BACOLODNONS and Negrenses alike observed the religious tradition of attending the Simbang Gabi (dawn Mass) despite the threat of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and Tropical Storm Odette.

Rains and cold weather greeted the Catholic faithful, who woke up early in the morning to go to Church and be part of the maiden holding of the Simbang Gabi.

In Bacolor City, Catholics queue at the San Sebastian Cathedral for their body temperature checking and sprayed alcohol on their hands before getting inside the church.

The San Sebastian Cathedral has strictly implemented a three-person seating arrangement by row to ensure that each one is protected.

They have secured each doorway with a yellow line to bar those who did not come early to avoid crowding inside the church.

But the important occasion has begun despite the regulations.

The Church has set up a human representation of the nativity scene, where Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, and other characters were highlighted.

This signals the birth of Jesus Christ, which is the essence of the Christmas celebration.

Reverend Father Tomas Rito was the officiating priest during the maiden edition of the Simbang Gabi.

He said the word of God stays whole despite the shifts and transformation in human circumstances. Things and people just come and go, but the word of God endures.

"The word of God should be our moral compass and a companion in our life's journey so that we will not go astray. We can never go wrong with Jesus. Whenever we hear the word of God and celebrate the Eucharist, we become one body with Christ," he said.

Meanwhile, some people proceeded to the food carts in front of the Cathedral, where hot Bibingka was being sold after the mass. This is also a custom that Bacolodnons do as they love to partake in Bibingka while sipping a cup of coffee with family and friends.

In other Churches, the church gates were closed when the seating capacity of the Church was already fully occupied with the observance of a social distance.

Visibility of the local police was also seen in churches to remind people not to be closer when gathering for a church mass.

Father Rito has reminded everyone to keep safe and observe the minimum health protocol by wearing a face mask.

Many churchgoers also meant that they came from different places in the city and for us to be safe, let us have common prevention against the virus by observing the health protocol.