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Filipinos in Singapore celebrate Sinulog, pray to avert Wuhan virus

Paterno Esmaquel II
Filipinos in Singapore celebrate Sinulog, pray to avert Wuhan virus
Some of them wearing surgical masks, overseas Filipinos join the 6th Sinulog in Singapore and pray for safety from the deadly Wuhan virus

SINGAPORE – Filipinos packed a 1,600-seater Catholic parish here on Sunday afternoon, January 26, to celebrate the traditional Filipino feast of the Child Jesus as they prayed to avert a new deadly virus threatening the region.

The 58-year-old Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour on Siglap Hill, Singapore, was standing room only. It was the Fiesta Mass in honor of Santo Niño de Cebu, the Child Jesus symbolized by the Philippines’ oldest religious image that Spanish colonizers gave Cebu in the 1500s.

It was the 6th time that the Filipino community in Singapore was celebrating the Sinulog, but this year was different because Singapore is on alert. In Singapore, there have been at least 4 cases of the novel coronavirus, also known as the Wuhan virus, named after its reported place of origin in China. (READ: The global spread of the coronavirus: Where is it?)

Safety from the Wuhan virus was one of the prayers by Santo Niño devotees in Singapore on Sunday. With some of them wearing surgical masks, devotees joined not only the Mass but also the Sinulog procession afterwards.

“Since there’s the coronavirus, hopefully no Filipino is affected by this disease,” said Janice Papa, a Filipino who has been working in Singapore for almost 11 years. Papa, who has attended Sinulog celebrations in Singapore since 6 years ago, also prayed that Taal Volcano would not erupt again, and that she might have good health.

One of the event’s organizers, Eric Naguiat, also prayed that the Wuhan virus “will be prevented soon,” and that victims “be given God’s grace for their fast healing.”

The Philippine embassy in Singapore has advised Filipinos not to touch live animals or consume raw, undercooked food; avoid crowded places; observe proper hygiene; always wash their hands with soap; wear a mask if they have cough or shortness of breath; and seek doctors’ help if they feel unwell.

The local Catholic Church itself implemented its own precautionary measures, with the Archdiocese of Singapore indefinitely suspending the practice of communion by the mouth.

The Wuhan virus, however, did not stop the Sinulog in Singapore from demonstrating the vibrant faith of Filipinos anywhere in the world. Still it showed how Filipinos, from merely receiving the Gospel from Spaniards almost 500 years ago, are now the ones spreading Catholicism worldwide – in the words of Pope Francis late last year, “smugglers of the faith.”

“In the 500 years of our faith, we Filipinos have spread and proclaimed the faith to other places where we Filipinos live,” said Father Charlie Oasan, chaplain of Filipinos in Singapore, in an interview with Rappler.

The Sinulog Mass on Sunday ended with a symbolic gesture: Filipinos in Singapore, whose ancestors received the Santo Niño from their colonizers, handed dozens of these images to their Singaporean friends. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at