Traditional 'Balyuan' rites canceled due to pandemic

Photo by Gay Gaspay
Photo by Gay Gaspay

CHURCH and local officials canceled this year’s 46th “Balyuan” rites, or exchange of images of Child Jesus between Tacloban City and Basey town in Samar, following the surge of coronavirus infections in both places.

But novena masses in honor of their patron, Señor Santo Niño de Tacloban, for the 131st fiesta celebration in the city will push through starting June 20 until the end of the month.

As of the June 20, Tacloban has 32 coronvirus disease (Covid-19) cases, while Basey has 20.

Earlier, Basey Mayor Luz Ponferrada imposed "temporary suspension of work" and urged residents to stay at home while they are doing contact tracing.

While there is no lockdown in Tacloban, Mayor Alfred Romualdez also provided a hotel as an isolation facility for 18 health workers who tested positive for the deadly virus.

Woven in legend, the traditional “Balyuan” rites started in the mid-18th century when “Kankabatok,” now called Tacloban, was once a prosperous village of Basey, “whose people had for its titular head and protector the Sr. Sto. Niño whom they venerated through a small, but not-so-well sculptured statue.”

“In Buscada (Basey), the people worshiped the same patron whom they praised through a newer, bigger and better-sculptured image donated by a Tagalog businessman whose business prospered in the area. Because ‘Kankabatok’ was a bigger and more prosperous village compared to Buscada, the parish priest of Basey deemed it wise to arrange an exchange of Images. ‘Kankabatok’ received the bigger and more beautiful image, while Buscada had the smaller village from ‘Kankabatok,’” the story goes.

At present, Tacloban becomes the first and only highly-urbanized city in Eastern Visayas, with a population of over 240, 000.

In November 2013, Tacloban became the "ground zero" after it was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda, the world’s largest and strongest typhoon ever recorded, killing an estimated 7,000 people, mostly from the city. (SunStar Philippines)


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