AKLAN, Philippines – Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc used the celebration of the Feast of the Sto. Niño (Christ Child) to urge devotees to get their booster shots and be vigilant against the possible spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
During his Pilgrims Mass homily at the St John the Baptist Cathedral here on Sunday morning, January 16, Tala-oc said bishops and priests across the country were told recently to brace for a big spike in cases in the next two weeks.
“We had a meeting with the microbiologist priest and a scientist informing us that the Omicron variant will affect our communities and homes. The microbiologist also tells us to take our booster shots the soonest time possible,” said Tala-oc.
The bishop did not identify the priest but the most famous microbiologist among the Filipino clergy is Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, visiting Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines and a fellow of the OCTA Research Team.
Attendees in masks were spread out, with only four to a pew. Others stood outside, also wearing masks. While there were Ati-Atihan costumes on display and a drum group beating out the festival’s traditional dance rhythm, there was no mass revelry as the province opted for a virtual festival.
Aklan province is under the COVID-19 Interagency Task Force’s Alert Level 3. The daily tracker of the Department of Health in Western Visayas showed 108 new cases on Saturday, January 15, with 697 active cases.
According to the Provincial Epidemiology Surveillance Unit of the Provincial Health Office (PHO), the province currently has 612 cases with one death from Malay town last week when the province hit a 59.01 positivity rate, with almost six out of every ten persons turning out as infected by the virus.
Earlier, Dr Cornelio Cuachon Jr of the PHO said he believes that the Omicron variant has already reached the province, although his office is still waiting for confirmation of samples sent for genome sequencing.
“Today, we also gathered for the Sto. Niño feast that the whole Philippine Church is celebrating, and is so close to the hearts of the many Filipinos. This is also the reason why the Holy See granted the Philippines a special permission to celebrate the feast every third Sunday of January,” the bishop said.
This means that all Catholic Churches all over the country are focusing this Sunday’s devotion on the Child Jesus.
The bishop, reminding devotees of the country’s celebration of 500 years of Christianity, said “the first image presented by the Spanish is a Sto. Nino image from the first missionaries.”
The Child Christ, he said, also represents Jesus’ exhortation to become child-like and trusting of God The Father’s love. – Rappler.com