‘Faster, earlier processions’

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YESTERDAY’s  annual Sto. Niño processions by sea and land  stayed on schedule.

It was even  one hour shorter for the fluvial parade down the Mactan Channel due to extra efforts to  avoid letting the “galleon” carrying the image of the Sto. Niño make  crowd-pleasing detours by  the coastline.

Fine weather helped the sea journey along.

Not everyone appreciated the efficiency.

“Paspas ra kaayo ang fluvial procession.  Kung sa salida pa, walay thrilling (The fluvial procession went by so quickly. If this was a movie, there was no thrilling sense of suspense),” said Auria Pamor, a Sto. Niño devotee, comparing it to previous years of delayed arrivals.

After a  4:30 a.m. Mass at the St. Joseph’s Shrine in Mandaue City , a  three-kilometer foot procession  to the pier made a brief stopover at the  Ouano residence, instead of a longer  visit for separate prayer rituals.

This enabled the  images of the Señor Sto. Niño and Our  Lady of Guadalupe to reach the galleon Trinidad docked at the Ouano wharf in barangay Looc, Mandaue City at 6 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who earlier had breakfast at the Ouano residence, waited aboard the galleon for the images to arrive.

At 6:30 a.m. the galleon set sail and headed for the old Mandaue Mactan bridge to join a flotilla of devotees. The fluvial procession cruised through the Mactan Channel to Pier 1 of the Cebu City port. It skipped several stops such as the Pasil area and the South Road Properties where about a hundred devotees waited.

Cebu Coast Guard Commander Rolando Punzalan said 155 vessels joined the sea procession.

Only 55 vessels were registered in time for Wednesday’s  deadline.

Punzalan said good weather also enabled the fluvial procession to end 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Those in the galleon had to wait for 20 minutes for the conclusion of the Mass for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) at the Basilica.

When it did disembark, the images of the Sto. Nino and the Our Lady of Guadalupe were showered with flowers by roadside residents while balloons were released and fire crackers were lighted as the images passed.

Senior Supt. Mariano Natu-el Jr., acting Cebu City police chief, said the crowd at Pier 1  numbered 50,000, not including those who joined the flotilla and the sendoff at the Ouano wharf.

Among those who joined the foot procession headed to the Basilica were students from the city’s universities and colleges and Cebu City officials led by Mayor Michael Rama.

The foot procession caused severe traffic congestion as the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) enforced road closures  from 10 a.m. until after the Sto. Nino image returned to the basilica at 6 p.m.

Congestion was heavy in downtown Cebu City, V. Rama Avenue, N. Bacalso Avenue, along N. Escario Street and in northern areas like S. Osmena Road at the Reclamation area.

Devotees occupied both lanes of Osmeña Boulevard. Movement slowed down when the Sto. Nino image reached Fuente Osmena circle at 2:35 p.m.

A  5 p.m. rainshower  failed to dampen the fervor of devotees as the pealing bells heralded the arrival of the images at the Basilica at 6 p.m.

Hundreds of devotees gathered at the basilica’s pilgrim center waved their hands to welcome the images depicting the arrival of the Spanish fleet led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu in 1521.

The Sto. Niño, placed on a glass case adorned with flowers, was carried by men dressed as Spanish soldiers.

The image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was carried by natives in slippers.

Both images were placed on the flower-decked altar at the basilica’s pilgrim center before Spanish soldiers planted a huge cross with a white cloth.  A reenactment of the first Mass and baptism were made.

Using a wooden ladle, Fr. Jonas Mejares, the rector of the centuries-old basilica, sprinkled holy water on the heads of actors portraying Cebu’s chieftain Rajah Humabon, his wife Humahay, and a group of natives.

Priests who concelebrated the Mass also blessed with holy water over 2,000 devotees at the piligrim center.

Fr. Mejares amused the people the pilgrim center when he sang “Magellan,” a Yoyoy Villame song which narrated Magellan’s arrival.

Fr. Mejares said yesterday’s reenactment of the first baptism and Mass is not just a symbol or a matter of role playing.

“This reminds us to live a good life through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Sto. Niño,” he said.

The role of Rajah Humabon ang Queen Juana was portrayed Rudy and Winnie Cortes.  Mejares played the role of Fr. Pedro Valderama who presided over the first Mass in the country. Correspondents Edison delos Angeles, Norman V. Mendoza, US-JR Intern Michelle Joy Padayhag, Reporters Ador Vincent Mayol and Jucell Marie P. Cuyos and Chief of Reporters Doris C. Bongcac

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