CEBU, Philippines - The parish priest of Santa Fe town in Bantayan Island, Cebu led parishioners in a procession dawn yesterday to protest the staging of a music festival in the town during Holy Week, a move that did not please the town mayor.
"He did not inform me... Mao ba nang (religious) leader nga gikinahanglan diri? Katoliko pa naman," Mayor Jose Esgana told reporters in the afternoon.
Esgana said the procession caused public disturbance, but Fr. Roy Bucag, the vocal critic of the festival, said it was but a “silent mass action.”
Over a hundred parishioners carried torches and battery-powered lights and prayed the rosary as they walked around the village.
A banner they carried around read, "People in Bantayan Island do not sing and dance when Christ's death is commemorated on Good Friday until [Black] Saturday... Help us keep that beautiful old tradition. Be culture-sensitive. Holy Week is not fiesta in the island."
Breaking in tears during the Mass that followed, Bucag said in his homily that it is not right to organize such kind of entertainment while the Catholic faithful observe the Holy Week.
While he acknowledges that the Church does not have the final say in the event, Bucag said he “strongly discourages” its staging as it might disrupt the solemnity of the Holy Week.
Bucag said he did not protest the staging of the event last year because he thought it would bring good to the people. What he saw, he said, was different – young people getting drunk and rowdy.
While he believes that a balance should be established between economic gain and religious practice, the music festival need not be held during the Holy Week.
Bucag has asked Governor Hilario Davide to intervene in the situation but the governor merely suggested moving the event somewhere else, something Bucag did not agree to, as he would want the event moved to another date.
Esgana, during his press conference, explained that the Holy Week is considered the peak season as far as tourism is concerned in Bantayan Island. Tourists prefer to visit the island at this time of year because the seas are calm and the break is long during the Holy Week.
An event like the music festival, which will run from April 13 - 15 (Holy Thursday until Black Saturday) can bring opportunities and usher development, Esgana said, as these attract tourists and benefit local businesses.
Esgana held his press conference under a tent at a park right across Bucag’s parish.
He pointed out that the religious sector must also respect the beliefs and choices of those who are not Catholics. He reasoned that people should not live in religion alone as they also need to work for a living.
Esgana said there is no reason to stop the staging of the festival, as the organizers have met the requirements and conditions set by the local government unit.
The event will be held in a secluded place. — /JMO (FREEMAN)