ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Iligan has opened up more than two years after one of its hospitals admitted the first documented COVID-19 carrier in Mindanao.
After neighboring Cagayan de Oro celebrated its first citywide fiesta in two years with face-to-face events in late August, Iligan officials announced the start of the monthlong Diyandi Festival, which would culminate on September 29.
Diyandi is a Higaonon word that means merrymaking or thanksgiving for all the bounty.
“Many have been vaccinated, and we are reaching herd immunity status. That is why we are opening up slowly,” said Iligan Mayor Frederick Siao.
The first known COVID-19 carrier in Mindanao was a man in his 50s from Lanao del Sur, who returned from Metro Manila.
Referred to as Patient 40, he was first admitted to an Iligan hospital in March 2020 before he was moved to the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro, where the infection was confirmed. He subsequently died and was buried in Cagayan de Oro.
After two years of lockdowns, curfew hours, and strict public health rules, the predominantly Catholic Iligan would mark the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, its patron saint, with merrymakings and face-to-face events leading up to the annual fiesta.
Siao said this month’s fiesta activities were a way for the local government to make up for imposing strict measures since 2020, especially during the period of uncertainty when COVID-19 vaccines were still unavailable.
Iligan City Health Office chief Dr. Glenn Manarpaac said the number of cases of COVID-19 infections in the city was relatively low.
At the start of September, the city logged nine new infections and 37 active cases, mostly classified as mild and moderate. Of the 37, there was only one critical case and the majority of the infected were under home quarantine.
Manarpaac said people should continue observing minimum public health standards despite Iligan’s move to open up in time for the citywide fiesta.
Fireworks signaled the start of the monthlong Diyandi Festival last week, when Siao and other local officials unveiled the calendar of fiesta activities that city hall said are guaranteed crowd drawers.
The events include the search for Miss Iligan on September 16, Miss Gay-Iligan on September 25, and Mr. Diyandi King on September 26.
Officials said they also expect thousands to take part in the three-day Iligan Music Festival starting on September 22, the Lechon Festival on September 25, and Kasadya Street Dancing on September 27.
The street dancing parade alone, officials said, could gather a crowd of around 10,000 because the city’s 44 barangays and neighboring towns were already preparing for the contest.
Iligan police chief Colonel Dominador Estrada said the Philippine National Police in Northern Mindanao and military have started beefing up the city’s security forces and more are expected in the days leading to the big fiesta events.
“The security plan is in place, and we are maximizing the use of our resources and are mobilizing our force multipliers,” said Iligan City Police Office spokesperson Major Zandrex Panolong. – Rappler.com