By Christina I. Hermoso
As Catholics from across the country celebrate the Feast of the Santo Niño today, a Church leader reminds the faithful of the importance of “growing in faith.”
“The Infant Jesus did not remain an infant. As the Child Jesus grew, as narrated in the Scriptures, when Jesus grew in wisdom and in God’s favor, so too, must we. Our beliefs and devotion to the Santo Niño challenge our faith. We must grow not only literally but more importantly, figuratively. That is, we must grow in faith,” stressed Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of thePhilippines-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (CBCP-ECMI).
“First, our faith must deepen. It must mature. Thus from being vulnerable and charming like a child, our faith must become persevering and patient amid trials, hopeful in the face of setbacks, and strong to defend our Catholic principles and teachings,” the prelate added.
“Second, our faith must be missionary. That is, we are now ready to share and spread our Catholic values. As grownups, we seek other people to bring them to Jesus, to change them for Jesus. We mature and denounce gambling, we put end to bribery and corruption, we stop killings, and we reject contraception. These will show the maturity of our faith, and we become His missionaries,” said Santos.
The bishop, likewise, reminded parents and guardians to pray to the Santo Niño for the protection and welfare of the children under their care.
“As we mark the Feast of the Santo Niño today, let us remember to pray for our children, especially those who have been vaccinated by Dengvaxia, that they may grow healthy, be safe, and be spared from any dangers. We pray to the Santo Niño that our children will be always protected from drugs, from human trafficking, and from evil persons. And we pray to God that those who make our children sick, those who make them suffer, and abuse their rights be prosecuted, punished, and justice be rightfully served,” Santos said.
Meanwhile, devotees of the Santo Niño from various parts ofthe country go out on the streets today to celebrate the Feast of the Child Jesus with festive rites and grand parades.
In Metro Manila, 33 fiesta masses, which started at 3 p.m. yesterday until 12 midnight today, will be celebrated at the Santo Niño de Tondo Parish in Manila, the center of celebrations in the metropolis. The grand procession will beat 4 a.m. today.
In Pandacan, Manila, the “Buling-Buling” Festival in honor of the Santo Niño was celebrated earlier last January 13 and 14 with hourly masses and a procession.
In Malolos, Bulacan, the grand Sto. Niño procession will start at 6 p.m. at the cathedral and Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
In Cebu City, the widely popular “Sinulog” in honor of Señor Santo Niño, the oldest festival in the archipelago, is expected to gather around a million devotees and tourists. Cebuanos do not consider the Christmas Season over until after the celebration of the festive “Sinulog” Festival.
The heart of the “Sinulog” is the locals’ centuries-old devotion to the Holy Child, whose miraculous image is greeted with cries of “Viva Señor Santo Niño!”, “Hail to the Child King!” and “Pit Señor!” from the phrase “Sangpit sa Senyor” (Call to Señor).
Other festive and colorful celebrations in honor of the Holy Child include Kalibo, Aklan’s “Ati-Atihan” Festival where participants dress themselves in native Ati tribal garments, theirfaces smeared with ashes; Romblon’s “Biniray” Festival; Cagayan de Oro City’s “Pachada Señor”; Butuan City’s “Kahimunan” Festival; Antique’s “Binirayan” and “Handugan” Festivals; Iloilo City’s “Dinagyang” Festival; and Pagadian City’s “Zambulawan” Festival.
In Maypajo, Caloocan City, a procession of the different images of the Holy Child and street dancing will highlight the “Pajotan de Sto. Niño” Festival. In Pasig City, the Bambino Festival in honor of the Child Jesus will be celebrated with a mass and a procession. Celebrations will also be held in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte; Binalonan, Pangasinan; and in several other cities and provinces. (With reports from Martin Sadongdong, Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Lesley Camina de Vestila and Analou de Vera)