Oblate Father Joel Canonizado, associate pastor of St. Nino Parish in Midsayap on Mindanao Island, said the military would be stationed outside the church and more security guards were to be on duty a week after the explosion injured at least 13 Massgoers.
Father Canonizado told Catholic News Service five injured people remained hospitalized Dec. 27. He said no one had claimed responsibility for the bombing.
But the priest said police told church officials the motive appeared to be retaliation toward police who had been conducting drug raids in Midsayap. He said the police officer driving the squad car parked it at the end of the block near the church and caught the end of the Mass to receive Communion.
The priest described hearing a loud bang and seeing a flash outside the church as the bomb detonated. The police officer was slightly injured.
Father Canonizado said those who attended the Mass told him he "saved them" because of his long homily.
"Had it been shorter, they would have been dismissed right at the time the bomb exploded," he explained. "Because ... it was already more than an hour after we started the Mass, had it been the usual time ... there (would be) people already going out, going home. More would have been injured."
Father Canonizado said New Year's Eve Mass would be held at 6 p.m., two hours earlier than originally scheduled, because of the incident.
He said there was a small sense of comfort that the church was not the target. Muslim and Communist insurgencies, mainly in Mindanao, have continued since the early 1970s, with members of both groups carrying out sporadic church bombings, especially during the Christmas season.