Editorial: Citizenship as the face of piety

Police authorities credited the successful implementation of security plans to the orderly conduct of the Jan. 14, 2023, foot procession that drew what they estimate as a crowd of three million venerating the Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu on the “visperas (eve)” of the fiesta.

Starting from the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, devotees walked and followed for hours the carroza bearing a replica of the image of the Patron of Cebu along Osmeña Blvd. and then down and up Gen. Maxilom Ave., veering to M. J. Cuenco Ave. until the carroza returned to the point of origin, the Basilica Minore.

The foot procession started at 1 p.m. The carroza bearing the Sto. Niño de Cebu completed the circuit hours before the 6 p.m. pontifical mass. As in 2020, the last time fiesta rites took place face-to-face prior to the pandemic lockdown, the tailend of the procession was still winding along the route, hours away, when the carroza returned to the basilica.

While a human cordon of police, government and student volunteers extended unbroken along the route up to Gen. Maxilom Ave., steered the human stream and extended emergency assistance, persons were permitted to enter or leave the procession, without causing major disruptions at various points along the route.

The solemn foot procession on the visperas of the fiesta of the Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu has consistently been an exemplar of crowd control. It may be, as the authorities point out, attributed to informed planning and smooth implementation.

Compared to routes in previous years, the 2023 procession used wide and well-maintained boulevards and avenues. Gaining access to both sides of the boulevard and avenues of the route, the processional stream flowed without accident unlike past years when the more narrow streets of downtown Cebu were included in a longer, more circuitous route that often pinched the thick flow of devotees and threatened at times to tip over into a commotion or a stampede.

When the procession entered the Gen. Maxilom Ave., devotees had already walked for at least two hours. Yet, there was a noticeable absence of discarded PET bottles along the route.

Mineral water sellers still hawked their goods along the entire procession route. As in past decades, devotees came with their families, clans, even companies. To sustain them while walking, many parents often give water and food to make the children cooperative.

This year’s marked reduction of food and liquid debris littering the procession route is a credit to the participants’ responsibility in keeping their trash in totes to be discarded properly after the procession.

With the bottle of mineral water selling as high as P20 at the start of the procession and the price tapering to P15 when the procession was winding back to the basilica, citizens may prioritize saving rather than spending. During the procession, the common sight of families or groups passing around water containers that they had packed means a significant reduction in single-use plastic and trash that require considerable public resources to clear and dispose of.

Along M. J. Cuenco Ave., which marks already the return of the procession to the basilica, only a few face masks were spotted lying on the street. Despite the humidity, the faithful who kept on their face masks during the procession showed concern for other devotees, particularly the elderly and persons with health issues.

For the thick crowds of spectators lining the procession route, the carroza bearing the tiny figure in gold and red may have seemed to be buoyed on waves and waves of devotees carrying and occasionally waving miniatures of the Sto. Niño and holding aloft children dressed up like the Holy Infant.

In harmonizing piety, civic discipline and respect for the environment, the Jan. 14, 2023, solemn procession was truly an offering to behold on the eve of the 458th fiesta of the Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu.