who declined to be named, said that she feels uplifted that mass is now allowed to be conducted, as she misses going to a physical house of worship.
“As a religious person, parang na-enlighten ulit ang faith ko. Dati, sa TV ako nanonood ng misa, pero iba pa rin talaga ‘yoong nasa loob ng simbahan,” she said. “Nonetheless, I hope na magkaroon ng strict implementation ng social distancing sa loob ng simbahan, tulad noong isang time, gumawa ng mga marks sa mga upuan, at sana tanggalin muna ang holy water area.”
An Iglesia ni Cristo member, who also declined to be named, expressed wariness of religious services resuming due to the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine. The El Nido branch still has not yet resumed operations, as it is waiting for their central management to give a go signal.
“Sa ngayon, house worship lang muna kami sa pamilya. Susunod na lang kami sa kung ano ang ipapayo ng central ng Iglesia,” he said. When asked if he was looking forward to worship services continuing, he said that hopefully social distancing measures would be observed by members, especially since no vaccine for COVID-19 is available yet.
Life Church El Nido is waiting for the main church to give a go signal to hold services next Sunday. The church hosts nearly 200 members weekly, but with reduced capacity requirements, Pastor Greg Dadule believes that perhaps only 50 to 60 members may be able to attend.
“Kung susundan naming ang guidelines ng LGU, talagang magiging 50 to 60 members na lang ang makaka-attend ng service. Baka nga kakailanganin naming na mag-tatlong service para ma-accommodate lahat,” said Dadule. “Pero sa tingin ko, kaya naman namin ito. Basta’t payagan na kami ng LGU na mag-service.”