By Christina Hermoso
As Roman Catholics from different parts of the country celebrate the Feast of the Santo Niño today, a Church leader issues a reminder: “Prioritize the welfare and needs of the children.”
“Jesus came to us, became a child like us. He grew like us. Children have a very special place in His heart. He cares for them, so concerned that His appeal to us is “Let the children come to Me and don’t stop them” (Mark 10:14), a clear reminder to all of us to prioritize the welfare and safety of the children,” said Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos.
The prelate cited the important needs of every child that must be met to help him achieve a bright future.
“First, let us provide them with a secure shelter. Give them a shelter where they can stay and feel protected. Provide them with their needs. The streets are not their home. Children should not be made to live in the streets,” the bishop said.
“Second, let us keep them safe and provide them with a stable life. Our Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People is the primary lead and convenor among Philippine Interfaith Movement against human trafficking and on line child sexual exploitation. Let us all be more careful and courteous with our words lest we offend and scandalize children. Let us be rightful and moral with our actions so that we give them a good example and not lead them to sin, and to disgrace,” Santos, the head of the CBCP-ECMI, added.
“Lastly, let us prepare them for the future. Let us make their future brighter and better and help them succeed in life,” he said.
Devotees of the Santo Niño nationwide celebrate today the Feast of the Child Jesus with festive rites and grand parades.
In Metro Manila, 33 fiesta masses which started at 3 p.m. yesterday until 12 midnight today, will be celebrated at the Santo Niño de Tondo Parish in Manila, the center of celebrations in the metropolis. The grand procession will be held at 4 a.m. today.
In Pandacan, Manila, fifteen masses will be celebrated today at the Santo Niño Parish from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m. including a community mass at the church yard at 7 a.m. which will be marked with the dancing of the ati-atihan.
In Cebu City, the widely popular ‘Sinulog’ in honor of Señor Santo Niño, the oldest festival in the archipelago, is expected to gather around a million devotees and tourists. Cebuanos do not consider the Christmas Season over until after the celebration of the festive “Sinulog” Festival.
The heart of the “Sinulog” is the locals’ centuries-old devotion to the Holy Child, whose miraculous image is greeted with cries of “Viva Señor Santo Niño!” “Hail to the Child King!” and “Pit Senor!” from the phrase “Sangpit sa Senyor” (Call to Senor).
The Cebuanos’ devotion to the Child Jesus has deep historical roots. The image of the Holy Child was brought to the country by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on April 14, 1521 as a gift to Queen Juana of Cebu, who was reportedly moved to tears after she saw the 15-inch tall wooden statue of the Santo Niño. She allowed herself to be baptized as a Christian, along with her husband Rajah Humabon and more than 800 natives. After Magellan was killed by Lapu-Lapu in the Battle of Mactan, not much was heard about the image, except that the Cebuanos worshipped the Santo Niño as a rain god.
In 1565, when Spanish conqueror Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu, a Spanish soldier, Juan Camus, found the image inside the house of a native. His house was razed by a fire that miraculously spared the holy image. Legazpi then named Cebu as the City of the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
Today, the image now known as Santo Niño de Cebu, is considered as the oldest Christian relic in the country. It is enshrined and venerated at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the oldest church in the country. Largely a religious celebration and a thanksgiving festival, the street dancing that we know today had its beginnings with the traditional “sinulog,” a prayer dance that was offered to the Holy Child on its feast day every third Sunday of January. Then a small celebration within the vicinity of the basilica, the carnival-like celebration soon became a major tourist event in Cebu.
Other festive and colorful celebrations in honor of the Holy Child include Kalibo, Aklan’s “Ati-Atihan” Festival where participants dress themselves in native Ati tribal garments, their faces smeared with ashes; “Romblon’s “Biniray” Festival; Cagayan de Oro City’s “Pachada Señor;” Butuan City’s “Kahimunan” Festival; Antique’s “Binirayan” and “Handugan” Festivals; Iloilo City’s “Dinagyang” Festival; and Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur’s “Zambulawan” Festival.
In Maypajo, Caloocan City, a procession of the different images of the Holy Child and street dancing will serve as the highlight of the “Pajotan de Sto. Niño” Festival. In Pasig City, the Bambino Festival in honor of the Child Jesus will be celebrated with a mass and a procession. Celebrations will also be held in Malolos, Bulacan; Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; Binalonan, Pangasinan; and in several other cities and provinces.
After each Eucharistic celebration, children are traditionally blessed by priests in observance of the feast as well as to highlight the observance of the month of January as the Month of the Child Jesus.
The Manila Police District (MPD) Traffic Enforcement Unit has rerouted traffic to give way to the Sto. Niño celebration in Manila today.
All jeepneys coming from Tayuman Street should go straight to Capulong Road and make a U-turn at Raxabago Street to point of destination.
Motorists going to Moriones Street should go straight R-10 to point of destination.
All vehicles intending to use Lakandula, Asuncion, Sto. Cristo Sts. going to Divisoria area via Zaragosa Street should turn right to Delpan Street to point of destination.
All vehicles coming from Infanta Street using Velasquez-Infanta Bridge going to (C-2) Capulong road should go straight to Honorio Lopez Boulevard to point of destination.
All vehicles coming from Vitas Street should turn right to Jacinto Street to point of destination.
Closures will be on stop and go traffic situation as the procession approaches each intersection and after the tail end of the procession passes, MPD said. (With a report from Erma R. Edera)