Thousands join procession to start Fiesta Señor celebration in Cebu City
CEBU CITY — Thousands of people joined the “Walk with Jesus” procession early Thursday, Jan. 5, to mark the start of the 458th Fiesta Señor celebration in this city.
Devotees carried their images of the Santo Niño, prayed the holy rosary and sang liturgical hymns, which were broadcast live on radio and amplified by speakers during the dawn procession and the first novena Mass.
The two-kilometer prayer walk opens this year’s honoring of the Child Jesus activities, which the COVID-19 pandemic halted for two years.
As of 9 a.m. on Thursday, city police and government officials have yet to come up with the number of people who took part in the procession and Mass.
But Harold Alcontin, head of the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said devotees who joined this year’s procession and opening salvo tripled compared to previous years.
In January 2020, two months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, the local police estimated the number of people who joined the opening salvo and procession at 300,000.
“Before, only a lane of Osmeña Boulevard was occupied by people who joined the procession. This time, both wide lanes of the boulevard were filled with people,” he said in an interview.
The flower-decked carroza that carried the image of the Santo Niño arrived at 5:10 a.m. at the basilica and was welcomed with shouts of “Viva Pit Señor!” and “Viva Señor Sto. Niño” as the church bells pealed.
The 3,500-capacity church courtyard was packed, with thousands more spilling into the streets outside the basilica.
They watched the Eucharistic celebration through large LED screens and television monitors installed around the church complex.
In his homily, Fr. Nelson G. Zerda, OSA, stressed the need for people to have faith in life’s journey.
“Life is a journey. And in this journey, let us not forget to pray. Despite the many obstacles, we should remain faithful to God,” he said.
The image of the Santo Niño was given as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Hara Humamay in 1521.
Two other images—the Ecce Homo and the Madonna (Blessed Virgin Mary carrying a child)—were given to Rajah Humabon and the natives.
During the offertory, people waved their hands in unison as they sang “Bato-Balani sa Gugma” (Magnet of love), an ancient hymn in honor of the Sto. Niño.
The basilica complex, the center of the four-century-old devotion to the Sto. Niño, will be open 24 hours from Jan. 5 to Jan. 15 to accommodate the multitude of Sto. Niño devotees, who come to pay homage to the original image of the Sto. Niño enthroned in a glass case at a side chapel inside the basilica.
The church will be closed from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. to allow the janitors to clean the church.
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