For second year, Marinduque’s Lenten rites closed to tourists
With the continuing threat of community transmission of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the uncertainty of the availability of vaccines, the island province of Marinduque, one of the country’s top destinations during the Lenten season, will remain closed to pilgrims and tourists.
“We still have to control those coming in. It’s not yet time to open (Marinduque) for tourism,” Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. said in a local radio broadcast recently.
“But we will study that. I think if there are already (COVID-19) vaccines, that will be the time to [ease restrictions],” he said.
Velasco, in a recording of his Feb. 21 radio program on his Facebook page, said it would be a bad idea to open the province to visitors this year due to the possibility of the new COVID-19 variants spreading in local communities.
“We should get vaccinated. But the problem is getting the vaccine supply is difficult; even the national government is having a hard time,” he said in a speech during the celebration of the 101st founding anniversary of Marinduque in the capital Boac on Monday.
Velasco said the provincial government had prepared for its vaccination program, “but the vaccine is still unavailable.”
He said the province could open its doors to visitors when at least 70 percent of the island’s more than 230,000 residents had already been vaccinated to hopefully create herd immunity from the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Velasco recalled his frustration when the provincial government was forced to cancel the crowd-drawing Moriones last year.
“To our disbelief and frustration, we have to abandon the major tourist activity that we prepared for because of the onslaught of COVID-19,” he said.
Before the pandemic was declared in March last year, Marinduque used to welcome thousands of foreign and local tourists and devotees for its Moriones starting Holy Monday.
Provincial tourism officials, Catholic Church leaders and residents would join the traditional parade of Morion (devotees wearing wooden masks and costumes depicting Roman soldiers) to start the Holy Week.
But the Holy Week observance on the island does not only focus on the festival but also features traditional Lenten activities, such as the “pasyon” (chanting, or recitation of the Passion of Christ), “cenaculo” (Lenten play), Visita Iglesia (church visits) and Via Crucis (Way of the Cross).
Each of the six towns of Marinduque stages all or any of these events during Lent. —DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.