Religious leaders in the central Philippines announced that this year’s “Sinulog” activities in honor of the Santo Niño, or the Child Jesus, have been canceled due to the pandemic.
The annual Walk with Jesus on the first day of the novena, the devotional prayers for nine successive days, and the Walk with Mary on the last day, were also canceled.
These religious processions usually attract thousands of devotees from across the central part of the country every year.
Also canceled is the traditional “traslacion,” or transfer of the image of the Child Jesus from the basilica named after it to the neighboring cities of Mandaue and Lapulapu.
The activity is usually followed by a “fluvial procession” early morning the following day that draws thousands who would later join a solemn procession around the city.
Father Pacifico Nohara Jr., rector of the Basilica Minore de Sto. Niño, said the focus of this year’s celebrations will be Holy Mass that will be broadcast online through various social media platforms.
The city government of Cebu, however, announced that “virtual” activities to mark the celebrations will push through.
Vice Mayor Michael Rama said cultural activities during the feast in honor of the Child Jesu could not be canceled.
The city Cebu was declared the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country in the middle of last year.
Devotion to the image of the Child Jesus, which is usually dressed as a king, has been part of popular piety in the Philippines for centuries.
The oldest and most popular image of the Santo Niño can be found in the city of Cebu where the grandest celebration dubbed the Sinulog is held every year.
Every January, millions of people flock to a basilica in Cebu where the Santo Niño image is housed while religious processions and colorful parades are held in the streets of the city.
In recent years the events have drawn up to three million people, making Cebu’s Sinulog one of the largest annual events in the Catholic world.
The Sinulog or dance prayer, the oldest festival in the country, comes from the Cebuano word “sulog” or water current.
The dance move depicts the flow of water to the beat of drums.
Devotees wave their hands in the air and shout “Viva Senor Santo Nino!” of “Hail to the Holy Child! and “Pit Senor!” short for “Sangpit sa Senyor (Call to King)” while dancing.
The 38-cm-tall image of the Santo Niño in Cebu is a gift from Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the queen of the island, Juana, during her baptism as a Catholic.