Jujemay G. Awit
Sun.Star Staff Reporter
SOME 15,000 people braved the rains to join the procession that started the celebration of the feast of the SeÃ±or Sto. NiÃ±o and the nine-day novena.
The procession started at 4:30 a.m. in the assembly area at Fuente OsmeÃ±a, Cebu City.
Hundreds of policemen were scattered at designated areas to secure the route, which covered the stretch of OsmeÃ±a Blvd.
Devotees were supposed to bring only rosaries, candles and statues of the SeÃ±or Sto. NiÃ±o, but the rain added more color to the â€œWalk with Jesus,â€ in the hundreds of umbrellas unfurled.
Their arrival at the basilica was intermittent, with many still out on the streets when the first mass of the Fiesta SeÃ±or began at 5:30 a.m.
Although it is the Sinulog Festivalâ€™s street dancing and party atmosphere thatâ€™s often mentioned to attract tourists, thousands come to Cebu in January for the religious festivities.
Thursdayâ€™s crowd filled the pilgrim center as well as the basilica, where pews were rotated so that these faced the altar of the pilgrim center, where basilica rector Rev. Fr. Andrew Batayola officiated the mass.
Batayolaâ€™s homily centered on miracles. He preached that miracles happen because of Jesusâ€™ love for the people, although some cannot feel the presence of God because of poverty and other social ills.
Lifeâ€™s miracles open the peopleâ€™s eyes to Godâ€™s love for us, the priest added.
Despite the loss of her husband, devotee Amelina Dizon still feels that same love from the Sto. NiÃ±o that Batayola spoke of.
Sun.Star Cebu chanced upon Dizon at the basilica. She is the widow of slain photographer Allan Dizon of The Freeman, who was gunned down on Nov. 27, 2004.
Amelina said she has never lost faith in the Child Jesus and vowed to hear the daily novena mass at the basilica. After all, she is used to hearing mass there everyday.
She told Sun.Star that she and Kyla, her daughter with Allan, used to be very sickly. But they have gotten better since she began her devotion to the Sto. NiÃ±o.
Many devotees who joined the procession and heard the mass brought along statues of the Child Jesus.
Loreta Taligon, a 39-year-old housewife, was carrying her 20-inch Sto. NiÃ±ong Palaboy or the Vagabond Holy Child. She said she made a pledge to join the procession and carry the heavy statue.
Cresencia Fajardo Mac, 58, made a similar pledge. The businesswoman had with her a three-foot Sto. NiÃ±o de Lagalag, placed in a baby carrier.
She also dressed up her Sto. NiÃ±o with clothes that she had made. â€œI do this because of my love for the Sto. NiÃ±o,â€ Mac said.
Fidela Abapo, 51, was holding a Sto. NiÃ±o de Cebu.
â€œTulomanon gyud ni nako kada tuig, mga 10 years na gyud ni (This has been my obligation for the past 10 years),â€ she said.
Her friend Rebecca Sagarino, 48, carried a Sto. NiÃ±o de Manila, which has been in her possession for more than 20 years.
â€œNag-ampo ko ni Sto. NiÃ±o na tagaan unta ako ug ang akong pamilya og maayong panglawas (Iâ€™m praying to Sto. NiÃ±o to give me and my family good health),â€ she said.
The procession was peaceful, with not a single crime or accident reported to the Police Assistance Unit stationed inside the basilica.