Cebu News

Biggest turnout in years

Bryner L. Diaz, Jessa Agua - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines -  Threats of a drizzle and a cold early morning breeze aside, yesterday dawn’s Walk with Jesus procession was the “most attended religious opening salvo” Basilica del Sto. Niño de Cebu Rector Jonas Mejares witnessed.

“This is a surprise because we thought it won’t be that many considering the Papal visit. But this is the biggest and most attended Walk with Jesus so far since I became the rector. I spoke with the (city) mayor earlier and he observed the same thing,” an ecstatic Mejares said on the crowd turnout.

He expressed his joy to reporters after celebrating the first mass of the first novena day for the Sinulog week.

Devotees with candles, rosaries, and images of the Holy Child were already at the Fuente Osmeña Circle as early as 4 a.m. for the procession.

There were also parents, as devotion to the Sto. Niño, dressed their children like the Holy Child as part of their annual tradition and promise to Him.

The “Walk with Jesus” procession was a penitential walk to express sacrifice and thanksgiving while also serving as opening salvo of the religious activities for this year’s Fiesta Señor.

In his homily, Mejares emphasized talked about the human nature to have ambition, dream, and desire.

“Damgo. Pangandoy. Ambisyon. Normal sa tawo ang magdamgo ug mangandoy. Libre kini ug maoy magtukmod kanato nga maningkamot ug mutrabaho. Apan, importante nga susihon ang tumong sa matag higayon… Ang tawo angay mangandoy dili lang sa personal kundi alang sa tanan,” the rector said.

That is why, he said, greed is something to watch out for in every aspiration and goal.

“Ang gahom ug bahandi maayong suloguon, apan dili kini maayo nga agalon. Ayaw isibya ang kadaot. Ang Facebook ug teknolohiya grasya busa gamiton sa matarong. Ang kasina wala’y luna sa katilingban,” Mejares said.

Being known as a “singing priest,” Mejares did not disappoint the churchgoers as he offered a heartfelt rendition of a 1972 hit song “The Impossible Dream” to cap his homily.

“It symbolizes our prayers and hopes. They may seem impossible but with faith and prayers, these can be done. Even the most impossible,” the rector said.

Asked by reporters later after the Mass that the impossible dream he referred to included the continued optimism that Pope Francis will consider dropping by Cebu in his State and Pontifical visit next week, Mejares gave a beaming smile and affirmed.

“Yes, pwede pud kana nga butang! As I said, I am hoping against hope,” he said.

While it has been confirmed that Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will not be the one celebrating the Pontifical Mass for Sinulog 2015, as he will be in Manila for the Papal Visit, the prelate has not officially designated a representative to take his place during the Sinulog.

“The archbishop has not designated who will represent him. We are still waiting for the update for the Pontifical Mass,” Mejares said.

The police estimated the devotees who joined the walk to be around 60,000 in number.  Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa, Police Regional Office-7 deputy regional director for operation and Cebu City Police Office officer-in-charge, said the opening salvo of the Sinulog religious activities was very peaceful.

Superintendent Emily Santos, CCPO operations chief, revealed in a briefing that they made sure that police officers were visible on every portion of the procession route to secure the devotees.

Chief Inspector Wildemar Tiu, Fuente Police Station chief, whose command fell the task of ensuring peace and order during the activity, observed that the  front portion of the procession already reached P. del. Rosario Street before the tail end at Fuente Osmeña started moving.

Seeing the crowd for the first time since his reassignment to Cebu from Manila last year, Capa said he expects more people on January 18 and 19.

He said that the total gun ban they requested that  Camp Crame would declare would take effect  in the whole island of Cebu, not only in Cebu City, starting on Monday.

Senior Superintendent Erson Digal, PRO-7 Regional Operations and Plans Division chief, said that the 861 personnel that will be augmented to CCPO will be deployed on Monday.

He said that instead of giving the policemen food packs, money will be given to them for their provisions.—/RHM (FREEMAN)










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