Devotion to the Niño

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Saturday, January 18, 2014


EVERY third Sunday of January, Filipinos look forward to one of the biggest religious feasts of the year, the Feast of Sto. Niño – the second biggest after the Black Nazarene’s January 9 feast day.

Although celebrated in the entire country, the Feast of Sto. Niño is highly evident in the streets of Cebu during the third week of the month as it caps in a grand street dancing today, January 19.

It has become the country’s top tourism destination that foreigners would come to witness it. Around three million revelers are expected in this year’s celebration. It could even swell as devotees and survivors hit in the recent whammies – earthquake and typhoon Yolanda, would be joining in thanksgiving and prayers.

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In Cagayan de Oro City, the Sto. Niño parish church in Lim Ket Kai Drive has decided to move the celebration on the last Sunday of the month to give way to some of the devotees to attend in both Cebu and the city’s celebrations.

Parish priest Rev. Fr. Roel V. Buntol has also made some changes in the observance of feast but emphasized they would never stray from traditions such as the 9-day novena, the mass, and the street dancing.

“It’s still the same. It’s like an ordinary Sunday since we have masses just like what we always do [...] Additional lang ang Diana (the bell tolling at 3 in the morning), the procession and the mass sa centro,” Fr. Buntol says.

“Before, didto man mi sa sulod sa Cogon market mag misa, pero karon, we have decided na we will have it here sa Centro,” he explains.

The Parish also decided to change its feast’s name from Sinulog to Hinalaran Festival to have “something they could say their own,” he adds.

Fr. Buntol proudly says that something new will be introduced and calls it “An Evening of Prayer & Fellowship” where priests, seminarians, active lay parish workers and some friends are invited to a cocktail and dinner party.

The devotees

Pedring, as everyone calls her, is an 86-year old widow. She aspired to become a nun in her younger days, but it didn’t work out as plans in her life kept on changing until she felt so burned out and the desire just waned. She just continued to devote her time in the church. In the early 90s, she still remained single at 60 something.

She went to San Francisco in California and found love there. She worked as a caregiver and met her husband, a retired American soldier. They met in the church where she continued her devotion.

She considered the love and marriage a blessing. She used to have countless suitors but none was destined for her.

A ‘Maria Clara, she calls herself. “It isn’t bad after all to be like ‘Maria Clara,’ she says. She recalls she could’ve hurt the feelings of her suitors but there was nothing she could do about it. She remembers a doctor who was very generous and thoughtful. “It’s just that I never found one I could be with for the rest of my life.”

She says retelling her unusual love story makes her nervous as it had been one of the best moments in her life and she found her husband in the church.

She has asthma and every time it pains her, she prays to the Sto. Niño to take it away. And it does go away.

Pedring is being taken care of by a nanny at home now especially that she is ill and couldn’t walk properly. Despite the difficulty, she continues to go to church on Sundays, though she has been used to attending church everyday.

She says no amount of wealth could equal her faith to the Sto. Niño. She isn’t wealthy but she lives a comfortable life now in her old age.

She and her friends at church help spread the good news and conduct free seminars in nearby barangays.

When she was in California, she went to church everyday. She kept the faith burning. She believes everything that has happened to her is a blessing and never regrets whatever life has been to her.

She is one of the people who supports both small and big activities of the church and prepares for the upcoming feast.

She is old, she says chuckling. But a lifetime of dedicating her time to the Sto. Niño parish church has brought her abundant blessings.

Going to church, bringing flowers and offering help to some people are what she does to show her gratitude to the Niño.

Another devotee is Generosa. Everyone calls her Rose. She is Pedring’s friend.

An accident in Zamboanga was a life-changing experience to her. Most of the bus passengers died but she was one of those few who survived. Her husband was in rage when her left arm was amputated. For her everything happens for a reason.

She has three children and they all earned their degree at Xavier University. She beams with pride that her children never went to public schools. All her children are now working in the States.

Her husband was a boxing coach. He traveled to places, to international arenas in Jakarta, Tokyo, Malaysia and among others. She found it a blessing to think that they had gone to many places they couldn’t imagine – all because of powerful prayers to the Sto. Niño.

She is a retired teacher and taught at West City Central School, her family had engaged into various businesses: supplying tender loins to 5-star hotels in Cebu, a bakery and now a 20-room boarding house in the city.

Her piece of land, one where her abode and boarding house are built, was given to her by the owner. Not once, she asked for it but she did pray that her family, one day, could have just a house.

Just like her good friend, Pedring, she’s now a widow.

She visits Pedring who lives just four houses away from her whenever her schedule permits.

They have been friends and devotees to the Sto. Niño for 40 years now. They share either trivial or profound conversations with each other. Their strong faith is what makes them happy every day, both tell Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro.

A week before the feast, they prepare everything even the Sto. Niño’s new clothes. Rose will offer a 200-pack lunch to her neighbors and Pedring will share her home as a venue to some upcoming activities. (Alyssa C. Clenuar/MUST Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 19, 2014.

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