Despite zero cases recorded in the municipality, Catholic devotees anticipating the Tonton maintained strict observance of minimum health measures around the St. Joseph Cathedral in Romblon, Romblon, January 6, Friday.
The 400-year old miraculous image of Sto. Niño was placed immediately on its temporary altar with policemen lining up to avoid the public from crowding. It will not be held in a traditional procession instead remain on the altar until taken back to its sanctuary.
As the public incessantly shouts “Viva,” loud cacophony of drumbeats from various groups outside the historic cathedral came to usher the week-long Biniray Festival.
However, fiesta celebrations would be simple and limited to church activities, local authorities said. 30 percent of seating capacity is allowed inside for novena and Masses although seats may be provided outside.
Some practices temporarily disallowed this year include street procession, sadsad (street dancing), pahayoc (image kissing) and biniray (fluvial procession). Merrymaking, meanwhile, are reserved only for immediate family since large-scale parties are highly discouraged.
Prior to the Tonton, work in government offices and private sectors were suspended as per executive order declaring January 8 as special municipal non-working holiday. Romblon mayor Atty. Gerard Montojo urged prospective visitors not to come yet as precaution for the ongoing pandemic.
Montojo also reiterated that people ages below 16 and above 64 should stay inside in accordance with IATF guidelines. “You can pray at your own respective homes and alam ko po na kayo ay babasbasan ng ating Mahal na Señor Sto. Niño,” he said in a brief message for local residents.
“Sa lahat po, malalagpasan natin ito. Let’s just all pray for the better and for the best Romblon that we will be having in the next few days,” the incumbent mayor said. This year’s fiesta is a proof of Romblomanon’s immovable faith amid constant fears instigated by the coronavirus pandemic.