Feast of Santo Niño: The pilgrims of Devotee City
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Praxedes Pagatpat carried her Santo Niño, dressed in modern clothing, all the way from Tagum City, Davao del Norte, to join the Fiesta Señor celebration here.
For the 72-year-old grandmother, the long journey from Mindanao was always worth it.
"In 2009, we visited the Santo Niño. My husband was not in good health. I said, if he gets better, I would bring him to the Fiesta the next year. When we got home, he was already pushing his own wheelchair," Pagatpat said in Bisaya.
After the day-long trip by sea to Cebu, Pagatpat checked into her accomodation, a container van converted into a room for the last few of the Fiesta Señor (Feast of the Holy Child) celebrations.
In Cebu, a tribute to the Holy Child involves dancing the Sinulog, a two-step dance believed to be an indigenous ritual that traces its roots to tribes of pre-hispanic Philippines.
She is one of 2,500 staying in what Cebu City called "Devotee City," a place for pilgrims from faraway provinces who had no family to stay with, and could not afford hotel accomodations.
It is behind the historic Compania Maritima, a few hundred steps away from the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, where most of the Fiesta Señor events are taking place. (READ: Pit Señor: A complete pilgrim's guide to Santo Niño de Cebu)
The modest city-run facility made sure that pilgrims were fed and there were cultural presentations and live entertainment for them.
At the center of Devotee City is a small shrine in honor of Santo Niño, decorated with flowers and yellow and orange banderitas.
Many slept on paperboards on the floor and without electric fans. But for the pilgrims of Devotee City, the long trip and modest accomodations were only small sacrifices for their devotion to the Holy Child.
Alan Tamayo from Bogo City, a city about 4 hours away in northern Cebu, became a devotee of the Santo Niño in 2014. He said that despite the difficult conditions of the trip and accomodations, he saw the free stay and food as blessings.
What he received in return for paying tribute to the Santo Niño, Tamayo said, was more than enough. (READ: The meaning of 'Pit Señor)
“It is a form of spiritual healing,” he said.
Tamayo, unemployed, somehow found ways to make the long trip out of Bogo City by bus.
“In my experience, prayers alone to God bring me back to Cebu every year,” Tamayo said.
His family stayed behind, but Tamayo said that it's important for him not to miss the Fiesta.
Edna Limbaga and her husband Felipe came from Toledo City in western Cebu to take part in the Fiesta Señor.
Better-paying work for their loved ones abroad is a common prayer for Filipinos who visit the Basilica. Edna believed that her prayers were granted.
“I prayed that they'd be able to go abroad,” Edna said. Her prayer was eventually granted – her kids were able to get jobs abroad. And what made her even happier was that even after they started working abroad, they would always come back home and visit.
This year, she was not praying for more, but like many other pilgrims of Devotee City, she was there to thank the Santo Niño. – Rappler.com