SGB offers free rides for Santo Niño devotees
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Alexane Gallon remembers joining the solemn foot procession as a six-year-old child with her grandmother, Josefina.
“No matter how crowded the streets are, di man gubot ang mga tawo (people are not rowdy),” she says.
Her grandmother is a devotee of Señor Santo Niño and she would bring the young Alexane to every Novena Mass.
Josefina would bring her small image of the Holy Child to the Masses and Alexane marveled at people carrying their own Santo Niño images, some even taller than her.
Her grandmother was in her late 50s that time.
Seventeen years later, Alexane still hears Mass at the Basilica during the Fiesta Señor.
Her grandmother is now in her 70s but still goes to the Basilica although she now avoids the areas with the most foot traffic.
The residents of Barangay Guizo in Mandaue City said the number of people who flock to the Basilica increases every year.
This makes it challenging to find a jeepney or a vehicle closest to the Basilica so that Josefina, who is now in a wheelchair, can only walk a few meters to get to a spot where she can still hear Mass, sing Batobalani sa Gugma and perform the traditional prayer-dance.
On Friday, January 10, Alexane and Josefina took the free bus ride from Robinsons Galleria that dropped them off at the area near Malacañang sa Sugbo.
Alexane said the free ride will save them money as they only need to catch a jeepney from their home to Robinsons Galleria and back.
Called Sakay Niño, the free bus rides is an offering of the Sinulog Governing Board (SGB) to provide convenience and transport access to Santo Niño devotees.
“Kahibaw ta unsa ka lisud i-attend sa mga Misa kay mo-drive pa ka, mo-agi pa ka ug traffic, mag lisud pa ka og park. Pero ang mga devotees who will attend the religious events no matter what man gyud. We have to support the devotion by doing what we can to make it easier para nila,” says Barney Borja, SGB executive director.
(We know how difficult it is to attend Mass because you have to drive and go through traffic. It’s a challenge to find parking spots. But the devotees do not mind that. They attend religious events no matter what. We have to support the devotion by doing what we can to make it easier for them.)
Borja says SGB saw the need to provide a transport option for the devotees to make it easier and less troublesome for them to go to the area near Malacañang sa Sugbo, which is about 400 meters to the Basilica.
Pick up and drop-off points are Robinsons Galleria, the area near Malacañang sa Sugbo and SM City Seaside Cebu.
The frequency of the free rides is aligned with the Novena Mass schedules. The free bus rides will run until January 19, Sunday.
Borja says participating malls have been very accommodating with the request to establish pick-up and drop-off points during this season.
“Sakay Niño was also implemented to decongest traffic that parked cars cause. The mall rides are perfect because people can park their cars in a safe place, take a good ride, come back from the Mass to a place where they can eat or just enjoy a good ambience,” Borja tells CDN Digital.
A waiting shed will also be set up at the area near Malacañang sa Sugbo to serve as a rest stop for elderly citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) as they wait for buses to take them back to the drop off points.
“Because there isn’t so much space sa Malacañang bus stop, we won’t have a whole lot of seats, but there should at least be seats for PWD and the elderly. It won’t feel like you’re just standing on the side of the road. It’s primarily for comfort and convenience,” says Borja.
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