Amid restrictions, devotees mark start of 456th Fiesta Señor in Cebu
CEBU CITY— Amid tight restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus, throngs of devotees still trooped to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño early Friday morning to mark the start of the 456th Fiesta Señor celebration.
But unlike previous years, which normally brings in thousands of devotees, people who attended the 2021 opening salvo were limited by administrators of the basilica to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak, who was tasked to oversee the peace and order situation during the Fiesta Señor, only 1,500 people were allowed to enter the basilica’s compound to ensure physical distancing.
Those who failed to make it inside the churchyard stayed on streets surrounding the basilica and watched the Eucharistic celebration through large LED screens and television monitors installed around the church complex.
At 5:30 a.m., the image of the Child Jesus was enthroned at the basilica’s outdoor Pilgrim Center where all novena Masses would be held.
People waved their hands in the air in unison as they sang “Bato-Balani sa Gugma” (Magnet of love), an ancient hymn in honor of the Sto. Niño.
Many also carried their own images of the Sto. Niño during the first novena Mass.
In his homily, Fr. Pacifico Nohara Jr., rector of the basilica, said he was amazed by the huge turnout of devotees even amid the pandemic.
“This pandemic has changed the world. Many fear contracting the virus. Despite all these, we still gather here to manifest our faith. No one, not even the virus, can stop us from showing our love to the Sto. Niño,” he said.
This year, Cebuanos and the entire country are celebrating the 500th year of the arrival of the Sto. Niño in Philippine shores and the 500 years of Christianity in the country.
The original image of Sto. Niño, which was given as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s queen, Hara Humamay, in 1521, is venerated at the side altar inside the basilica.
Two other icons—the “Ecce Homo” (a bust image of the suffering Jesus Christ) and the Madonna (Blessed Virgin Mary carrying a child)—were given to local chieftain Rajah Humabon and the natives.
“This year is a good year because we celebrate the 500th year since the arrival of the Sto. Niño. We should be grateful because we are blessed by the Father in our journey of faith,” Nohara said.
“The image of the Sto. Niño is a symbol of love and faith. May we share this gift of love with others,” he added. This year’s celebration carries the theme, “Sto. Nino: The Abiding Presence of the Father in our Journey of Faith.”
At the end of the first novena Mass, Nohara carried an image of the Sto. Niño and led people in dancing the traditional one-step-forward, two-steps-backward Sinulog dance for about five minutes.
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