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Filipino priests see red over seaside trip

Anger after govt allowed people to flock to a Manila beach but banned Catholics from marking All Souls celebrations

Filipino priests see red over seaside trip
People troop to the Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach along Roxas Boulevard in Manila after authorities eased its quarantine restrictions in the nation's capital. (Photo; AFP)

Church people in the Philippines have blasted a decision to allow people to flock to an artificial beach in Manila while banning Catholics from marking All Saints and All Souls celebrations from Oct. 29 to Nov. 3.

Father Aris Sison of St. John Paul II Parish in Quezon City and Divine Word Father Flavie Villanueva said the decision to allow thousands to flock to Dolomite Beach in Manila Bay at the weekend flouted the government’s social distancing rules.

More than 4,000 people visited the artificial beach, according to officials.

The priests questioned why this was allowed when All Saints and All Souls celebrations, where people head to cemeteries to honor departed loved ones, were banned.

Father Sison said the government should at least provide some consistency when making decisions on mass gatherings.

“These decisions are very, very inconsistent, to say the least,” Father Sison told TeleRadyo on Oct. 25, stopping short of accusing the government of hypocrisy.

Which is more important? Our deep religious tradition of visiting our departed loved ones or visiting a fake beach?

“The government could have allowed limited movement in the cemeteries rather than allowing thousands of people to flock to Dolomite Beach,” he added.

He said he could not understand why the government banned traditional memorial days for the dead but allowed a super spreader event like a day at the beach to go ahead.

“Which is more important? Our deep religious tradition of visiting our departed loved ones or visiting a fake beach?” he said.

Father Flavie Villanueva, director of the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center, a foundation that feeds Manila’s homeless, also condemned what he said were double standards by the government.

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“We encourage people to visit a … beach. But we forbid them to visit our beloved dead,” Father Villanueva, a staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, posted on Facebook.

The government, although admitting to opening the beach, said it did not expect so many people to descend on it.  

“Crowding could become a Covid-19 super spreader. We urge everyone to exercise extreme caution,” Health Department spokesperson Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Duterte’s spokesman reminded people that they should avoid crowded places. "There is still an ongoing pandemic. Minors are only allowed outside when absolutely necessary, so should not be visiting beaches,” Harry Roque said.

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