In Cebu, devotees absent in Sto. Niño procession
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — It was a religious procession without the usual throng of devotees.
The image of the Sto. Niño was brought out of its basilica on Sunday night and taken around the city’s major thoroughfares in a motorcade to seek God’s intervention in the wake of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
With the streets empty, the motorcade looked eerie as the song, “Bato Balani sa Gugma,” an ancient hymn in honor of the Child Jesus, blared from speakers mounted with the image on a truck.
Devotees lit candles as they watched the event inside their homes. Some were in tears.
They waved as the image passed by, said Fr. Ric Anthony Reyes, OSA, spokesperson for the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu.
“We have been receiving requests on our Facebook page to bring the image of the Sto. Niño to the streets [so people could venerate it],” he told the Inquirer.
Reyes said the people’s sentiments were relayed to city officials who eventually agreed to their proposal.
The truck bearing the image of the Holy Child Jesus was escorted by four vehicles, including a police car, and passed through the streets in the northern section of the city.
The motorcade will be staged every 8:30 p.m., from March 29 to April 4, and visit all areas of Cebu City, which has the most number of COVID-19 cases in Cebu province.
Of the 25 reported cases in Cebu, 20 were from Cebu City (with two deaths), two from Lapu-Lapu City, and one each from the town of Cordova and the cities of Mandaue and Talisay.
One of the fatalities was Dennis Garcia, chief executive officer and chair of Vivant Corp., a Cebu-based power company. According to his family, he died on Saturday due to complications related to COVID-19, although he had emphysema.
Garcia was admitted to Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital on March 25 and was confirmed positive of COVID-19 on the day he died.
“Vivant is working with the Cebu City government to track his movements in the two weeks prior to his hospitalization in order to identify people he was in close contact with for monitoring, quarantine and possible testing. We will also make this information available to any other affected LGUs (local government units) and/or national agencies,” his family said in a statement.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia started implementing strict border control over Cebu City, which she described as the “epicenter” of the infection here, effective 12:01 a.m. of March 30. The city government adopted the same measure.
Father Reyes emphasized the importance of prayer as the world continued to fight COVID-19.
“Prayer … sustains us amid this COVID-19 scare. Through prayer, we acknowledge God as our help,” he said.
—REPORTS FROM DALE ISRAEL, ADOR VINCENT MAYOL AND CONNIE FERNANDEZ-BROJAN INQ
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