Two years after a break caused by the pandemic, the Feast of the Santo Niño de Cebu in the Philippines was once again in full swing
A feast that brought together for two weeks in January thousands of faithful devotees of the image that sealed the evangelisation of the Asian country in 1565 where the Augustinians had much to say.
Throughout the feast, say our colleagues from the communications office of the Province of Cebu, the Basilica was "always full of devotees who attended the daily masses of the novena - eleven masses a day - which brought together between 6,000 and 8,000 people, whatever the weather conditions". The masses, they said, took place at the Pilgrimage Centre of the Santo Niño and were presided over by invited priests from the archdiocese of Cebu, nearby dioceses, religious congregations and our own Augustinian friars, who "were the caretakers of the most beloved miraculous image" in the country.
A massive gathering in Cebu
One of the most distinctive celebrations of this Feast was the parade along Cebu's Mactan Canal, when 180 richly decorated boats accompanied the image of the Infant Jesus to the same place where the spaniards arrived in 1521.
To these celebrations must be added the Solemn Procession on Foot. An estimated 300,000 people joined this Penitential March that marked the beginning of the Feast of the Lord 2023.
The procession brought together Augustinian priests, brothers, lay ministers, volunteers and lay people, all for a love of the Santo Niño. The people joined in the prayer of the rosary during the entire 5.7 kilometre route, until they returned back to the Basilica.
There, the float was warmly welcomed by the Filipinos, who were able to sing, dance and entrust their petitions and prayers in person to the image of the Child Jesus as the traditional hymn of Bato Balani sa Gugma played.
The solemn Opening Salvo mass was presided over by Fr. Nelson G. Zerda, OSA, the rector of the church, with his homily focusing on the theme of this year's Feast: Holy Child: Our Source of Peace on the Journey of Faith.
Fr Nelson reminded all those present - members of the Augustinian family, religious colleagues and pilgrims from all over the country - "to take up God's challenge to live humbly, rich in prayer, and obedient to God's will as true followers of Christ".