SINCE he was a young boy, Albert Macabenta always attended the opening procession of the Fiesta Señor.
Now 40 years old, Macabenta said that while his interests have changed, his faith in the Santo Niño has not.
For this year’s Fiesta Señor, Macabenta only asked that the Santo Niño bless him with good health and luck for the rest of his life.
While Macabenta seeks good health for himself, one penitent is asking the Santo Niño to heal a loved one.
Athena Ann Lucaban, 25, walked the two-kilometer stretch from Osmeña Boulevard to the Basilica del Santo Niño to pray for her father’s recovery from cancer.
Lucaban told Sun.Star Cebu that her father has long been a devotee of the Santo Niño, and she always accompanied him during the Walk for Jesus.
“Even if it was very early in the morning, I would always join him. He had so much faith in Santo Niño,” she said.
Lucaban stopped joining her father when she turned 20, which she said is one her regrets in life.
With her father fighting cancer, Lucaban plans to dedicate all the nine masses to him.
Her father raised her by himself and she would be at a loss on what to do without him, she said.
Macabenta and Lucaban joined more than 300, 000 devotees who attended the opening salvo of the Fiesta Señor celebration yesterday.
In his homily, Basilica rector Fr. Jonas Mejares said that the Santo Niño serves as a fountain of mercy and compassion for those who look for it.
There are people who refuse to give mercy and compassion, even to those who are vulnerable, he said.
Mejares, in his homily, said it is a wonderful world we live in but we have tarnished it with evil acts, strife and neglect.
“Pagka-anindot sa kalibutan nga atong gipuy-an pero ato lang gihugaw-hugawan tungod sa atong dili maayo nga binuhatan. Pagkatahom sa kalibutan nga atong gisudlan apan nahimong bati ang atong hulagway tungod sa atong panagbikil ug panag-away. Pagkanindot sa mga gasa nga atong nakuptan samtang nagpuyo kita aning kalibutan apan ato lamang kini gitam-angan,” he said.
Mejares said that despite the problems the world faces, God’s mercy and compassion remain a relevant lesson to all, and he urged everyone to follow in His ways.
Mejares told churchgoers that he is happier in this year’s Fiesta Señor because the basilica’s belfry is almost finished.
The belfry, which was damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Cebu and Bohol on Oct. 15, 2013, is nearly restored.
Yesterday’s celebration went smoothly, except for a theft incident inside the pilgrim center.
Rosanna Rama Borromeo, 47, lost her wallet to a pickpocket at around 7:45 a.m. The wallet contained her government-issued identification and transaction cards, credit and debit cards and P2,600.
The police tried to locate the thief, but the closed-circuit television cameras inside the pilgrim center did not reach Borromeo’s seat, said PO3 Nicasio Undaloc Jr. of the Waterfront Police Station.
It was the single untoward incident reported during the first day of the Fiesta Señor activities.
Otherwise, police officials said the activity attended by at least 300,000 devotees was “generally peaceful.”
Chief Insp. David Señor, operations and community relations chief of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), said the more than 180 law enforcers deployed to the procession route managed the crowd well.
He lamented, though, that many of the devotees ignored their appeal not to bring backpacks and long umbrellas.
Señor said at least nine people collapsed during the walk, as the crowd was packed, but they were immediately attended to by emergency response volunteers.
Señor disclosed that with a larger crowd joining yesterday’s religious event, the CCPO plans to deploy at least 1,800 police officers on the street during the solemn procession next Saturday.