8,000 join Kaplag opening salvo
Juan Felix Go, 75, couldn’t hear any sound at all as he was diagnosed with hereditary deafness – a rare condition passed down from parents to their children – 30 years ago.
But Go’s faith is too loud to be silenced by his disability.
Accompanied by his eldest son, he joined devotees in yesterday’s “Walk with Jesus” that kicked off the nine-day preparations for the grand celebration of the 450th Kaplag or the recovery of the image of the Sto. Niño amid the ruins of a burnt hut in Cebu City.
As Filipinos particularly Cebuanos celebrate the Kaplag, Go’s son Alexander said they too are hoping to regain something.
“Hinaut pa unta mabalik pud ang pagdungog sa akong papa (I hope my father will get his sense of hearing back),” Alexander told CDN.
Police estimate of the crowd who joined the 4 a.m. procession from the Redemptorist Church to the Basilica del Sto. Niño was 8,000.
With lighted candles, the crowd recited the rosary and sang religious hymns which were broadcast live on radio and amplified by speakers along the three-kilometer route.
The flower-decked carroza bearing the statue of the Holy Child arrived at the Basilica at 5 a.m., welcomed with applause and shouts of “Pit Señor!” and “Viva Señor Sto. Niño!”.
An audio recording of the pealing of bells signaled the start of the novena. The basilica’s bell tower which collapsed during the October 15, 2013 earthquake has yet to be reconstructed.
Fr. Jonas Mejares, OSA, rector of the basilica, presided over the 5:30 a.m Mass alongside at least 10 priests from the Order of Saint Augustine and the Redemptorist Fathers.
The image of the Sto. Niño stayed overnight at the Redemptorist Church following last Thursday’s traslacion.
It was at the Redemptorist Church where the original image of the Sto. Niño was taken for safekeeping when the Basilica was threatened with bombs during the World War II.
During the Mass yesterday, the 450-member Choir Ensemble which was created for the big celebration rendered the liturgical celebration. The grand choir was led by renowned composer and musician Manny Lapingcao and musical director Joshua Montayre.
Fr. Mejares began his homily by singing a Cebuano hymn “Ikaw Makaplagan” which Lapingcao composed for the Kaplag celebration.
In his homily, Mejares told the people to be grateful to the Lord for personal blessings received and for the gift of faith.
He said it is good to revisit how each Catholic has developed his relationship with God and neighbors.
“As we say goodbye to 450 years, also say goodbye to all your frustrations, disappointments, desolation, and hopelessness. We must also say goodbye to the mistakes of the past, the things which we failed to perform and express as sons and daughters of God,” Mejares said.
“Say goodbye to all attitudes and gestures which are far from the standards of Señor Sto. Niño. We must even say goodbye to the time when we didn’t show respect and love for one another as well as for the times of clashes of opinions and ideas. Let us all be united in the Sto. Niño.
Mejares encouraged the faithful to focus on Jesus, and never to be deceived by the things of the world.
“Let us not allow technology to replace Jesus in our life. Let us not allow the things of this world to become so large in our eyes that we could no longer see the Sto. Niño anymore,” he said.
Amid disappointments and fears, Mejares said each one can find refuge in the Sto. Niño–the hope of the people.
“The Sto. Niño is with us. He is the same Jesus who lifted the spirits of frustrated disciples. He is the hope of the people. And so let us propagate the values of the Sto. Niño. Let us practice our faith,” he said.
In the afternoon of April 27, there will be a grand reenactment of the arrival of the image of the Sto. Niño, the planting of the Magellan’s cross, the first baptism in the Philippines, and the discovery of the image of the child Jesus.
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