Cebu

300,000 devotees join dawn kickoff of Cebu’s 458th Fiesta Señor celebration

John Sitchon
300,000 devotees join dawn kickoff of Cebu’s 458th Fiesta Señor celebration

FIESTA SEÑOR. A devotee holds her Santo Niño tightly at the kickoff of the 2023 Fiesta Señor in Cebu City.

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

'It’s the journey that gives us happiness, not the destination,' Reverend Father Nelson Zerda, rector of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, reminds devotees

CEBU, Philippines – After two years of celebrating Fiesta Señor at home, hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors finally returned to the streets of Cebu City, on Thursday, January 5, to show their devotion for the Holy Child.

This is the 458th celebration of the religious festival. It includes a nine-day novena to be followed by a day of vespers, and will culminate on January 15, coinciding with the cultural-secular Sinulog festivities.

For the first day of the Fiesta Señor, devotees joined the Walk with Jesus which began at around 4 am at the Fuente Osmeña Circle. 

The two-kilometer procession garnered over 300,000 attendees, Cebu City police said. 

At least 2,000 security personnel were deployed for the entire celebration, consisting of members of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and other agencies. 

300,000 devotees join dawn kickoff of Cebu’s 458th Fiesta Señor celebration

Newcomers and old participants marched together with the image of the child Jesus towards the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu (BMSN) where they also attended mass for the opening salvo of the Fiesta Señor. 

BSMN rector Reverend Father Nelson Zerda, OSA, led the walk with the friars of the Augustinian Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu-Philippines. 

On their way to the pilgrim center, devotees sang the verses of the iconic cultural song, “Gozos,” also known as “Bato-Balani sa Gugma (Magnet of Love).”

“It’s the journey that gives us happiness, not the destination,” Zerda said in his homily during the mass.

The Catholic festival was put on hold for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SANTO NIÑO. Each family of devotees had at least one of their own replica of the Child Jesus. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

From every corner, families had their own replica of the Santo Niño – a symbol of the Christian faith that was introduced to the Philippines around 500 years ago.  

Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama and wife Malou were also present.

SANTO NIÑO. The image of the Santo Niño is thought to be a gift from Ferdinand Magellan to Queen Juana, the wife of Rajah Humabon, after their baptism as Christians. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

DEVOTED. No matter how early the event was, many devotees still came to walk with the image of the Santo Niño at Fuente Osmeña at around 3 in the morning. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

CHILD JESUS. The Santo Niño represents innocence and hope for the Philippines’ Catholic majority. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

ALL AGES, ALL CLASSES. Young and old, rich and poor join the the ‘Walk with Jesus’ during the first day of the 458th Fiesta Señor celebration in Cebu City. Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler
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– Rappler.com

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