Cebu archdiocese to investigate ‘talking’ Sto. Niño

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Thursday, January 30, 2014


LAST Friday afternoon, siblings KJ Ace, 4, and Charmel Arellano, 6, were searching for toys along the shore of Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City with their friend Neniel Balermo, 3, when they found an image of the Sto. Niño standing on a grassy corner.

Charmel picked up the image and dropped it when she saw its eyes move.

Then they heard a child's voice that said: “Ayaw ko ilabay kay buotan man ko (Don't throw me away. I'm good).”

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Dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt and white pants and wearing a multi-colored knitted cap, the Sto. Niño is placed on a temporary altar set up against the wall of three-year-old Neniel's house in Sitio Saac Dos, Barangay Mactan.

Talking Sto. Nino in Cebu
A Sto. Niño that reportedly talks attracts many Catholics to a family’s hut in Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City. (Photo by Allan Tangcawan of Sun.Star Cebu)

It has attracted thousands of devotees since Sunday afternoon. Every day, a long line of people walk along the narrow pathway to the makeshift altar.

‘Be careful’

The neighborhood is located near the Bigfoot Studios.

Msgr. Esteban Binghay, one of the Episcopal vicars of the Cebu Archdiocese, urged the faithful to be careful in believing in miracles that are not verified by the church.

“Ang debosyon o buhat nga dili gilamdagan sa pagtuo, yabag na siya (Acts and devotion that are not accompanied by faith are inappropriate),” Binghay told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday.

He said, though, that he understands the residents’ reaction to the image.

“Makasabot gyud ko ngano ang mga tawo muduol tungod sa kawad-on sa panahon ug sa kalisod (I can understand why people react the way they do during difficult times),” he said.

Jennifer Dimape, 49, waited in line for two hours.

Vendors

“Niari gyud dayon mi sa among mga silingan pagkadungog namo nga naay Sto. Niño nga nagmilagro (My neighbors and I decided to come here the moment we heard about the miracle),” the housewife from Barangay Opao, Mandaue City said.

Vendors selling candles and flowers flocked to the area yesterday.

Vivian Callequejes, 42, decided to leave the Nuestra Señora dela Regla National Shrine and sell candles instead to devotees lining up to the altar of the allegedly miraculous Sto. Niño.

“Mudagkot ko ron, kung kaluy-an Niya mahurot ning akong baligya (I will light a candle for Him once my candles are sold out)," she said.

Devotees light candles, offer flowers, and pray before the image. They touch the image and rub their handkerchiefs on it.

Before leaving, some take a handful of sand from the spot where the icon was found.

Committee

Fr. Benjie Balsamo, parish priest of the Sto. Niño de Cebu-Mactan Parish, said he will form a committee to investigate the alleged miracle.

He said he has yet to visit the area as no one from the barangay has gone to the church to formally inform him of the situation.

In an interview with reporters, he said events like that uplift people's faith.

“Dili ta kapugong sa mga tawo kay ila man gud nang faith (We can't stop the people because that's their faith),” he said.

The investigation will involve interviews with the children who found the image. The results of the investigation will be submitted to Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza echoed Balsamo's sentiment but she appealed to ill-motivated individuals to not take advantage of the situation.

Worry

“I hope the people treat this event as an opportunity to pray and strengthen their faith,” she said in her regular news conference yesterday.

She expressed worry that some individuals may use the situation to earn money, like putting up makeshift commercial stalls.

She called on church officials to look into the alleged miracle.

The three children found the icon some 100 meters from where they live past 1 p.m. last Friday.

Charise Arellano, 25, mother of KJ Ace and Charmel, said she was surprised to see KJ Ace carrying the image in his arms when they got home.

Doll

“Abi nila og Barbie doll (They thought it was a Barbie doll),” she said.

She and her husband placed the icon on their altar and checked the spot where the children found it.

“Natingala mi nganong ang mga bata gyud ang nakakita sa kadaghang manginhas didtong dapita (We're wondering why it was the children who found the icon of all the people who were gleaning for shellfish in the area),” she said.

On Sunday afternoon, Charise brought the image to the Sto. Niño de Cebu-Mactan Parish and had it blessed.

“Paggawas nako daghan na taw nag-atang sa Sto. Niño (When I got out of the church, many people were waiting to see it),” she said. She has not slept since then, as people started to arrive to see the image.

Some devotees give her children gifts, including cash.

Barangay Councilor Ado Agosto initiated the construction of a small chapel a few meters from the children's houses. It will house the image permanently.

Charise believes the image appeared for a reason.

“I believe He appeared to convey a message,” she said in Cebuano. “Some say He'll soon appear in our dreams.” (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 30, 2014.

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