#CDNFiestaSeñor2022: Basilica vendors’ answered prayers
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Fiesta Señor celebration this 2022 may be the most quiet that it had been in the past decades as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the movement of people.
For the first time, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño did not allow the public to physically attend the Novena Masses and opted for a virtual novena, instead.
However, people were still allowed to enter the Basilica for veneration of the Señor Sto. Niño or for lighting of candles and praying at the Pilgrim Center.
This reduced the number of people going to the Basilica on the novena days, an unusual image for the church during this time of the year.
Still, the lack of physical Masses became a blessing of disguise for a group of people who always had to give way to the crowd every Fiesta Señor.
The vendors were able to put up their stalls closer to the Basilica this year, bringing back the commerce they gravely needed amid the ongoing pandemic.
The vendors were allowed to sell along P. Burgos Street, portions of Legaspi Street, F. Gonzales Street, and portions of D. Jakosalem. This would have never been possible if physical Novena Masses were held at the Basilica.
Jacklyn Avenido, a 35-year-old vendor of Holy Images and statues, Sto. Niño clothes, and other religious items, told CDN Digital that their trade was far better this year than last year.
In 2021, they were transferred to Compania Maritima, far from devotees attending the Novena Masses making it very difficult for them to sell their wares.
“Kay diri naa may mangagi. Sa una sa Compania Maritima, wala gyod miy halin kay di man masulod-sulod dayon ang mga customers. At least diri maagian ra mi,” said Avenido.
(Because here people will pass by. Before in Compania Maritima, we did not have any sales because no customers will enter the area where our stalls are. At least here customers will pass by.)
Avenido, who has been a vendor for 17 years in the area, is thankful to the Cebu City government for allowing them to stay nearer to the Basilica so they can sell their goods and pay off the loans they took as capital.
“Gamay ra man gihapon among halin kumpara atong wa pay pandemya. Apan karung tuiga, basin makabayad na gyod mi sa among mga utang,” she added.
(It is still a small amount but comparing this to the time when there was no pandemic. But this year, perhaps we can pay our debts.)
Normally, a vendor would be able to sell up P50,000 worth of goods during the Sinulog season, which brings in millions of crowds every year. Since the pandemic, their profits have been cut in half because of the restrictions.
Another vendor, Nalyn Encinas, 31, said that there had been a great improvement in their trade this year because people would be able to pass through their stalls before entering the Basilica compound.
Their visibility has become a factor for better business and bigger profit. On normal days, Encinas sells her statues and religious items at P. Zamora Street.
Yet many of the Sto. Niño vendors have also chosen to sell beyond the Basilica as many people were not able to travel to Cebu’s capital city for this year’s Fiesta Señor this year following the devastation of Typhoon Odette.
“Daghan ang wala namaligya diri kay namaligya na sila sa laing lugar kay nagexpect sila nga gamay ra ang mga tawo,” said Encinas.
(Many did not sell here because they went to a better spot expecting that there will be fewer people here.)
She also sells in her barangay to augment her income at the downtown considering that reduced number of devotees going to the Basilica this year.
For both vendors, this year’s Fiesta Señor is an answered prayer to their struggles in the almost two years of the pandemic when they could barely do any trade due to restrictions.
“Gidungog gyod ni Sto. Niño among mga pag-ampo,” said Encinas.
(The Sto. Niño heard our prayers.)
The Fiesta Señor this year may be the simplest it had been for the past three decades, but for the vendors, they can already see the light at the end of the tunnel.
They hope that next year, they will be able to see normal trade again when hopefully, the Fiesta Señor and Sinulog returns to normal.
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