WAVES OF FAITH
As the sun rose over the island of Cebu yesterday, icons of of the Sto. Niño and Our Lady of Guadalupe sailed down the Mactan Channel on board a white “galleon.”
A flotilla of over 200 vessels – fishing boats, motor bancas and larger ships– escorted the MV Santo Niño de Cebu bearing the religious images for the annual sea procession of Cebu’s patron.
The water was calm and clear, as the galleon replica, with Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and some priests aboard, left the Ouano Wharf in Mandaue city at 6:15 am.
Cries of “Pit Señor!” and the beat of drums followed the boat’s one hour and 40 minute voyage to Pier 1 in Cebu City.
Devotees lined the coast and two bridges spanning Mactan and Cebu to greet the Sto. Niño and murmur prayers as the vessel passed by.
In the afternoon, a solemn foot procession was held through city streets by 2 million devotess, based on police estimates, a crowd bigger than last year’s 1.8 million estimate.
The procession took five hours.
By sunset at 5:15 p.m., the beloved icons of the Child Jesus and his mother the Virgin Mary were back in the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño.
Evangeline Ministerio,60, prayed for the healing of cataract in her right eye.
“Nakasinati na ko sa iyang kaluoy sa nangaging mga katuigan. Nagtuo ko nga iya kong tabangan nga mamaayo karon. (I have experienced God’s mercy many times before. I believe He will heal me),” she told Cebu Daily News.
The mother of three from barangay Lahug, Cebu City, has been a Sto. Nino devotee since childhood.
“Di gyud ko kasabot sa akong gibati. Makahilak gyud ko atubangan sa Sto. Niño. (I don’t understand what I feel. Whenever I’m in front of the Sto. Niño, I can’t help but cry),” she said, wiping tears from her eyes during the open air Mass at the Pilgrim Center.
The whole-day procession for the “vesperas” or eve of the Fiesta Señor draws the biggest crowds in the religious celebration, which comes to a climax today, the feast day of the Child Jesus, when it takes a colorful bacchanalia turn with street dancing and a grand parade in the Sinulog Festival.
The procession started at sea and continued on land, where the glass-encased images of the Holy Child and the Virgin Mary, were brought back to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño for Mass, a reenacment of the first baptism, then the annual solemn foot procession.
As early as 5 a.m., people flocked to the Mandaue-Mactan bridges, wharves and other vantage points along the sea route, a distance of four nautical miles, bringing miniature icons of the Holy Child, which they raised and waved, along with red and yellow balloons.
A total of 101 vessels registered for the fluvial procession but Philippine Coast Guard Cebu Station Commander Agapito Bibat said over 200 boats joined the sea parade yesterday.
As the galleon passed by ports, docked ships sounded their horns. Five helicopters flew overhead and dropped flower petals on the galleon.
The galleon arrived at 8 a.m.at Pier 1, where dense throngs of people waited, including suspended Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Acting Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella.
A foot procession from the Cebu port area brought the images to the Basilica del Santo Niño for the reenactment of the first Mass, wedding, and baptism in the Philippines.
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