Devotees of the Sto. Niño went out to the dark streets Thursday dawn to venerate the image as it passes for its mobile procession for the opening of this year’s Fiesta Señor celebration. | BMSN

With most areas still without electricity due to typhoon Odette, the streets of Cebu City were momentarily lit by devotees with lighted candles lining the sidewalks of the city as the procession of the miraculous image of the Child Jesus passed by to commence its 457th Fiesta Señor celebration, Friday, Jan. 7.

The Augustinian friars held a mobile procession along the major streets of the city in lieu of the traditional dawn procession “Walk with Jesus” that attacks thousands annually.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Santo Niño: Our Source of Communion, Life for Mission.”

Fr. Nelson Zerda, OSA, rector of the Basilica Minore de Sto. Niño Santo Niño, celebrated the opening Mass at the basilica. He encouraged devotees to be steadfast in hope and pray for the end of the pandemic despite what he described, as another year of “varying degrees of isolation” in the wake of typhoon Odette.

Zerda reflected in today’s gospel recalling the story of Jesus and the leper as a reminder of God’s continued grace and help where he “once more” delivered his “afflicted people” from their predicament.

“Thankfully, we are not alone,” he stressed.

“We continue to pray for courage and strength that like the leper in today’s Gospel we, too, would be able to humbly express our prayers, our petitions, our sanctity to the Child Jesus. Pleading: Lord, if you wish you can make us clean!”

“It’s not more on us being attracted and magnetized by the Bato-balani (Child Jesus as a magnet), attracted by God, but it’s more on God who is magnetized by our cries…our prayers, by our petitions,” explains Zerda.

The new hermano and hermana mayor for this year’s Fiesta celebration, couple Reynaldo and Ginalyn Labrado were also installed in a short ceremony, replacing Edmun and Anne Liu.

The once crowded pilgrim center was also converted into a huge space where devotees lit candles and venerated a replica of the miraculous image of the original Sto. Niño. – Ryan Sorote