CEBU CITY -- Cebu's biggest fiesta in honor of the Sto. Niño formally ended Friday with a challenge to “start pushing our country to prosperity.”

Fr. Jonas Mejares of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño issued the challenge during the traditional Hubo Mass, when he also urged the faithful to sacrifice for the good of the country and to enrich their belief in miracles by showing genuine faith and good works.

“Matag milagro, gamay o dako, kailangan kuyugan ug pagtuo (Each miracle, big or small, requires faith),” Mejares said.

He gave his challenge amid news that as many as 13 percent of all Filipino families reported that they suffered “serious harm” when typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas last Nov. 8.

In its fourth quarter survey, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said that in the three months before it conducted its survey, 17.2 percent among respondents who were not victims of Yolanda reported having suffered hunger. The problem was worse for Yolanda’s survivors, among whom 23.9 percent of whom reported that they had gone hungry.

SWS conducted the survey from Dec. 11 to 16 by interviewing 1,550 adults, 650 of them in the Visayas.

Typhoon Yolanda has destroyed or damaged at least P36 billion worth of crops and infrastructure, aside from killing more than 6,000 persons and causing injuries to over 28,000 others, the national disaster council reported.

In his homily on Friday, Fr. Mejares compared the country to “an old taxi” that suddenly conks out in the middle of its journey.

“As Christians, we must leave our comfort zones and start pushing our country to prosperity. We must learn how to sacrifice ourselves to help our respective communities prosper,” Mejares said.

The typhoon and the powerful earthquake that struck less than a month before it have triggered volunteerism and acts of charity from various sectors of the community.

Mejares said there are other ways to help the country attain more prosperity.

“Kung ikaw usa ka estudyante, ayaw anara ang pangopya. Kung ikaw magtutudlo, ipopo ang tanan nimung kaakuhan aron ang imung mga tinun-an adunay makat-unan. Kung ikaw politiko, ayaw magika ang kwarta sa gobyerno. Kwarta na siya sa mga tawo. Ang batobalani, batobalani sa gugma, dili sa kwarta (Students, do not cheat. Teachers, do your best to educate. Politicians, do not trifle with the government’s money, because that belongs to the people),” Mejares said.

The Basilica rector also challenged fellow clergymen to avoid displays of worldliness.

“Kung ikaw pari, sa kalibotan ayaw pagpakahari (Priests, we are not supposed to live like kings),” he added.

After the homily, Mejares then removed the lavish garments of the Santo Niño, bathed the image in holy water and clothed it with simpler garments.

Every time a piece of the Santo Niño’s garments was removed, it was supposed to symbolize the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ’s time on earth.

The Hubo Mass also formally ended the fiesta activities, a celebration that coincided this year with the 449th anniversary of the finding of the image of the Santo Niño in Cebu.

Police officials pegged the crowd that attended in the Basilica Pilgrim Center at more than 11,000 people. (Sun.Star Cebu)