BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Hernani Castor was up until 2am of Easter Sunday with watchmen of Mandalagan, one of the more populated villages here that covers residential subdivisions including Mountain View where the sitting mayor, Albee Benitez, lives.
Castor, a village councilman who chairs the peace and order committee, had been kept awake through most of the Holy Week as cases of cat burglary, known here as akyat bahay, have been reported to him, some in Eroreco, the subdivision where he also lives.
Semana Santa in this province, the sugar producing capital of the Philippines, usually comes when the tiempo muerto also starts – the period in the sugar industry where canes are allowed to mature for months, triggering the lean season when the circulation of money slows down as work almost grounds to a halt in the haciendas, and wages plunge.
The burglars, however, appear to be having a field day as homeowners return to their Church duties including visiting the churches during the Holy Week and hearing masses, attending the taltal or palabas, and the Good Friday procession.
“Two years ago this was not possible,” Nani, also a layman at the Our Lady of Holy Rosary Chapel in Eroreco said.
With people away from their homes at times, burglars are finding the opportunity to enter their homes.
In one case, helpers were surprised to see a shirtless man climb a wall and attempt to break into their home they were watching.
Erwin, a bank executive, hied off with his family to Bantayan town in Cebu to spend Black Saturday in the locality reputed to be the only municipality in the country where eating meat, especially lechon baboy or whole roast pig is allowed even on Holy Week.
Ywo years ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, health protocols barred inter-island travel to and from Cebu and Negros islands.
Data from the Coast Guard showed more than 46,000 passengers travelled outside of the province – 46,731 compared to 43,471 – instead of coming in to the province through ports covered by the CG North Negros Occidental Command.
Among those who took a break during the Semana Santa was Ronalyn Decrito, an Army sergeant who was among the more than 124,000 domestic tourists who went to Iloilo and spent time at a pilgrimage resort.
Many devotees, on the other hand, like Femmy Lee, featured photos of their experience joining the Good Friday procession.
Photos of many carroza or carriages showed up on the timelines of Facebook users as the prusisyon, a much awaited form of devotion returned to the streets after years of being put off due to the COVID-19.
In Silay, former city councilor Solomon Locsin’s family joined the prusisyon again with their carriage of Saint John the Evangelist.
Many, too, joined the Easter Vigil on Black Saturday, among them Michael Angelo Cubos and his family who heard the Holy Mass officiated by Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon.
Beach resorts in Punta Taytay village here were filled with people on Easter Sunday as President Marcos extended the long break to Monday by transferring the 9 April Day of Valor to the next working day.