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April 29, 2020
Catholic priest Eduardo "Ponpon" Vasquez has worn a hazmat suit more than a vestment this past month....
Caloocan, Philippines
The Wider Image: Hazmat suits and holy water: two priests bring faith to Philippines lockdown
Catholic priest Eduardo "Ponpon" Vasquez has worn a hazmat suit more than a vestment this past month. His parish in the populous Caloocan area of the Philippine capital Manila has been eerily quiet in the six weeks since the government put half of the country's population on a strict lockdown to try to curb coronavirus infections. Public gatherings, schools, transport services, and non-essential work has been halted, including that of the church. Priests in the predominantly Catholic nation have had to be creative in finding ways to keep the faithful engaged. Most have resorted to streaming online masses while others have set up pews outside churches. Some have printed pictures of parishioners and displayed them inside their closed chapels. But for Vasquez, the physical presence of the church is more important now than ever. These days, he wears his stole and oblate cross over a blue hazmat suit with a bottle of Holy Water in one hand and an alcohol spray in the other as he enters some of the poorest areas of his community to bring relief, both literal and spiritual. "The situation of many Filipinos these days is pitiful. Lockdown is not the same for everyone," said Vasquez. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez SEARCH "CORONAVIRUS PRIESTS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. Matching text: HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/PHILIPPINES CHURCH
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