Bulacan folk scale down pagoda in river festival
BOCAUE, Bulacan, Philippines —Devotees of the “Mahal na Krus sa Wawa” (Holy Cross of Wawa) celebrated their annual river festival here on Sunday with a sparser Mass and a scaled-down version of the annual fluvial procession of the wooden pagoda.
Organizers had placed several health protocols against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to avoid mass gathering during the occasion.
Malolos Bishop Dennis Villarojo celebrated the Mass at the St. Martin of Tours parish church with only 70 people inside to observe physical distancing and others seated on the ground outside.
Not too heavy
Villarojo likened the Holy Cross to the load that people were carrying at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “[But] no burden is too heavy if it comes from the Lord. That is the Cross of Christ. It does not crush us but purifies and brings us closer to God,” he said in his homily. “It will be the Cross that will carry us and not that we will carry the Cross.”
The fluvial procession on the Bocaue River began at 11 a.m. but organizers had dropped the large multilevel pagoda that usually held the Holy Cross.
In the past six years, the pagoda had been carried by several large boats and clamped by metal braces to make it sturdy and ensure the safety of devotees.
But this time, the wooden cross was placed in a government-owned yacht and a recorded prayer for healing was played from it as it sailed for an hour.
The celebration marked the 170th discovery year of the miraculous wooden Holy Cross that was found floating along the section of the Bocaue River called Wawa in 1850.
Residents said the cross was owned by the town’s old church that had been razed by a fire. The cross was later kept in the riverside church here.
A fluvial parade for the Holy Cross had been held since then as a tribute to the relic.
On July 2, 1993, 270 devotees on a barge bearing the pagoda drowned when it collapsed due to excess weight. Because of the tragedy, the pagoda never sailed again for 21 years until the procession was revived in 2014.
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