Millions join procession
Jessa J. Agua, Bryner L. Diaz, Brenda D. Batuto (The Freeman) - January 19, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Over three million devotees braved a cloudy and windy afternoon for over five hours just to join the 5.7-kilometer annual solemn procession in honor of the Holy Child yesterday.

Chief Inspector Wildemar Tiu, Waterfront Police Station chief and overall commander for the procession, estimated the crowd to have reached 3.2 million.

Unlike in previous years, it did not rain during the foot procession yesterday despite the threat of tropical depression Agaton.

The head of the procession left Basilica del Sto. Niño at 12:55 p.m. and returned only at around 5:30 p.m.

From the Basilica, the solemn procession’s route went through Magallanes St., Borromeo St., Sanciangko St., Panganiban St., N. Bacalso Avenue, V. Rama Avenue, B. Rodriguez St., and to Osmena Blvd. before going back to the Basilica.

When the tail end of the procession arrived at 6 p.m., devotees occupied at least two blocks from the Basilica, while a portion of D. Jakosalem St. remained closed to traffic, particularly from the corner of Osmena Blvd. to V. Gullas St.

A Eucharistic celebration at the Basilica del Sto. Nino Pilgrim Center officiated by Bishop John Du of the Archdiocese of Palo, Leyte followed shortly after the procession.

As head of the archdiocese most hit by super typhoon Yolanda, which struck the Visayas last Nov. 8, Du especially thanked the Cebuanos for helping Leyte rise again.

“Thank you very much to all Cebuanos who helped us. Had your city been also affected by the super typhoon, we would not know where to get food and other supplies,” Du said.

He shared that during the onslaught of Yolanda, as the roofing of an evacuation center they were staying were all blown away, parents approached him at the Cathedral and requested that he save their children, never mind them.

“When I asked the parents why just the children, they told me that the children can still live the Word of God and continue their mission through the guidance of Senior Sto. Nino,” he said.

Du himself suffered under Yolanda, as he was there when it ravaged his archdiocese and witnessed many of his constituents die before his eyes.

Right before the Holy Mass ended, a religious traditional Sinulog with all petitions from devotees was done inside the Pilgrim Center followed by a 20-minute fireworks display.

The crowd who attended the procession was so huge the Waterfront police chief could not hide his amazement at what he saw.

“Ma-amaze ka sir, I was very amazed by the people looking at the Sr. Sto. Niño,” said Tiu, whose area of responsibility includes the Basilica.

He said this year’s was also well-behaved.

“If I compare it to the Black Nazarene heavily crowded gyud to didtong dapita.  So, far wa tay reported injuries nga casualty along the procession,” Tiu added.

“Nindot ra kaayo, successful kaayo ang atong procession.  It was indeed a solemn procession, ug diha atong nasinati ang mga (and there we experienced the) mysterious miracle ni Sr. Sto. Niño. Gitagaan ta niya og (He gave us a) very wonderful weather,” he added.

While the solemn procession was declared a success with no major incidents occurring, a national TV reporter lost her wallet when her bag was slashed and her wallet was taken.

“GMA Manila reporter Tina Panganiban Perez lost P10,000, over US$100 and other currencies, when her bag was slashed. His cameraman approached me in Borromeo St. as I was following the procession. He said his reporter lost her wallet with money and some bank cards,” Tiu told The FREEMAN.

He said that fortunately, Perez placed her cellphone in her pocket and not inside the slashed bag.

Also, even when authorities earlier announced that balloons would be banned inside the Basilica and at the procession route, some did not take heed.

The FREEMAN saw a bunch of balloons that got stuck on the electrical wires right above the traffic light at the corner of Borromeo and Colon Sts.

Vendors selling balloons were likewise spotted in front of the College of Technological Sciences (CTS) campus in N. Bacalso Ave. and in B. Rodriguez St.

“Motinda lang gihapon ko kay wa man koy ikagasto. Gigatas pa man akong anak, wala miy laing panginabuhian,” said Gemar Mendoza, one of vendors.

Grace Romero, a registered nurse, said that she bought a balloon to send a thanksgiving message to the Holy Child.

“Na-grant Niya akong petition nga moadto sa Dubai, October pa ko sige’g hangyo nga ma-grant akong papers so ang akong pagpalupad sa balloon is a way of thanksgiving (to the Sr. Sto. Niño),” said Grace Romero, a registered nurse.

Cebu City Hall Prevention Restoration Order Beautification and Enhancement Chief Raquel Arce said they did not confiscate the balloons from the vendors as she noted no balloons along the procession route.

During the procession, around 250 to 260 people had be attended to by medical personnel after fainting.

The Philippine Red Cross, which assigned 78 personnel for the procession, said around 14 people were brought to the Cebu City Medical Center for further examination.

Captain James Robert Honcolada, one of the Philippine Army also said there were two people who complained of dizziness that they attended to.

There were two doctors and two nurses from the Camp Lapu-Lapu Hospital of the Central Command who took part in helping the devotees.

Also seen during the procession were children dressed as a Sto. Niño, whom his mother said was their way of thanking the Holy Child.

In terms of security, the police deployed bomb-sniffing dogs along the route hours before the 2 p.m. procession.

Senior Supt. Arnel Banzon, Cebu City Police Office deputy city director for administration, told The FREEMAN that K9 units from the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue were also be deployed along with dogs from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine Coast Guard.

He said he was grateful for the help, because personnel did not have to go far to look for a bomb-sniffing dog as there were many strategically

“In case naa tay mga suspicious nga butang maka-react dayon sila din a motravel og layo,” Banzon added.

Banzon also said that these K9 units will be deployed in another area during the grand parade.

Aside from the CCPO, Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) policemen, including those from the Talisay City Police Station, also helped ensure peace and order during the procession.

Senior Inspector Richard Gadingan, Talisay City Police Station deputy chief, said that aside from the augmentation personnel, they also conducted checkpoints in roads leading to Cebu City.—Jean Marvette Demecillo, Arian Sweden Mae Cosmiano, Melissa Q.Cabahug, USJ-R MassComm Interns/RHM

BORROMEO ST. CITY GRACE ROMERO HOLY CHILD OSMENA BLVD PROCESSION RODRIGUEZ ST. SR. STO STO
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