Sto. Niño vendors badly hit but hold on to faith

Photo by Rebecah Roberts

ONE of the most vibrant, fun and grandest fiestas in the country has come to a halt this year.

Streets that used to be filled with buntings, tourists and residents shouting Viva Pit Senyor! was replaced with silence and the fear of getting the virus.

Face paint and laughter no longer can be seen as everyone is required to use a face mask and face shield.

Even traditional religious activities such as the Fluvial Parade and the Walk with Mary and Walk with Jesus processions were canceled.

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu opted to cancel all in-person masses.

A church that used to be filled with thousands of devotees every Sinulog season now stands empty.

With all the canceled fiesta activities, the Sinulog this year is not the same.

But how are the Sto. Niño vendors coping with all the changes in the fiesta celebration?

At the start of December, people would often have their Sto. Niño statues repaired or replaced in preparation for the Fiesta Senyor.

However, for this year, with all the restrictions, people can no longer visit the stores any time they want.

To also observe physical distancing, vendors were relocated to the Maritima building in Aduana port, Cebu City.

This has contributed to the challenges of the vendors to get customers as the location is far from the church and most of their regular customers are not familiar with the place.

The cry of the vendors

At the age of 13, Marsha Abad, now 39, started selling and repairing Sto. Niño images. She said that their new location and the pandemic have greatly affected their income. She opens her store at 5 a.m. and closes at around 6 p.m.

She said that for the past years their stores were open 24/7; however, because of the new location and the lack of electricity, it is hard for them to remain open all the time.

For the number of customers, it was difficult for them in the past to accommodate all their customers because of the huge demand for the image and for repairs. They also did not accept orders. However, for this year, they had to beg passersby to have their images replaced or repaired.

"Sa una busy jud kaayo mi, karon relaxed na kaayo mi. One customer at a time na lang gyud mi," said Marsha.

From an income of P20,000 a day, they now early only P2,000 to P3,000 a day.

"Sa una maka tigom pami, karun wala nami'y na tigom," she added.

This was also the same problem for Pia Dahuya, 50.

Pia started helping her parents in repairing Sto. Niño images at the age of 13. Now she handles the business. Each year they looked forward to the Sinulog season. Pia cried that this year was the most challenging for the business. She said they only earn a little, enough for them to eat and pay for their transportation.

Pia is the breadwinner of the family after her husband got sick and her children do not have work because of the pandemic. She said it is hard for her to pay their debt because of the low income from repairing the images.

"Mo howam lang jud mig puhonan para sa pista, karun unsaon man namo pag bayad ani nga ingon ani amo sitwasyon," said Pia.

Despite these challenges that they face, Pia and Marsha kept their faith to the Sto. Niño.

"Bahalag unsa ka gagmay basta kanunay, kahibaw naman si Senyor Sto. Niño, siya raman among sangpiton," said Pia.

The pandemic has affected everyone -- rich or poor, healthy or not, young or old. The Sto. Niño vendors bear their loss of income but their faith in the baby Jesus remain strong.


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