2.7M pack streets for solemn procession-A A +A
Saturday, January 19, 2013
CEBU CITY -- A crowd of 2.7 million people gathered for the procession in honor of the Sto. Niño Saturday afternoon, police said.
The turnout, about 1.1 million larger than last year’s attendance, expressed the people’s devotion and faith in the Holy Child, said church officials.
“Pagkadako sa inyong pagtuo, pagkadako sa inyong gugma. Pero dili gihapon kalabaw sa gugma sa Sto. Niño kanato (Your faith and your love are overwhelming. But the Sto. Niño’s love for us is greater than that),” said Fr. Jonas Mejares, OSA, a declaration the crowd applauded.
The Sinulog festivities hit their high points today, Sunday, the pontifical mass in the Basilica at 6 a.m. presided by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and the start of the grand parade at 9 a.m.
Thirty-five dancing contingents will compete for the P1-million prize, performing before judges in the streets and on the grand stage of the Cebu City Sports Center.
Saturday’s highlights included a rendition of “Magellan,” by the late Visayan novelty singer Yoyoy Villame, led by Fr. Mejares in the Pilgrim Center of the Basilica del Sto. Niño.
Despite the large crowds, especially in the solemn procession that began at 1 p.m. and lasted for nearly five hours, the police said the activities proceeded peacefully.
While more than 500 policemen watched the streets, at least seven suspected pickpockets were arrested and detained in the Waterfront Police Station.
Senior Superintendent Mariano Natu-el Jr., officer-in-charge of Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), said the crowd assessment was consolidated from estimates of the Waterfront Police Station and the City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) office.
“Aside from those who joined the procession, we included those who stood by the roadside and those who worked to control the crowd,” he said.
The celebrations Saturday featured the Sinulog prayer dance during the reenactment of the first mass and, in the afternoon, the murmured prayers of those who took part in the 5.7-kilometer penitential procession.
The day began with the fluvial procession from Mandaue City, which led to the reenactment of the first mass in the Basilica and the first baptism.
Devotees played the roles of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana, Spanish soldiers and the locals.
Fr. Mejares took over the role of Fr. Pedro de Valderama, the priest who celebrated the first mass when Magellan landed in Cebu in 1521.
He then surprised and delighted the crowd when he sang “Magellan,” encouraging some of the participants to sing with him.
“The reenactment is not just a simple rite, a matter of role playing,” Fr. Mejares said in his homily. It is also a reminder and a challenge for everyone to be faithful to baptismal vows.
The choir during the mass, just as in previous years, was the Society of the Angels of Peace, the religious congregation of men and women founded by former Archdiocesan Commission on Worship chairman Msgr. Cristobal Garcia.
After the mass, prayer-dances were offered by different groups, including the Cofradia del Sto. Niño led by speech and drama mentor Delia Vilacastin, her daughter Mary Rose Villacastin-Maghuyop and granddaughter Soleil Maghuyop.
The Mabolo Dance Troupe, performing the traditional version of the Sinulog dance, was incomplete this year as Estelita “Nang Titang” Diola was unable to join them. She has just been discharged from the hospital where she stayed for two weeks due to a recurring hip injury.
The Sandiego Dance Troupe’s performance dramatized the martyrdom of San Pedro Calungsod.
This year, the Augustinian community included a new activity for the celebration on the eve of the Sto. Niño feast day.
Before the procession started, there was a ceremonial turnover of the guardianship of the Basilica from El Capitan General or Lord Admiral of the Seas to El Teniente de la Guardia or the image of the Holy Infant Jesus from San Nicolas parish.
The annotation was led by Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. Cultural and Heritage unit director Dr. Jocelyn Gerra and First Lieutenant Vanessa Arianne Antonio, of the Philippine Navy Nurse Corps.
The penitential foot procession began after Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma handed over the pilgrim image of the Sto. Niño to Mejares, who placed it inside a glass case of a carroza bedecked with red, yellow and white flowers.
The people who surrounded the image were Palo Archbishop John Du, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Julito Cortes, retired Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Antonio Rañola, Augustinian priests, seminarians and nuns.
Also present were Representative Rachel del Mar (Cebu City, North), her father Raul and Representative Eduardo Gullas (Cebu Province, first district).
The Sto. Niño, escorted for the first time by Philippine Navy personnel, was met with music, cheers, clapping, fireworks and large crowds waving along the route.
There were areas where confetti of various colors and shapes were strewn in the direction of the carroza. Clumps of balloons were released into the air, some of them tied with scraps of paper where people’s petitions were written.
In front of the Cebu Normal University, confetti was tossed over the street while a choir sang Handel’s “Alleluia.”
At points, the carroza slowed down for several reasons: the thick crowd, low-lying buntings and wires, and at one time, a refueling stop for the generator that lit up the vehicle carrying the Sto. Niño.
Basilica lay minister Romulo Sevilla Jr. said the fuel ran out at the corner of Gen. Maxillom and M.J. Cuenco Aves. By about 4 p.m., the carroza had to be stopped for a few minutes because it had no lights and it would have been difficult to move forward as dark fell.
The procession continued by 4:30 p.m. but at a slow pace.
By 5:40 p.m., it started to rain but the carroza was still along Martirez area near the Cebu State College of Science and Technology campus.
In this area, the carroza was stopped and the bishops, priests, seminarians and nuns went ahead to the church.
At the Basilica, Archbishop Palma, accompanied by Msgr. Ildebrando Leyson, Fr. Tito Soquiño, OSA and Fr. Mejares, waited for the turnover of the Sto. Niño.
The image was then handed back to Archbishop Palma and returned inside the church. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 20, 2013.