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Fiesta Señor in Cebu: ‘What can you do to end pandemic?’

During the opening salvo Mass of the 456th Fiesta Señor in Cebu City on Friday, February 8, Fr Pacifico Nohara asked devotees of the Santo Niño to be a part of ending the pandemic. 

Sa mga problema nga giatubang sa katilingban karon, unsa'y angay'ng nako buhaton aron makatampo ako alang sa pagtapos niining virus nga nagsamok sa katilingban?” Nohara said during the mass at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu. The ceremony was also seen on Facebook and Youtube.

(With the problems our society faces now, what should be done so I can contribute to ending the virus that is plaguing our society?) 

During the opening mass, he reminded everyone to do their personal diligence to keep the infections down.

“Let’s always do our best to take care of our lives, through following health protocols like wearing masks, face shields and observing physical distancing,” he added.

The message of the kickoff Mass was that despite these changes, devotion to the Holy Child should remain unchanged.

Bago ang dagan sa kalibutan, apan atong pagtuo kang Santo Niño nagpadayon ug wala'y kabaguhan,” he said.

(The world has changed, but our belief in the Santo Niño continues and does not change) 

The Fiesta Señor is a weeklong celebration that commemorates the Feast of the Santo Niño, when the image was said to have been found by a Spanish explorer in Cebu in 1565. 

The unique way Cebuanos celebrate it is by dancing the Sinulog, a pre-colonial dance which represents that flow of the river. 

Nohara said that with the advent of technology, the pandemic should not be a reason to stop the celebration and devotion to the Holy Child.

“For those who are unable to to come in person, especially senior citizens and the youth who weren’t allowed to come out, don’t worry if you’re not present this time,” Nohara said in Cebuano.

Nohara, the Basilica’s rector, emphasized that the intentions and petitions of the faithful would be honored even if they were at home.

He also acknowledged that many immigrants, OFWs, who had already bought their tickets to attend were not able to attend and said a prayer for them.

According to the Cebu City government's emergency operations center for COVID-19, the first day of the fiesta was organized and security was able to enforce physical distancing and wearing of masks.

The close monitoring of the fiesta was due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the city after the holidays.

Cebu City marked 84 new cases this week, increasing its total number of active cases up to 241.

Prior to the Christmas Day, December 25, the number was at about 101.

Since the Basilica re-opened last year following the lockdown, only 1,000 people are allowed to enter the Church grounds, while masses are held in the outdoor area of the pilgrim center with seats distanced apart.

The city government also opted not to suspend quarantine passes and still enforced a stay-at-home order for senior citizens and minors. 

A day before the 9-day novena began, the local government also cancelled all physical events of the Sinulog Festival, earlier set on Sunday, January 17.

However, they plan to reschedule some events to April this year when the city will mark the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines.

“This year is a good year for all of us Filipino Catholics all over the world, because we are celebrating the 500 year arrival of Santo Niño in our land,” Nohara said. “That alone makes 2021 a year to be joyful, a year to be grateful, because we are blessed with the presence of the father in our journey of faith through the image of Santo Niño.” –

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.