‘Lucky to find Sto. Niño’
Cebu is blessed to have the Sto. Niño, which has drawn people closer to the Lord.
This was the key message of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in celebration of the Kaplag or the finding of the Sto. Niño de Cebu from a torched Cebuano settlement 447 years ago.
“We are privileged to have the Sto. Niño in our midst. The Sto. Niño has been the center of our devotion. I invite you to thank God for his plan,” said Palma at a Mass at the Basilica del Sto. Niño’s Pilgrim Center yesterday afternoon.
A reenactment of the 1564 rediscovery of the image of the Sto. Niño in a box found by Spanish soldiers in a burned hut followed.
It capped the day-long activities where the religious icon was brought to the Navforcen chapel in Lapu-Lapu City, to the Nuestra Senora de Regla Parish National Shrine and back to the basilica.
“If this image (Sto. Niño) wasn’t found, we shouldn’t have this devotion,” said the archbishop.
Kaplag is a Cebuano word for “find.”
The April 28 event recalls the rediscovery of the Sto. Niño by Spanish soldier Juan Camus in the burned ruins of a pre-Spanish settlement in Cebu in 1565.
Camus was a member of the Spanish expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi to colonize the archipelago and convert the natives to Christianity.
The image was the same one that explorer Ferdinand Magellan gifted Rajah Humabon and his wife Juana in 1521.
Palma lauded the Augustinian fathers for taking care of the image of the Sto. Niño, which is kept in a bulletproof glass case in a side chapel of the basilica.
“Even in the smallness and weakness of the Child, we know that this Sto. Niño is God. He is powerful, our counselor, consoler, and protector,” Palma said.
About 15 priests, most from the Order of St. Augustine, concelebrated in the Mass.
“The Sto. Niño has become part of the history of Cebu and the Philippines. By God’s plan, we make the Sto. Niño the center of our lives,” he said.
In last year’s Kaplag Festival, the Sto. Niño was given the rank of Celentisimo Capitan General de las Esfuerzas Espanolas en Filipinas or the Most Esteemed Captain General of the Spanish Forces in the Philippines by the Philippine Navy.
Yesterday, Fr. Tito Soquiño celebrated the send-off Mass of the image of the Sto. Niño at 6 a.m. at the basilica.
Marines and Navy sailors escorted the pilgrim image in a foot procession to the Cebu City port where it boarded BRP General Emilio Aguinaldo.
As the highest-ranking military official on board, the Sto. Niño was given passing military honors when he crossed the Mactan Channel to the wharf of Naval Base Rafael Ramos in barangay Looc, Lapu-Lapu City.
The image was then brought on a pickup truck adorned with yellow and red flowers for a 30-minute motorcade to the Nuestra Senora de Regla Parish National shrine in the poblacion.
Hundreds of devotees welcomed the religious icon.
In his homily, Fr. Jaime Dureo highlighted the mother and child relationship of the Sto. Niño and Virgen sa Regla, two of the most revered icons of Catholics in the region.
“The child has visited his mother. The mother is happy with the visit of her son. And the people are also happy with the visit of the Sto. Niño,” he told devotees in Cebuano.
At noon, the Sto. Niño image was returned to the Navy chapel where a Mass was celebrated. A Navy vessel brought the image back at 4 p.m. to the basilica where it was welcomed by Sinulog dancers.
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