SHIRLEY Mangila, 45, held in her arms an image of the Sto. NiÃ±o de Cebu while she and more than 30,000 devotees walked from Fuente OsmeÃ±a circle to the Basilica del Sto. NiÃ±o during the annual Foot Penitential Procession yesterday dawn.
Mangila, a â€œbalikbayanâ€ from Ontario, Canada, came to Cebu to not only experience the annual Sinulog Festival, but also to observe the traditional novena in the basilica.
Mangila said she is also asking the Sto. NiÃ±o to help her son, a nursing student here in Cebu, graduate this year and pass his nursing licensure exams.
â€œIâ€™m praying to the Sto. NiÃ±o that not only will He give me blessings this year, but also to bless my son, who I hope will follow me to Ontario after he receives his nursing license,â€ she said.
Despite the hard walk, Mangila and other devotees braved the cold dawn air as they escorted the image of the Child Jesus towards the basilica.
At 5 a.m., they entered the gates of the basilica. Their number grew as devotees waiting in the pilgrimage center joined them.
Members of the Basilicaâ€™s security detail, in an interview, said that more than 100,000 devotees filled the entire basilica, including those attending mass outside.
The entrance of the image of the Child Jesus was greeted with much fervor, with devotees shouting â€œViva Pit Senyorâ€ at the top of their lungs.
Formally led by the basilicaâ€™s current rector Rev. Fr. Rudy Bugna, the mass to formally open the 444th celebration of the Sto. NiÃ±o de Cebu began at 5:30 a.m.
In his homily, Bugna challenged devotees and all Cebuanos to five things that the Sto. NiÃ±o wants them to do this year.
â€œHanduman (remember), awit (sing), gasa (gift), ilis (change), ug tabang (help),â€ he said.
Bugna said people should remember, sing, give to the poor, change for the better and help others for the sake of the Sto. NiÃ±o.
Maria â€œManingâ€ Solis, a devotee to the Holy Child all her life, took Bugnaâ€™s homily to heart.
â€œDili gyud ko mawala dinhi sa basilica, mauwan o mainit naa ra gyud ko dinhi (Iâ€™m always here at the basilica, no matter what the weather is outside), she said.
The 64-year-old candle seller said her devotion to the Sto. NiÃ±o has given her lots of blessings, despite the challenges that have come her way.
â€œDili ra man gyud na siya mawalaâ€¦ naa ra gyud siya bisag nagkayamukat nata (The Sto. NiÃ±o has always been there for me),â€ she said.
This year, Solis asked for blessings for her family and friends.
â€œSto. NiÃ±o ra gyuy bahala nato (I leave everything to the Sto. NiÃ±o),â€ Solis said.
Chief Insp. Arnel Banzon, who served as the ground commander, said he was thankful that the religious activity was peaceful and orderly.
At least 80 police officers were deployed along the parade route and within the vicinity of the basilica to secure the devotees. (JKV/With a report from JTG/Sun.Star Cebu)