Catholic Church

In southern Cebu, devotees still sing old version of Santo Niño gozos

Max Limpag

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In southern Cebu, devotees still sing old version of Santo Niño gozos

Order of Saint Augustine-Province of Santo Niño de Cebu

The gozos in Boljoon still contains the words printed in the old novena booklets published in 1908 and even as far back as 1858 and accessible in the archives of the National Library of Spain

CEBU, Philippines – Growing up in Boljoon, Joseph Jules Rendon Derama always wondered why the gozos or devotional song to the Santo Niño at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño was different from the one sung at their parish church.

The one they have sung and continue to sing to this day in the Archdiocesan Shrine of Patrocinio de Maria Santisima, the parish church in Boljoon, is longer. Derama, a 25-year-old licensed physical therapist, said it was only later that he learned that theirs was the old version of the gozos, more known as Batobalani sa Gugma (Magnet of Love.)

The gozos in Boljoon still contains the words printed in the old novena booklets published in 1908 and even as far back as 1858 and accessible in the archives of the National Library of Spain. It also has a different tune. It is sung when the town celebrates the feast of the Santo Niño on the 1st Sunday of January. The traditional feast day of the Santo Niño de Cebu is the 3rd Sunday of January, which is called the Sinulog Festival.

The old gozos being sung in Boljoon has a reference to the old practice of Cebuanos of bringing the image of the Santo Niño to the sea and submerging it in water to ask for rain.

“Cun ulan ang pangayoon ug imong pagadugayon, dadadon ca sa baybayon ug sa dagat pasalomon, ug dayon nila macuha ang ulan nga guitinguha.” (If people ask for rain and you delay granting them their wish, they bring you to the shores and submerge you in seawater until they get their rain.)

In southern Cebu, devotees still sing old version of Santo Niño gozos

The more popular gozos that each Santo Niño devotee knows by heart is “a product of its simplification around (the) 1980s,” according to the Reverend Father Ric Anthony Reyes on their official website. 

Reyes’ Order of Saint Augustine (OSA) or the Augustinians have custody of the image of the Santo Niño. It is this gozos that is sung during those moving videos and photos of hundreds of devotees waving their hands in unison and holding their Santo Niño images.

Reyes said in his article that the old gozos is still being sung in Dalaguete. Derama said it is also the same gozos in Oslob and Argao, which he has been able to record on video.

Derama said he records gozos and litanyas because he is fascinated by how lyrical the Cebuano language is. He said that it would have been good for the Augustinians to continue singing the old gozos even if there was a new one so that it would not be forgotten.

The old gozos tells the story of the Santo Niño and his miracles, including when Cebuanos encountered drought, and this should not be forgotten, Derama said.

He said that he grew up seeing his lola singing in church choirs. Boljoon is a town known for its devotion as well as music.

“Matingala ko kay siya ug iyang churchmates nindot kaayo og tingog (I was amazed that my grandmother and her churchmates all had beautiful voices), Derama said in an interview. 

Boljoon Budget Officer Ronald Villanueva, who is also involved in the town’s tourism and culture, said the Augustinian, Leandro Moran, their last Spanish parish priest, had a role in the changing of the gozos in the Basilica. 

Father Moran served until 1948, the last Augustinian parish priest before Boljoon was turned over to the secular clergy, according to the official historical marker.

But the parish that Moran left, said Villanueva, stuck to the old gozos. – Rappler.com

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