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CEBU, Philippines – Surrounded by thousands of devotees and their families, the image of the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) made its solemn journey from the Fuente Osmeña Circle to its home at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu at dawn on Thursday, January 11.
The procession, known as the “Walk with Jesus,” marks the start of the 459th celebration of Fiesta Señor. A total of nine days of novena masses, followed by a day of vespers, takes place during the celebration and will culminate on January 21.
The entire celebration coincides with the Sinulog festival and has historically drawn in thousands of pilgrims from all over the world due to the religious and spiritual nature of the event.
“Dinhi sa Sugbo (Here in Cebu), all roads lead to Basilica, all roads lead to Santo Niño,” BMSN rector Reverend Father Nelson Zerda said during his homily on the opening mass of the celebration.
According to Zerda, devotees are called to holiness in a similar way that the Gozos, also known as “Bato-Balani sa Gugma (Magnet of Love),” draws people closer to one another when sung together at the Basilica.
Zerda explained that once devotees have been called, they must carry out the mission that achieves the identity of the synodal Church, which is to be of service to one another.
The theme of this year’s Fiesta Señor is “Santo Niño: Magnet of Love in the Synodal Church.”
Twenty-three-year-old Kianree Delos Santos could not contain his excitement as he witnessed the procession and the breathtaking view of devotees expressing their love for the Santo Niño from the streets of Cebu to the Basilica.
“The roads were packed with people who wanted to see the Santo Niño and praise him,” Delos Santos said.
Delos Santos said he was overwhelmed with emotions to be able to share the experience with his family, especially since joining the walk was their annual tradition.
He also took part in the novena mass and kept Zerda’s homily to heart, acknowledging the responsibility of being a servant to others in a synodal church.
In his own way, as a bank account officer of a real estate company, Delos Santos said he strives to assist people, particularly clients, by providing them with options needed to make sound financial decisions.
Roberto Basbas Jr., a 21-year-old accountancy student from the University of San Jose-Recoletos, told Rappler on Thursday that although he couldn’t attend the first day of the novena masses, he felt that he fulfilled his duty as a devotee by participating in the online livestream of the opening mass.
“I could still feel the connection between Santo Niño and me through my prayers during the novena, whether it’s virtual or face-to-face,” Basbas said.
The student has been a proud devotee since his junior high school days and has been attending the masses even in Samar, where he’s from, as it is also celebrated by local churches there.
For Basbas, the most important thing for devotees is their ability to show their faith, which he said is grounded solely in their obedience to Christ and His will. – Rappler.com