400 vessels join seaborne procession; 6,000 witness reenactment of ‘first mass’

AROUND 400 vessels joined the seaborne procession of Señor Sto. Niño on Saturday morning, January 14, 2023, an official of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said.

Commander Mark Larsen Mariano, PCG Central Cebu commander, told reporters that they were overwhelmed by the number of participants that joined the procession even though they only registered 189 vessels.

Mariano, however, said no maritime incident happened during the event.

He said they changed the route a bit, wherein they no longer went under the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge since a lot of vessels, particularly speed boats, had already waited for the galleon that carried the images of the Sto. Niño, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Joseph.

Mariano said the good thing was they were able to go near the devotees who waited on the coast of Mandaue City to get a glimpse of the Señor Sto. Niño.

While the start of the seaborne procession was delayed for about 15 minutes, Mariano said they were able to make the crossing within the two-hour time frame.

The Mactan Channel was closed starting 4 a.m. until 9 a.m. to give way to the seaborne procession.


For officials of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), the seaborne procession was generally peaceful.

CCPO Director Col. Ireneo Dalogdog said they deployed 352 police personnel to provide security throughout the activity.

Aside from the police, some members of the PCG and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command also joined the seaborne procession.

Police did not record any criminal incident despite the huge number of people who lined up along the coast from South Road Properties (SRP) up to Pier 7 in the North Reclamation Area to witness the event.

A foot procession from Pier 1 to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño followed after the seaborne procession.


At the basilica, around 6,000 devotees watched the reenactment of the first mass, the first baptism and the wedding ceremony of Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon.

Fr. John Ion Miranda, media liaison of the basilica, said the activity was one of the highlights of the annual Sinulog Festival.

In his homily before the reenactment, Fr. Nelson Zerda, the basilica’s rector, reminded the faithful, particularly those experiencing trials, that peace could only be attained with strong faith and prayers.

Zerda advised them not to rely on luck but to rely on the strength of their faith instead.

“Our life does not depend on luck. We live because of God’s saving grace, God’s saving power,” he said.

He encouraged the faithful to have a positive outlook in life, draw strength in prayers and spare themselves from evil temptations.

“God did not promise us a rose garden or a life at ease of comfort, but He promised us that He will journey with us until the end of time,” Zerda said.

During the reenactment of the introduction of Christianity to the archipelago in 1521, Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon welcomed the arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and were baptized as Roman Catholics.

Magellan handed over the patron image of Sto Niño to the couple as a baptismal gift. Queen Juana rejoiced and danced with the image, which was said to be the first Sinulog dance.

Several dancers also performed, making an offering or “halad” to the Child Jesus.

The seaborne procession and the reenactment were just two of the many physical aspects of the Fiesta Señor that made a comeback this year after the two-year hiatus brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. (MKG, HIC, AYB / TPT)