Freeman Region

Taclobanons sustain fervor for Sto. Niño

Eileen Nazareno Ballesteros - The Freeman

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – While Taclobanons and Leyteños celebrate the feast of their patron, Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban on June 30, the January feast of the miraculous icon remains a popular devotion here

Last Sunday, Palo Archbishop John Du underscored the celebration of the feast of the Sto. Niño in his homily in a Mass he celebrated at the Palo Cathedral, alongside with the observance of the Archdiocesan Day of Mercy and Compassion, and the first anniversary of the visit of Pope Francis in Tacloban and Palo, Leyte on January 17.

At the iconic Sto. Niño Church in this city, a feast day concelebrated Mass was held and presided by the parish priest, Father Ronel Taboso. He was joined by co-parish priest Father Wilson Chu, parochial vicars Oscar Lorenzo, Oliver Mazo, Gwen Lovelino Padagdag and Dexter Ian Rivera and Archdiocese Vice Chancellor Fr. Kelvin Apurillo. The hermanitos were the sons of Rita Apostol and Mr. and Mrs. Raul Apostol.

This fervor has been running for decades in the Sto. Niño Church where instead of the usual adult hermanos being the main sponsor, children are now given the opportunity to lead the celebration. Same fervor is done annually in the January feast just like the June 30 fiesta where a nine-day novena masses are held.

History of the miraculous Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban explains the change in the date of the celebration of the feast of the beloved patron. When the image of the Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban got lost in its voyage back from Manila to Tacloban for repair, a cholera epidemic ensued. That was weeks before the January feast of the patron then.

The miracle was when the icon was retrieved from Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique, months after it got lost offshore and was returned to Tacloban on June 30, those who revered the saint's image got cured and the cholera epidemic ended, according to historical accounts.

This prompted the devotees to celebrate the feast of Señor Sto. Niño on June 30. Then in the 1960's by virtue of a decree of then Bishop Teotimo Pacis, the Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban became the patron as well of the entire province of Leyte.

During the feast day celebration a special blessing of children was administered by the mass celebrants. This special blessing was also done in all the masses at the Sto. Niño Church on Sunday. Immediately following the blessings candies were distributed to the children at the altar by members of the Parish Youth Ministry.

The day before, a procession of the El Sargento image was held along the main streets within the parish. The image, one of the three historic images of the Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban, stays in the house of the hermanito within the year then transferred to the incoming hermanito.

The two other images, the El Capitan is the one displayed atop the retablo of the altar, while the El Capitan stays in the home of the hermano.

In his homily, Chu said each person has the responsibility of each person to care for one another, especially the children, like how the image of the Señor Sto. Niño holds the entire "world" in his palm.

"Every child strives to take care of what is dear to him, like his toy that he would usually keep with him, seeing to it that nothing bad will happen to it. This is the kind of caring that we get from the Sto. Niño which we should also emulate," Chu said.

"It is not enough that we provide the money and education to our children. It is of utmost importance that we should know how to take care of the people entrusted into our hands," particularly pointing out the image of the Sto. Niño with the globe in his left hand. "We should sanctify our children, bring them close to God," he added. (FREEMAN)

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