BETWEEN 2.5 million and three million devotees joined the traditional solemn procession for the 455th feast of the Sto. Niño on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
Devotees braved the heat as they walked the six-kilometer carousel route that took them from the Basilica del Sto. Niño to V. Rama Ave. to the corner of B. Rodriguez, before proceeding to the Fuente Circle then heading down to Osmeña Blvd. before making a left to P. del Rosario and back to the downtown area and the basilica.
According to Col. Engelbert Soriano, officer-in-charge of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), they didn’t receive any reports of untoward incidents save for some participants requiring medical assistance.
Soriano said it was his first time to oversee an event of such magnitude so he made sure he was hands-on supervising his personnel to secure the activity.
He said the procession was peaceful from beginning to end.
When he saw a crowd forming along the route, he allowed onlookers to cross to the other side using the skywalk to prevent a stampede. However, they were not allowed to loiter there.
“We didn’t want things falling on the procession participants. That is why they were not allowed to hang out in the skywalk,” Soriano said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
He said shutting off cell sites so there would be no cell phone signal during the activity helped.
He said he has yet to receive a complaint about the shutoff.
Even though the signal was down, he said they conducted a text blast alert that was received by anyone with a cell phone within a five-kilometer radius.
Soriano didn’t say how they achieved this, but he said the important thing was to warn the public not to let their guard down and to be wary of their surroundings.
Aside from deploying uniformed police officers along the route, the CCPO also deployed cops in plainclothes to watch out for criminal elements.
The Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe), for its part, made sure that vendors were not selling their merchandise within a 100-meter radius from the side of the procession route.
Its members confiscated the merchandise of vendors who defied the order, especially those who didn’t have any permit to sell, said Probe Chief Raquel Arce.
After the solemn procession, around 100,000 devotees attended the Misa Pontifical de Visperas at the basilica.
In his homily, Most Rev. Midyphil Billones, Auxilliary Bishop of Cebu, said he was amazed at the show of faith of devotees.
“I am deeply moved to see the living faith of all who are here. Devotees from all walks of life, civilians and members of the clergy, we are magnetized by the heart of our Señor Sto. Niño,” Billones said in Cebuano.
He described the Holy Child’s magnetic power as the love of a child.
“Through His presence, (we know) that there is a God who is madly in love with us and who will never give up on us,” he said.
Before the solemn procession started, members of the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) were hard at work clearing the route.
They ended up towing 32 illegally parked motorcycles.
CCTO spokesman Ronnie Nadera said they looked for the owners and waited for them to move their motorcycles but no one came.
The CCTO office, which is located beside the Ramos Public Market, has extended its office hours until 10 p.m. so violators can pay the fine and retrieve their vehicles.
During the Sinulog period, the CCTO office opens at 6 a.m.
Nadera reminded motorists to take note of the road closures for the Sinulog Grand Parade on Sunday, Jan. 19.
He also encouraged the public not to bring their vehicles into the city to avoid traffic congestion.
Due to traffic and road closures on Saturday, many commuters hailed motorcycle taxis, or habal-habal.
Mayor Edgardo Labella urged habal-habal drivers not to take advantage of the situation.
Labella cited the proposed ordinance authored by City Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, which seeks to regulate motorcycle taxis in the city. He said habal-habal drivers will not be able to overcharge passengers once the ordinance is enacted.
Labella, together with some City Hall department heads, joined the solemn procession.
Vice Mayor Michael Rama was seen carrying an image of the Holy Child with persons with disability on Osmeña Blvd. (AYB / PJB, JCT, JJL )