THE devotees of Sto. Niño de Cebu wholeheartedly welcome the visit of the Pilgrim Image of Santo Niño de Cebu in the Diocese of Bacolod. We look forward to celebrating the 450 years of Augustinian presence in the Philippines. The "basilica minore" in Cebu is spreading the devotion to the Santo Niño, the oldest religious relic in the Philippines.

In the schedule of the visit, the image will be in the following places (schools, towns, cities, churches): Victorias, E.B. Magalona, Silay, Bacolod, Helvetia, Santo Niño Shrine, Aning, Sum-ag, Bago, Hinigaran, La Carlota, Murcia, Santo Nino Orphanage, UNO-R, USLS, CSA-B. This covers the period from June 27 up to July 3.

I was involved in the reception committee based on the request of Tita Thelma Quevenco, the lady coordinator with the wings of five eagles. The preparation and the execution of plan were collectively acted by Fr. Dimitri Gatia and his associates (especially Fr. Jonas Sumagaysay who takes charge of any activity related to the Child Jesus), the religious organizations, devotees, government officials, employees, and the private sector.

The welcome area in Silay is like a fiesta plaza. Ati-atihan dancers, flag bearers, drum beaters, parish council officials and members were all there together with Mayor Jose Montelibano and First Lady Marissa. The sun is smiling and the clouds are thinly scattered to hide the scorching heat of the sun. It was a perfect morning to honor God.

The welcome ceremony at San Diego Pro-Cathedral was jubilant. There was the enthronement of the icon and the evangelization was centered on history (theme) based on how Juan Camus, a sailor in Legazpi's fleet, found a modest house in Cebu with the image of Santo Niño. To date, the Augustinian Fathers are tasked to have the custody of the Child Jesus, the patron of the Philippines.

After the mass, the icon was provided a pedestal at Plaza Olympia Severino Covered Court for veneration and vigil. The long line of devotees (young, old, rich and poor) was amazing. The ambulance was there with the members of Silay Rescue Team to assist the senior citizens, persons with disability, and pregnant women. Youth volunteers were going around offering their chicken-rice soup to volunteers.

Some were expecting miracles to happen. (They were looking up at high heavens for petals to fall, or at least a dancing sun.) Miracles did come. There was fine weather. The schedule was on time. Ceneco was cooperative (no power interruption). Bakery owners sent in some loaves of bread. Generous Silaynons provided toothsome delights at the convent for the staff from the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. Car owners accommodated the walking pilgrims.

All those (and many more) are miracles. I am also praying for miracles to happen. Husbands and wives who do not see eye to eye will reconcile, forgive and forget. Smokers will realize that smoking is bad for their lungs and enriches only the cigarette manufacturers. Shabu and marijuana dealers will just consume their products instead of vending them. Hired killers will file their early retirement papers. Corrupt politicians will resign from politics and join the liturgical ministry.

Filipinos are amazing in their faith. I saw them rubbing their handkerchiefs at the urn with Sto. Niño image inside. Many believed that the handkerchiefs can cure all kinds of illnesses. The teams from Cebu were spraying the devotees with holy water. I remember what I did with my orchids. The Silay group printed "Perpetual Novena to Sto. Niño de Cebu" and distributed the copies to the church goers. Some copies were even brought to Bacolod to be shared.

I wish we could have new relics and images every day to sustain our faith. We want to be reminded of God (and His miracles) through visual aids. That could be true. In Jesus Christ, we have the Black Nazarene, the Sacred Heart, the Divine Mercy, the Sto. Entierro, the Risen Christ, the King of Kings, and our favorite Santo Niño.

Blessed be God. Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclite. Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother. Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste Spouse. Blessed be God, His angels, and His saints.