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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Local authorities have put in place various security measures to be implemented for three straight days starting Friday afternoon, August 26, as the city holds face-to-face events lined up for the annual Higalaay Festival.
It will be the first time for Cagayan de Oro to celebrate the feast of Saint Augustine, its patron saint, after two years of quarantine and other public health restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
City hall said it expected at least 20,000 people to take part and watch Friday afternoon’s street dancing parade in downtown Cagayan de Oro.
Mayor Rolando “Klarex” Uy said the police and the inter-agency Task Force Oro were on heightened alert, and the various barangays have organized groups to augment security forces.
“People are excited to celebrate the fiesta the way they did during pre-COVID-19 times. We appeal to them to put their face masks on during the festivities because the virus has never left us,” said Uy.
Security was also tightened around vital public installations and churches in the city.
‘We have to be prepared and vigilant’
Phone and WiFi signals in Cagayan de Oro were jammed for several hours as part of security measures. The signals would be jammed for hours too on Saturday, August 27, the eve of the Cagayan de Oro fiesta, and Sunday, fiesta day.
Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Olaivar, the spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Northern Mindanao, said Camp Alagar has deployed nearly 200 cops to beef up the city’s security groups, but it could send more.
“There is no credible information about any threat to Cagayan de Oro’s peace and order. But the threat is always there, and so, we have to be prepared and vigilant,” Olaivar told Rappler.
Officials said the security would be tighter during the fiesta parade on Saturday morning, August 27, which is expected to gather the biggest crowd and the fluvial parade at the Cagayan River.
Downtown roads closed for street dancing
Authorities closed major streets to vehicular traffic in downtown Cagayan de Oro at the start of the Higalaay Festival’s street dancing parade Friday afternoon.
The street dancing, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the city two years ago, signals the start of the traditional annual festivities that would culminate on Sunday.
The Cagayan de Oro Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA) said a large section of Don Apolinar Velez Street has been closed to vehicular traffic from the Rodelsa Circle up to the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Center until the last of the hundreds of street dancers have passed the approximately three-kilometer parade route.
Also closed to vehicular traffic are sections of Fernandez and Akut streets.
The RTA has started implementing a rerouting scheme for motorists, affecting several urban areas in the city. – Rappler.com