At this time of the year, the city would have already been overflowing with tourists and pilgrims, hotel rates doubled, the parade route festooned with buntings and the beat of drums from the Cebu City Sports Center competing with the blare from huge sound boxes installed along Osmeña Boulevard.
None of that is happening now. Travel restrictions have all but dried up the flow of visitors to Cebu, in effect canceling the law of supply and demand that business owners always invoked in justifying unreasonably jacked-up prices. The oval is quiet but for the roar of engines of the transport vehicles of policemen camped in the sports complex.
This year’s celebration of the feast of the Sto. Niño is a fiesta like no other. There will be no Sinulog street dancing and “cultural presentation,” no fluvial and foot procession and no ribbons hanging along the parade route. Over at the Basilica, entry is allowed only to Cebu City residents and only if they can present a quarantine pass at the gate.
I remember my first Pista Senyor. I was five years old when my mother brought my younger sister and me to Cebu City so we could kiss the image of the Sto. Niño. We took a sailboat from our town in Masbate to Tapilon in Daanbantayan where we took a bus to the city so we could fulfill her “panaad.”
There must be hundreds, even thousands of people who, like my mother, had promised to Sto. Niño to attend his feast, mostly in thanksgiving. For a new job, healing, passing a government examination, maybe even for getting married.
They will have to wait for another year to keep their promise. It’s sad, but it is what it is. The pandemic has rendered travel to the city by a non-resident generally untenable. The stakes are too high. The number of new Covid-19 cases is continually rising.
Let’s accept our share of the sacrifice needed to keep us safe. Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama sacrificed his personal beliefs when he yielded to public pressure to cancel all Sinulog-related activities. The Augustinian Fathers willingly took the hit caused by the limitations imposed on some of their activities. And businessmen suffered where it hurt most: their balance sheets.
At the same time, let us pray that government will find a way to make our return to our old normal lives sooner. A vaccine has already been invented to protect us from the coronavirus. It’s now a question of when we can have ourselves inoculated. The bungling that attended initial efforts to acquire the vaccine does not provide much reassurance, but let us not lose hope. Government might finally do this thing right eventually.
Let us continue to believe in miracles. And pray to the Sto. Niño to make them happen.