AS thousands joined the opening salvo of the Feast of the Sto. Niño de Cebu at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, I am certain there are many others in different parts of the world who are involved in the celebration.

I, for one, joined more than 100 devotees in the novena mass on January 5 at the St Matthews Catholic Church in Hamilton City, New Zealand. This is the third year that the feast is observed, having been initiated by Fr. Reno Alima, who served as assistant parish priest in the diocese. There were some Kiwis and one Indian family who joined the rest of us in the mass and the food sharing that followed.

On January 14, the feast will culminate in a mass at the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral to be officiated by Bishop Steve Lowe. This will be followed by a cultural program with dance offerings from different groups and highlighted by the selection of the Hamilton Sinulog Niño and Niña where children from 2-5 years old will wear costumes resembling that of the Sto. Niño de Cebu. The core volunteers of about six couples have obtained the support from Filipinos in the neighboring communities and they are confident of having 700 participants this year.

In Auckland, the celebration has been observed for the past 23 years. It has become a major event among Filipinos drawing more than 5,000 in recent years.

The St. Patrick’s Cathedral that serves as venue for the novena masses leading to the 3rd Sunday of January has been full packed each night to the amazement of officials of the Diocese as well as Catholics of other ethnicities. Other Filipino communities that I know are likewise observing the feast are those in Wellington and Taupo all in the North Island of New Zealand.

Throughout the world, Filipinos have contributed to the spread of the Catholic faith not only by regularly attending masses in their local churches, but also in leading in the observance of feast days of saints. One practice that Filipino Catholics are known for is the holding of hands during the recitation or singing of ‘Our Father’, and this has started to be accepted by non-Filipino churchgoers.

I believe that Filipinos who work or migrate to other countries have contributed to evangelization of people through their observance of their religious obligations. In a foreign country, a Filipino depends primarily on God for protection and guidance. And as our faith strengthens, this impacts not just on our families but in the way we conduct ourselves in society.

Let us therefore be thankful for the Child Jesus not only for protecting His people in Cebu, but in all the places that He is venerated. Viva Pit Senor!