About 4,000 devotees trooped to the Basilica del Sto. Niño early morning yesterday for the “Hubo” Mass which capped the religious activities in honor of the Child Jesus.
A replica of the original Sto. Niño image was stripped of its fiesta clothes, given a ritual bath, and fitted with simpler garments.
Fr. Jonas Mejares, rector of the basilica, led the annual “Hubo”, a Cebuano word for “undress.”
The ritual began with the removal of the crown, followed by the orb and scepter and armlet, the bands, cape, tunic, inner garments and boots.
For each piece of clothing removed, Mejares sang “Christe, exaudi nos” (Christ, graciously hear us) to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
The image was then dipped in water, wiped with a towel and dressed.
The original Sto. Niño image remains inside a chapel of the basilica where pilgrims line up to pay homage.
Its garments were changed in a private ceremony before the feast last Sunday.
In his homily, Mejares explained the history of the “Batobalani sa Gugma (Magnet of Love),” a Cebuano hymn in honor of the Sto. Niño.
He said the song, which was taken from some religious verses in 1987, expresses the love of the Cebuanos to the Sto. Niño.
“Our expression of faith while singing Batobalani sa Gugma is beyond words and prepositions”, Mejares said.
Waving of hands in the air while singing the song, he said, manifests the people’s ardent desire for God.
“The hand is an expression of the heart. People are longing for God like a child who wants to be in his parents’ embrace. Waving our hands means total surrender to God,” he said.
“When we raise our hands together, we admit that we are weak and we cannot do anything without God,” he added.
Mejares ended his homily by singing “Kaluwasan Ko” to remind the people about the Child Jesus who came to the world to redeem mankind.
Justina Sabanal, a devotee who came from Hawaii, was among those who witnessed the “Hubo” ritual.
Among other prayers, she said she wants the Child Jesus to take care of her family.
“May the Sto. Niño grant me and my family good health,” she said.