ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Thousands packed the streets of downtown Iligan and paraded its old Saint Michael the Archangel statue to signal the start of the merrymaking leading up to the feast of the predominantly Catholic city’s patron saint.
Police said at least 23,000 people took part in the city’s traditional “Pagpakanaug” (descent) ritual on Tuesday, September 20, which many saw as a “revenge parade” in the city where outdoor activities during the annual fiesta period were called off in the last two years.
It was the biggest religious gathering so far in Iligan – surpassing even the Cagayan de Oro fiesta crowd in late August – in more than two years since the local government restricted crowding and huge gatherings, and imposed lockdowns, curfews, and other public health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The parade also signaled the opening up of Iligan which saw its economy crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iligan is where Mindanao’s first known hospital admission of a COVID-19 patient was recorded in 2020.
Iligan police spokesperson Major Zandrex Panolong said excitement and jubilation were in the air that even police officers and soldiers sent to secure the parade helped in pulling the rope of the carriage that was used to parade the life-size statue of Michael the Archangel from the city’s cathedral.
“People missed this so much and are excited about the celebration of this year’s Diyandi Festival,” he said.
Despite the crowding, authorities no longer called out parade participants without face masks, citing President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s executive order that made its use optional outdoors.
Still, city hall encouraged people beforehand to put their face masks on.
Iligan Mayor Frederick Siao said the parade and other fiesta activities and merrymaking organized and allowed by city hall this year were the local government’s way of making up for the many restrictions it was forced to impose in the city during the first two years of the pandemic. – Rappler.com