The Santo Niño is alive
An old woman stands on the side of the road on M.J. Cuenco Avenue in Cebu City. Her eyes closed, she holds the Santo Niño over her head and waves it back and forth in a slow two-step motion. The song “Bato Balani sa Gugma” blasts on the loud speakers.
There is a sea of people waiting to see the Child Jesus and the Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Holy Mother of God, during the Traslacion.
The old woman is one of thousands waiting to see them today. When the Holy Child is close enough for her eyes to see, the tears begin to flow. She looks up at the sky and the tears flow in praise of the Child Jesus.
She cries not to ask for anything but to give thanks and to honor Him.
As the images make its way to the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City, children dance the upbeat two-step Sinulog. Dressed in native costume, they hold the Santo Niño and praise him with joy.
Thelma Cinco caught the sight of the images of the Virgin Mary and the Santo Niño when it passed through Barangay Mabolo. She prays for her 23-year-old son Jelito who is suffering from a rapid muscle growth disorder.
“Hinaut pa unta kaloy-an mi sa Sto. Niño (I hope the Sto. Niño will be merciful to us),” she tells a Cebu Daily News writer.
It has been almost 500 years after Ferdinand Magellan had landed in Cebu with the image of the Santo Niño, yet the reverence of the Cebuano to the Child Jesus has not withered.
There is something infinitely unique about the Cebuano devotion to the Santo Niño. It is intense. It is inclusive, that no group claims ownership of the devotion. And for many, the Fiesta Senyor is not about remembering the life of Jesus but celebrating a Child Jesus who is very much alive and lives within each of us.
Go to the mall, restaurants, coffee shops, even gas stations and sari-sari stores, the Santo Niño is there.
Even after the Sinulog, there isn’t a day without devotees who visit the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu to pay homage to the Holy Child.
When I decided to move to Cebu a year ago, I hadn’t a clue what I would learn or what this chapter would have in store for me.
For five years, I had not been to a church. I had spent most of my life in the US, and prior to Cebu, I lived in Manila for two years working for an online news start-up.
The past year in Cebu, I had been able to spend time with my grandmother again before she passed away, and in the process, had returned to God.
I’ve learned that faith, or a respect for faith, is intrinsic to the Cebuano identity. And I couldn’t be any more proud to be Cebuano.
The Sinulog week is only one display of this quality. Come to Cebu any time of year and you will see, lahi ra gyud ang devotion sa Cebu. So as we go out and celebrate the Sinulog, let’s not forget the real reason for everything we do today: Him.
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