I AM NOT surprised by the reaction of some people to the claim of three children in Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City of having found a “talking” image of the Sto. Niño.

Stories about supposedly miraculous religious images usually attract a crowd of divine help seekers.

One can’t be sure that what Neniel Ballermo, 3 and the Arellano siblings Charmel, 6, and KJ Ace, 4, claimed about the image of the Holy Child is true. Or they could have either concocted the whole thing or been fooled by their own imagination.

It is now up to Catholic Church officials to check the veracity of their claim that

the Sto. Niño image that they found talked to them.

What we are sure is that claims of miracles happening abound everywhere and only very few of them can be considered plausible. After the Marian apparitions in Lourdes, France in 1858, most of the other “miracles” seem to be mere copycats or could not stand deeper scrutiny.

Cebu had a handful of these miracle claims through the years. One even surfaced after the magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Cebu and Bohol provinces in October last year. The image of the Virgin Mary at the St. Agustin Church in Barangay Poblacion, Alcantara town allegedly turned its head to face Bohol. The epicenter of the quake was in Bohol.

In scope, however, I would say that the fuss over the supposed “dancing sun” phenomenon at the then newly established Theotokos Center in Perrelos, Carcar in 1993 tops them all. The size of the crowd that gathered was bigger, so too was the attention given to it.

I was a neophyte reporter when claims that the rising sun danced, spun or changed colors every 13th day of the month were made. The dancing of the sun was supposedly observed during a procession and dawn rosary for the Virgin Mary at the center in February. The 13th day of the next month thus had people flocking to Carcar to witness the “miracle.”

I wasn’t assigned to cover the event but I joined the news team that was sent there nevertheless. We stayed in Perrelos overnight so we wouldn’t miss the rising of the sun the next day.

An estimated 50,000 people, many of them with their own vehicles, trooped to the shrine built on top of a hill. Town officials transformed the previously bushy flat areas at the foot of the hill into parking areas. We chose to go uphill, however, and parked our vehicle there.

Almost all the spaces on the hillside facing the eastern sky were filled with people, some of them trying to sleep in the open despite the cold and the seemingly endless movement around them. Add to that the continuous blaring of novena prayers through the sound system.

The crowd, a mix of the faithful and the curious, perked up when sunlight began to take over from the electricity-powered lights that adorned the hill. Speeches took over the prayers. One of those who spoke was former hard-hitting commentator Vicente “Vic” Abangan, who was suffering from a serious illness at that time (he died months later).

Soon the sun began its upward climb from the faraway horizon where the island of Bohol was. I joined the others in staring at the sun. I heard murmurs that they did see the sun move. I only saw a fiery orb whose rays were bent a bit as these passed through the earth’s atmosphere. Then I gave up when I felt a throbbing pain in my eyes.

The sun didn’t dance, neither did it spin or change colors. That was the consensus, no matter how much we tried making ourselves believe that the sun moved a wee bit.

On March 15, 1993, then Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, according to the Catholic UCA News, called a meeting with the people that ran the Theotokos Center. He was concerned of two things: one, that the people who flocked to the shrine were seemingly conditioned to see a dancing sun and, two, that the “conditioning” was a distraction to the liturgical celebration at the shrine.

After that, talks about the dancing sun died down and only the few faithful frequented the shrine.