Editorial: For the fiesta, time to look ahead-A A +A
Monday, January 14, 2013
THAT veneration of the Sto. Niño has continued to grow can be attested by the number of people that crowd the Basilica del Sto. Niño for the religious aspect of its feast every January and the Cebu City streets and the Cebu City Sports Center for the Sinulog, the cultural aspect of the celebration.
While usual Cebu media estimates on the number of people that join the procession and those who watch the Sinulog Grand Parade every year are becoming a cliché (it’s always, “bigger than the previous year”) and are thus amusing, there’s no question that the fiesta is a crowd drawer.
Crowd control has become a problem, both for the Basilica activities, which are handled by Augustinian priests, and the Sinulog festivities, organized by the Sinulog Foundation Inc. With the Cebu population continuing to grow, the need to be forward-looking is needed.
That was the case in the ‘80s when priests of the Basilica decided to build a Pilgrim Center, which was completed in September 1990. The open-air structure located near the Basilica was designed to accommodate 3,500 people, according to the Basilica del Sto. Niño website.
More than two decades after, it has become apparent that even the Pilgrim Center, together with the Basilica, can no longer accommodate the number of devotees that gather in the compound for fiesta activities.
Because of this, novena-masses are being exclusively held at the Pilgrim Center, with the Basilica becoming a mere afterthought. The setup now is that mass goers are allowed to sit in the Basilica’s pews, but they do so facing the door and the Pilgrim Center farther away. Meaning, their backs are to the Basilica’s altar, a not-so-ideal sight.
That signals a need to expand the Pilgrim Center or increase its seating capacity so that it can accommodate more people. This entails, in turn, the further rationalization by Augustinian priests of the use of the Basilica compound.
As for the Sinulog, the Cebu City Government and the Sinulog Foundation should start laying down plans for what can be considered a paradigm shift for the festivities.
Suggestions to transfer the main site of the Sinulog parade and its culminating activity to the South Road Properties are a sign that hosting changes should already be considered.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 15, 2013.