A clean, safe fiesta
The Fiesta Señor, Cebu’s annual feast in honor of the Holy Child Jesus, begins at dawn tomorrow with a “Walk With Jesus” procession from the Fuente Osmeña Circle to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.
A surge in the number of participating pilgrims is expected because of both the spreading devotion to the Christ Child and the mass return to spirituality that sociologists note in hard times like the wake of last year’s disasters.
The success and fruitfulness of the fiesta will depend on the collaboration of civil and ecclesiastical authorities, the good citizenship of devotees and the restraint of revelers.
The Augustinian friars of the basilica made a laudable move in increasing from 10 to 11 the number of daily special novena masses starting Jan. 9 to 17.
The additional masses, starting at 4 a.m., not only enhances the sacrificial flavor of the festival devotions but are also expected to lessen crowd density at the basilica’s pilgrim center.
For safety reasons, space inside the quake-ravaged church cannot be used.
Diluted crowds in and around the basilica entails easier management for the police and security personnel, paramedics and sanitation workers.
The general public should help out by observing proper waste disposal.
Littering is incongruous with devotion to the Child who made the earth.
Parishes like Santo Rosario in the city center, meanwhile, also have novenas to the Santo Niño at 5:30 p.m. every day, even as priests encourage pilgrims to visit the basilica.
Organizers need to remind devotees continually about fiesta safety measures.
We hope we will not see yet another rerun this year of people screaming and getting crushed while waiting for basilica gates to open during the solemn foot procession on the vesperas.
Organizers must also stand firm against devotees who jump barricades to the sanctuary of the pilgrim center amid the hour-long dance for the Santo Niño.
Ditto for spectators who breach security lines at the route of the Sinulog grand parade.
Such bacchanalian unruliness is out of place in the solemn ritual. It also stokes chaos and endangers people.
A final thing we do not wish to see are male bouncers who bulldoze crowds while they cordon priests and the carriage of the Child Jesus’ image in the procession.
Jesus rebuked his disciples for barring children from coming to him. In the same manner, devotees who are encouraged to be child-like in their spiritual life should not be turned away or brushed aside.
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