Sinulog 2016: Faithful wave at heavens to end feast
(The Freeman) - January 22, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The “hand is the expression of the condition of the heart.”

Putting the hand into the air to wave them at the heavens is a way of “admitting our weaknesses and that God is our strength.”

These are two of the messages Basilica del Santo Niño rector, Reverend Fr. Jonas Mejares, imparted to devotees yesterday during the “Hubo” (undressing) mass, which concluded the Fiesta Señor and signaled the preparation for the Lenten Season.

The traditional waving of the hands while singing the “Batobalani sa Gugma” is one of the most emotional parts of a mass at the Basilica, especially when participated in by thousands like during the successive Novena masses during the Sinulog. A sea of hands waving in the air in unison is often a breathtaking sight even to the non-religious.

Beyond the Sinulog, devotees sing the song during Novena masses on Fridays.

“People raise their hands for the following reasons—to reach out to God, to reach out for God’s presence, to show dependence to God, to surrender to God, to show gratitude for God’s blessing, to express joy, to make a commitment, to get closer to God,” Mejares said.

This ritual started 29 years ago as part of efforts to improve the Fiesta Señor.

This was initiated by the Commission on Rights and Rubrics of Liturgy created by the Diocesan Synod, a body composed of the Bishops of the Diocese along with elected representatives of clergy and lay people from across the Diocese.

In 1987, the gozos (a Spanish word, which means joy, pleasure, delight) was first sang and the “Batobalani sa Gugma” was the perfect song to complement the waving of the hands.

Unfortunately, Mejares said, the original composer could not be identified.


Dr. Reynaldo Inocian, professor of social sciences at Cebu Normal University, said the waving of the hands can be traced back to the time before the Spaniards came to Cebu when ancestors honor the anitos by waving their hands and even kneeling before rocks.

For native Cebuanos, Inocian said, this is considered as animism or the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.

Spaniards, however, believed these gestures were paganistic so they burned the tribes that practiced these forms of worship. The Spaniards, however, failed to erase from these practices from Cebuanos so instead of eradicating them, they just replaced the anito with the image of the Santo Niño.

It was the Spaniards who introduced Christianity to Filipinos, placing Cebu in the map as the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines and in Asia.

Mejares echoed Inocian’s information.

“The pioneering missionaries only Christianized these existing rituals from Anito worship to the proclamation of God’s Lordship over other creations,” he said.

He said even Leonardo Mercado, a Filipino philosopher, acknowledges that these fusions of indigenous religion and official Christianity resulted to Filipino faithful that are Christian in name but indigenous in beliefs and practices.

Mejares said the Filipino expression of faith to the devotion of the Santo Niño is also shown in ritual dance such as Sinulog, in other rituals, the weekly novena, masses, lighting a candle, Hubo, religious processions and including the singing of Gozos and the waving of the hands.

Through these rituals, he said, devotees experience and profess their faith beyond words and propositions.

Furthermore, Mejares said even other charismatic groups do the waving of the hands. He said this gesture is not new already and what matters most is the impact it brings to the faithful devotees.


“Hubo”, meanwhile, has its own set of rites.

 The annual changing of the vestments is done immediately after the reading of the Gospel and the homily.

 Yesterday, Mejares, the presider, divests the image starting from its crown, scepter and orb, royal sash and jewelry, the red cape, the white outer vest and then its inner pants and shirt as the drumbeats stop.

With each step, a prayer is recited recalling the episodes of the passion of the Lord, followed by the chanting of “Christe, exaudi nos!” (Christ, hear us!). The roll of drumbeats again added to the excitement of the ritual until the whole image is divested. It is then taken into a container of perfumed water and immersed three times.

 After the bath, the image is wiped with a towel and then returned to its peaña or stand. The vesting then begins in a manner like the divesting but in an opposite order starting from the inner wear while prayers were recited repeatedly.

 The prayers being said are a recalling of the resurrection of the Lord each responded by the people with victorious “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands). The striking difference now is that the fresh clothes of the Holy Child has put on is simpler and devoid of the majestic trappings and laces of the festivity. It is as if reminding the people that the fiesta has ended.

 The perfumed water is usually sprinkled to the devotees and some even ask for a small amount of the water to be used as a sacramental. Others, indeed as an expression of a folk piety, use them for medicinal purposes.

 Thousands of Catholic faithful, bringing with them images of the baby Jesus, flocked at the Pilgrim Center to witness this ritual, replacing Holy Child’s garments with simpler or less ornate garb.

After the ritual, Mejares and all devotees danced the traditional Sinulog while waving images of the Sto. Niño. — Junas D. Flores (FREEMAN)

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