THE week has been overflowing with activities in celebration of the Sinulog. The excitement and fervor is understandable—-even laudable. But sometimes, I think we forget the essence of what it means to pay homage to the Sto. Niño.

While it is a moving scene to see thousands of pilgrims converge in the streets for the annual procession, it is also clear to onlookers that many of those who join the procession are not really in a prayerful mood or mode. Many of these so-called pilgrims are busy chatting with their friends. It’s almost as if the procession is like a huge party where people meet up and exchange the latest gossip.

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And there are those who simply join in halfway through the procession route. Gee, even in the movies, you go from start to finish. God probably deserves as much honor, don’t you think?

And there are those who annually join the procession but keep on complaining—-too long, too crowded, too icky, etc... Why join at all?

God does not demand of us to join a religious procession only to mouth brickbats on the side. I think what God demands of us is not religiosity but sincerity of words and actions.

The split-level personality of the Filipinos confounds me. They hang religious items on their cars, on their necks and on their walls but they lie, cheat, steal, drink, gamble and commit adultery. They go to mass but they don’t pay minimum wage.

I’m not saying that everyone who displays outward signs of religiosity are hypocrites but there certainly are people who are not what they seem.

Some people who purport to display a deep sense of piety in public are sometimes completely different people in private.

And then there are employees who are daily “problem makers.” They show up when they want to. And when they do, they are late for work. They sleep on the job. They steal whenever they can.

When Sinulog comes around, they file for a leave of absence to attend the procession. Whatever for? To atone for their sins?

Many Filipinos, I think, actually believe in this line of thinking—-that if they attend religious services or participate in religious rites, their sins will be absolved by God. But do they think God is stupid? These people continue to commit these infractions over and over again. These people are not sorry for their sins. They just think they can buy their way into the kingdom of God.

I don’t see any justification for employees asking for a leave of absence to attend the procession during the Sinulog. I don’t see God asking these devotees to absent themselves from work to attend a procession in His honor. I think what God demands of these employees is exemplary behavior at work and at home.

God does not demand that we pay homage to Him with such pomp and pageantry. God demands that in our presence, He can be proud.

He demands that we live our lives well—-in pursuit of truth, justice and compassion. That’s why I can’t help but wonder if all our eating, drinking, partying, singing and dancing are misplaced during the Sinulog.

(sunstarcebucolumnist@yahoo.com)