Filipinos brace for party-less Christmas

To 24-year-old college student Migs Refran, the decision to ban Christmas parties in the Philippines amid Covid-19 dampens the Christmas spirit.

“It’s a downer. It’s going to be a sad Christmas, but there is nothing we can do for now. The virus is still out there, ” he said.

Filipinos are bracing for a party-less Christmas as the government moves to retain strict lockdown measures until the end of the year.

Authorities have said keeping the restrictions, which include a ban on Christmas parties, are necessary to keep a surge in cases in check.

Christmas is marked by big celebrations in the Philippines, where around 80% of the population are Catholic. Traditional Masses, family gatherings and endless parties are held during the season that kicks off as early as September.

Christmas trimmings and blinking lights pop up in malls, the streets and the parks. Radio stations also start to play Christmas carols and festive hits in the run-up to Christmas Day.

But the Christmas season is different this year. Due to fear of transmission, malls are allowed to operate at a limited capacity. Mall-goers are discouraged from lingering in shopping centres.

Unlike the past years, Refran said his family does not have travel and merrymaking plans this year.

Only “face-to-face” virtual family reunion via social media, he said, adding it is “the safest way to celebrate Christmas this year”.

The decision to scrap Christmas merrymaking comes as Filipinos struggle with mental fatigue due to prolonged isolation, loss of jobs and loss of loved ones for some.

People fear contracting the virus, and the pandemic abruptly changed the daily lives of the people as the movements are restricted.

The Philippines has been put on varying degrees of lockdown since mid-March.

Faced with new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends, and colleagues, the Department of Health (DOH) urges people to look after their mental as well as physical health.

According to a survey, which was presented by DOH National Mental Health Program in a recent online press briefing, at least 3.6 million Filipinos are suffering from a form of mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. — Xinhua

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