After being closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, churches in Lipa City continue to hold their doors open, following ‘new normal’ guidelines for devotees despite the pandemic status in the province being upgraded to General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
Churches were reopened during the implementation of the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) in the Province of Batangas, Jul. 1 but which was reverted to GCQ on Aug. 1.
To comply with the minimum health standards set by the Department of Health (DOH), Rev. Fr. Leo Mar Arenillo, parish rector at Divino Amor – Redemptorist Lipa, said that the church is strict in ensuring that churchgoers wear a mask.
There are sanitation areas for temperature checks and hand washing protocols, and registration is required for contact tracing.
Churchgoers are also encouraged to bring their own alcohol or sanitation liquid for personal disinfection.
To guide the devotees who wish to visit the church, Fr. Arenillo added that they have put up signages and tarpaulins of guidelines. He also reminds devotees to come early for seat reservations.
“Only few people will be allowed to enter the church for liturgical celebration kasi […] in General Community Quarantine [GCQ] ay 10 persons lang ang allowed,” Fr. Arenillo said.
Meanwhile, the Mary Mediatrix of All Grace Parish in Antipolo del Norte Lipa, continues to offer Sunday masses at the parish site every 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 4 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. beginning July with a time gap allotted for disinfection purposes, following the standard health protocols.
“Face mask preferably with face shield, distancing, registration, thermal scanning and sanitizing. And of course the age requirements,” Fr. Glenn Cantos, parish priest, said.
On the other hand, some religious devotees still prefer attending virtual masses in consideration of the safety of everyone.
Joseph Angelou Ng, a regular churchgoer at Divino Amor – Redemptorist Lipa, continues to attend virtual masses even when the Archdiocese announced that churches will be open for limited capacity.
“Noong ang simbahan ay nag-allow ng mga churchgoers, hindi rin talaga ako nag-attempt pumunta kasi iniisip ko yung safety muna at saka parang wala namang sinabi ang simbahan na kailangan nating sumimba na, so allowed pa rin ‘yung online masses,” Ng said.
Ng also shared that having eucharistic celebrations available online was a blessing in disguise for him as he was able to attend masses virtually in different churches.
“Sa buong buhay ko parang ngayon lang ako nakaka-attend ng mass every day kasi siyempre kapag pumapasok, may trabaho tayo, hindi natin siya nagagawa every day,” Ng added.
For Emmanuel Zedrick De Villa, a third year BS Psychology student, the essence of holy masses was not diminished by the pandemic.
“Given the situation, I would prefer and consider virtual masses. I know God understands our situation so I believe that He would consider our style or approach so long as He sees that we try to reach out,” De Villa said.
Meanwhile, the Capilla de San Juan Bautista De La Salle continues its virtual Eucharistic celebration via livestream on Institutional Lasallian Formation Office’s (ILFO) official Facebook page with daily masses scheduled at 8:15 a.m., and Saturday anticipated masses at 5:30 p.m.
According to Michael Kasilag, Institutional Safety, Security and Emergency Services Office (ISSESO) Director, the Capilla is not yet open for visitation purposes.
“Capilla is currently restricted to online daily mass; we are highly discouraging visitation for safety purposes,” Kasilag said.