PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino sat in the front row of the VIP section.
Beside him was Liberal Party Cebu province chief Hilario Davide III, who is running for Cebu governor.
As the Calungsod Thanksgiving Mass started, Vice President Jejomar Binay took the seat between them.
The two national officials chatted, but they turned to other people to shake hands when the time came during the Mass to “give each other the sign of peace.”
Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale and Rep. Tomas Osmeña also sat next to them in the front row. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and former Chief Justice Hilario Davide III were nearby.
Across the aisle was SM tycoon Hans Sy and other church benefactors.
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Among the early birds were Rep. Cutie del Mar and her father Raul, the former congressman.
Sen. Vic Sotto and his brother Tito were there as well with Sen. Gringo Honasan and actor Anjoy Yllana.
During the Mass, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama were among the offerers who approached the altar.
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Two devotees were rushed to the Talisay City district hospital after they collapsed due to dehydration and hypertension.
Devotees braved the heat and walked four kilometers to the Mass venue in the SRP, said Msgr. Ruben Labajo, coordinator of the foot procession from Cebu’s southern parishes.
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A Talisay City councilor was embarrassed when the car pass used by his son for the SRP was rejected as fake.
Councilor Val Ylanan said his son, Valjoseph Ylanan, was about to enter the parking area when a traffic aide called his attention that the car pass was not authorized.
Each Cebu parish was alloted 40 passes for four-wheel vehicles and four passes for buses to be distributed by the parish priest.
Ylanan and two other councilors were issued a scanned copy of a car pass with the mayor’s signature. They earlier tried securing one and were told that no more were available. They returned and were given this substitute.
Mayor Socrates Fernandez confirmed giving the scanned passes, saying these were authorized by the Sta. Teresa Parish.
Villarante was dismayed.
“This is supposed to be a day of unity, but eventually there is still a manifestation of biases,” he said.
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People started to arrive at the SRP venue as early as 10 a.m. for the Mass which started a few minutes after its 5 p.m. schedule.
Good weather favored the solemn processions by land and sea.
A procession of 76 carrozas entered the SRP, carrying patrons saints of different parishes from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. They came from opositte directions and converged at the SRP from north and south.
Devotees greeted the arrival of San Pedro Calungsod’s carroza by waving their hands in the air, holding green palms and singing gozos and shouting “Viva San Pedro”./Correspondents Joy Cherry S. Quito and Gabriel C. Bonjoc