No Cebu trip, but Francis goes home with icon
CEBU CITY—Pope Francis may have not been able to visit Cebu, but he brought with him a token from the island—a 6-inch image of the Sto. Niño given to Francis by renowned Cebuano choreographer Val Sandiego.
Sandiego said he wanted Francis to get the image so badly. “So while his popemobile was passing by, I tried to get his attention,” said Sandiego. “When he (Francis) saw the Sto. Niño, he pointed to me and instructed a Swiss guard to get it from me,” Sandiego said.
“Our eyes met. I was speechless. I’m just so happy,” he said.
Sandiego’s dance company led the Sinulog dance as Francis made his way to Quirino Grandstand at Luneta to celebrate Mass on Sunday.
Sandiego said he, his wife Ofelia, and 54 other Sinulog dancers brought images of the Child Jesus to have them blessed by the Pope.
Since the Pope’s homily was centered on the Sto. Niño, Sandiego said, he decided to give his image of the Child Jesus to the Pope.
“I placed our names on it,” he said.
The image that Sandiego gave to Francis was made in Talisay City, Cebu.
“That was made-to-order,” he said.
“I caught his attention probably because I wore a costume depicting St. Joseph. He is a devotee of St. Joseph as he mentioned during the meeting of families at [SM Mall of Asia] Arena,” he said.
Sandiego is owner and choreographer of Sandiego Dance Company and a devotee of the Sto. Niño.
His dance troupe was tapped by Catholic bishops to lead the people in dancing the Sinulog, the troupe’s second performance for a pope.
On Feb. 19, 1981, the Sandiego Dance Troupe also performed at the old Lahug airport for St. John Paul II’s visit to Cebu City.
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