By Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Therese Mae Alegado |January 10,2018 - 10:29 PM

FIESTA SEñOR MASS. Employees of a flower shop prepare the altar of the Pilgrim Center of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in time for this morning’s Mass, which followed the 4 a.m. “Walk with Jesus” procession, the first event that kicked off the religious aspect of this year’s Sinulog Festival.


Be patient. Follow instructions and signages. Avoid bringing jewelry, balloons and backpacks. Keep the celebration solemn.

These are among the reminders given by the Augustinian fathers of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño to devotees, as the 453rd Fiesta Señor celebration, or the Feast of the Señor Sto. Niño, begins today, Jan. 11, with a solemn dawn procession.

The feast, which is widely known as the Sinulog Festival, will culminate in a series of religious activities at the Basilica on Jan. 21, the third Sunday of the month, as well as a mardi gras-like dance parade along a set route in Cebu City, also on Jan. 21. (see schedule of activities on page 4)

“We put up signages for our entrances and exits, as well as installed directional maps. To facilitate crowd control, please follow all these signs within the Basilica,” said Fr. Ric Anthony Reyes, OSA, the media liaison officer of the centuries-old church and the head of the Fiesta Señor’s general secretariat.

“Let us keep the celebration solemn by gracing the liturgies and religious activities with prayerful attention,” he added.

The Fiesta Señor 2018 officially starts at 4 a.m. today with the annual “Walk with Jesus,” a penitential foot procession from Fuente Osmeña to the Basilica. The two-kilometer walk is expected to draw thousands of devotees.

Police deployment

At least 273 policemen will be deployed from the Fuente Osmeña rotunda down to the Basilica during the prayer walk, said Chief Insp. Jacinto Mandal, overall ground commander of the event.

“We’re ready to secure all the people,” he said.

Fr. Pacifico “Jun” Nohara Jr., OSA, the rector of the Basilica, will preside over the first novena Mass at 5:30 a.m. at the outdoor Pilgrim Center.

This year’s fiesta Hermano and Hermana Mayores, Rosalina Go and her son Mark, will be installed during the liturgical celebration.

This year’s celebration carries the theme “Sto. Niño: Inspiration of Renewed Disciples for the New Evangelization,” which is patterned to the pastoral thrust of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.

Except on January 11 and 19 when there are dawn processions, 11 Masses will be held at the Pilgrim Center every day leading to the feast of the Sto. Niño.

The Basilica’s altar and the Pilgrim Center were decorated with flowers yesterday.

Red and yellow flaglets also adorned the churchyard.

The don’ts

As announced earlier, balloons shall also be prohibited inside the Basilica complex as well as during the fluvial parade at dawn on Jan. 20, in response to concerns raised by environment advocates who said the synthetic material ends up in the sea and are eaten by marine animals like whales and dolphins, who mistake them for food, causing the animals’ death.

Balloons will also be prohibited during the foot processions on Jan. 20 and 21, as balloons released into the air caused power interruptions after some transformers near the Basilica exploded when hit by flying balloons that contained helium.

The total ban on balloons at the church’s courtyard will be strictly implemented starting today, said Fr. Aladdin Luzon, OSA, head of the Fiesta Señor 2018 peace and order committee.

For several years, the release of balloons in the air during the feast of the Sto. Niño has been a popular gesture of lifting prayers to heaven.

The Augustinian fathers, the caretakers of the Basilica and the image of the Child Jesus, want the practice to stop, teaching devotees the proper way of expressing their faith.

Security guards at the Basilica were given the go-signal to confiscate or deflate all balloons at the entrance gates of the church, Luzon said.

Nagiel Bañacia, chief of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO), said he also instructed their personnel deployed at the Basilica to do likewise.

“If we want to have a joyful, peaceful and memorable celebration, we will have to ban these balloons because these have affected the solemnity of the event,” he said.

Aside from balloons, people are also prohibited by the CCDRRMO from setting off firecrackers or pyrotechnics, bringing liquor, backpacks, glass bottles, and loud speakers to the Basilica.

Avoid selfies too

As much as possible, Bañacia advised devotees to refrain from taking selfies especially if it will disrupt the religious activities.

For those who will join the “Walk with Jesus” procession, Bañacia advised them to be careful about the candles they bring.

“Most people hold their candles near their chests while praying the rosary. I highly suggest that they raise it a bit to avoid burning the hair of the person next to them,” he said.

Those who will use their motorcycles and cars during the dawn processions, he said, shall stay at the tail end of the procession.

It’s not a party

Fr. Noel Cogasa, OSA, who is in charge of the liturgical celebrations at the Basilica, reminded the people that the Fiesta Señor activities should not be used as an occasion to have party-like get together among friends or to engage in sightseeing.

“What is then the meaning of what we are doing if we just join the activities and do not pray? The Fiesta Señor is not about taking a breather from our usual routine, or to have a family reunion. The essence of the celebration is prayer, and so we must not neglect the religious aspect,” he said. /with reports from correspondent Benjie B. Talisic

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