“AN EXPRESSION of love and faith,” said Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma as around 300,000 people braved the rains early dawn on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 to join the penitential Walk with Jesus, the annual procession that signals the opening of the Fiesta Señor celebration.
Even as the rains poured, thousands of devotees from all over Cebu still flocked to the streets at 4 a.m. for the procession, undeterred by the wet roads and the cold gust of wind that whizzed through their colorful umbrellas.
The two-kilometer walk started at Fuente Osmeña along Osmeña Blvd. and ended at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, home of the oldest religious relic in the Philippines, Sto. Niño de Cebu.
“That we are willing to sacrifice and that we are willing to declare our love which should really be part of our lives,” said Palma of the love and faith Cebuanos have for the Holy Child in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The procession which, police said, was generally peaceful with no reports of untoward incidents was immediately followed by a Holy Mass at the Sto. Niño Basilica to kick off the 455th celebration of the Sto. Niño feast.
Rev. Fr. Pacifico Nohara, rector of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, said he was thankful and happy to see the big crowd of devotees even though it was raining.
The church grounds were filled with people carrying an image of Sto. Niño.
“As we are gathered here today, we show unity because of our love for the Holy Child, Señor Sto. Niño,” said Nohara in Cebuano during his homily.
He asked devotees to manifest their love for Sto. Niño by having good relationships with other people accompanied by good deeds.
“We should be grateful that this gift is alive. So until now, we treasure this faith and we continue to spread and feel love, peace and joy in our family, in our society, in our whole country,” he said.
Interviewed separately by SunStar Cebu, MJ Abando, 27, and Farah Lauron, 52, said that attending the procession and the first novena mass had become an annual ritual for them.
They both prayed for the good health of their families.
“Maayo nga lawas sa pamilya. Ang ako ra gyud gi-ampo sa Señor Sto. Niño ug diri pud sa Cebu, walay peligro nga luwas usab sa giyera (Good health for the family. The only thing I prayed for to Señor Sto. Niño was that Cebu would be safe and it would be safe from war),” she said.
Last year, the same estimated number of devotees joined the Walk with Jesus and first novena mass. Around 650 policemen were deployed this year to secure the two events.
Meanwhile, the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) confiscated a drone which was flown during the procession without permission from the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO 7).
Police Col. Engelbert Soriano, CCPO acting director, said the drone was taken to the Abellana police station on Osmeña Blvd. along with its owner.
A no-fly zone for drones was declared in Metro Cebu earlier, following a security coordinating conference with agencies tasked to secure the Sinulog Festival.
During the meeting, it was agreed that those who want to fly a drone for aerial photography will have to get a permit from the Operations Division of the PRO 7.
Soriano clarified police will not file a case against the drone’s owner and would only confiscate the device while the Sinulog activities are ongoing.
Soriano explained that drone flying, if unregulated, could pose a threat to the public.
Even helicopters and planes are prohibited from flying unless they have the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, he said.
Only the military and the police are allowed to fly their helicopters during the Sinulog festivities. (JCT, WBS, AYB / RSR)