Filipinos’ faith in Cebu’s Santo Niño prevails amid COVID-19, super typhoon

Devotees of the Santo Niño are called to mark its “feast” on Sunday with prayers for recovery from the pandemic and from the super typhoon

A super typhoon might have destroyed the gains in terms of economy and well-being of Filipinos amid the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but their deep devotion to the Santo Niño, or the Child Jesus, and their tenacity to face all forms of adversities have motivated them to move forward and be more resilient against crises.

Archbishop Jose Palma of the Archdiocese of Cebu in the central Philippines urged devotees of the Santo Niño to mark its “feast” on Sunday, January 16, with prayers for recovery from the pandemic and from the devastation brought about by super typhoon “Odette (Rai)” last month.

“Let us continue to support one another on our road to recovery from typhoon ‘Odette’ and COVID-19, in God’s grace,” said the prelate in a radio interview on January 12.

“Thank you for your devotion. Let us trust God despite [the pandemic],” he said, adding that may the devotion of the faithful inspire everyone to work together to the road of recovery.

This year, there will be no face-to-face Masses, no street dancing, no traditional performances during the celebration.

City and Church officials earlier announced that “virtual live activities” will instead showcase interviews and videos of the “Sinulog,” the traditional dance performance in honor of the Child Jesus.

“Let us bear with the situation now. This whole activity is an expression of our faith in the Santo Niño. It is now more on recovery,” said Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama in a media interview.

At the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, only priests, acolytes, lectors, choir members, and church personnel are allowed inside the church during the celebration of the Masses.

Devotees were encouraged to join the novena and feast day Masses through the official Facebook page of the basilica and the social media accounts of various media outlets.

Thousands of devotees raise images of the Santo Nino in the central Philippine city of Cebu during the annual festival in honor of the Child Jesus. (File photo by Alan Tangcawan)

“Tough times never last, tough people do,” said Rama, quoting book author Robert Schuller, said in his New Year’s message.

Rama said the city has celebrated victories against the pandemic after it successfully contained the surge in COVID-19 in October 2021.

He said many establishments, such as malls, restaurants, and industries, have reopened after almost two years without activities amid strict quarantine restrictions.

However, “Odette” ravaged the city, along with other localities in parts of the Visayas and Mindanao in December last year, leaving many homes damaged, thousands of electric poles felled, and transformers and lines destroyed that rendered most areas in Metro Cebu without power and households without water.

The aftermath of the typhoon displayed the uniqueness of the Cebuanos in facing hardships.

Many netizens here turned to social media to crowd-source a good hotel to stay in due to the absence of electricity in their homes, while some posted queries on where they could buy generator sets to power their laptops and cellphones so they could continue with their works and businesses.

Devotees carry their personal images of the Child Jesus, known in the Philippines as the Santo Niño, as Filipino Catholics celebrate the feast of the Child Jesus on Jan. 17. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

Rama recalled he had to issue a policy regulating the disposal of gasoline and diesel in the city, as motorists queued up for fuel from the first day after the typhoon until New Year’s Eve. With enough supply from the depots and terminals, motorists are no longer queuing up at gas stations.

He cited the unwavering faith of the Cebuanos in the Holy Child Jesus in addressing the misfortunes that have come to their lives, which provided them hope to march on amid the pandemic, especially with the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Despite the threat of the virus, Rama said the Sinulog Festival must go on to honor the Señor Sto. Niño who protects the Cebuanos in facing all odds.

With persevering courage, the Cebuanos are determined to overcome the trials and show the indomitable spirit that they can prevail over COVID-19 and the effects of the typhoon, he said.

The original image of the Sto. Niño, which was given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan as baptismal gift to Cebu’s Queen Juana in 1521, is located inside the basilica and will be off-limits to the public this year. – with a report from the Philippine News Agency

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