I MUST admit that when I worked as an auditor and lawyer in a company that had its head office then across the Basilica del Sto. Niño de Cebu, I could count with my fingers the times I visited the church. You see, I attended Sunday mass and sang in the choir in the Sacred Heart Parish on D. Jakosalem St., the church nearest to where I grew up.
Yet, as a kid, I often wondered why an aunt would travel from Toledo City to attend the dawn masses leading to the Feast of the Holy Child at the Basilica. I never asked; but I reckon that she must have made the devotion as a result of an answered prayer. My wife has always been thankful to the Sto. Niño for bringing us together again when our boyfriend-girlfriend relationship ebbed after I took the Bar examinations in 1981.
It was when I migrated to New Zealand that I became a devotee to the Sto Niño. Our music ministry TawagAwit was often asked to sing in the novena masses in the Sinulog celebration in Auckland that has become one of the biggest gatherings of Filipinos each year (more than 5,000 attendees). One time, my wife and I were selected as Hermano-and-Hermana Mayores, tasked to spread the devotion by encouraging friends to host the image of the Sto. Niño in their homes for a family novena and forward this to another home.
In a world gone cynical when the existence of God is questioned and papal infallibility of the Holy See is under attack, devotions to Mary and the saints seem to be limited to women and elderly persons. Pope John Paul II initiated World Youth Day (WYD) in 1985 to persuade young adults to celebrate a “day of community.” The WYD is the biggest religious gathering in the world: in 1995 in the Philippines it drew five million during the closing Mass.
We all struggle in our personal lives and with our relationship with family, friends and acquaintances. We know of the difficulties in the world threatened by wars, criminality and calamities. Where can we seek refuge? For believers, there is a God to whom they can rely on. And I am a believer.
In gratitude to God and to the Holy Child, I wrote a song called “Pit Señor (Awit alang sa Sto. Niño)” that I asked my friend Manny Lapingcao to arrange, perform and record. This has been uploaded on Youtube. (check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9YRxtiPmoM). It is our gift to the Holy Child and to Cebu in time for the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.
Here are the lyrics: “Awit (Sayaw, Halad) alang sa Balaang Bata/Awit (Sayaw, Halad) alang sa Sto. Niño/Awit (Sayaw, Halad) alang sa Balaang Bata/Awit (Sayaw, Halad) alang sa Sto. Niño/Iyang gasahan ang motawag Niya/Panalanginan, panalanginan ang katawhan//Koro: Mosinggit tang tanan ‘Pit Señor!’/Sangpiton nato si Hesukristo/Mohangyo ta og hinabang/Dungga kami, Batang Hesus.”