Thousands of Ilonggo devotees to join Sto. Niño fluvial, foot procession today

Devotees raise images of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child Jesus) during the hybrid religious procession of the 2022 Dinagyang festival. Organizers hope that devotees will give premium to the religious activities of the festival amid the numerous parties and other side events starting today, Jan 20. (Arnold Almacen file photo)

By John Noel E. Herrera

Thousands of Ilonggo devotees are expected to join the Santo Nino (Baby Jesus) fluvial procession and foot parade today, January 20, 2023, after it was halted for two years due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Committee on Religious Activities chair Robert Alor said in a press conference on Thursday, Jan 19, 2023 that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will allot eight fiber boats for the devotees apart from other private boats, jet skis, and dragon boats that will join the fluvial procession.

Alor also said that while one fiber boat has a capacity of 80 passengers, they will only allow 50 percent or 40 devotees in each boat to ensure their safety.

“Gina-discourage naton and wala naton gina-sugtan nga magsaka ang mga bata, mga tigulang, mga PWDs, and pregnant women, para ma-avoid man ang disgrasya nga ginatawag, kay ti mainit nga daan and budlay magpila, basi may malipong. We want it to be smooth-sailing,” he added.

The route of the fluvial procession, which will be led by the PCG’s 3503 MV Romblon, will start from Fort San Pedro, passing through Guimaras strait towards the Iloilo River and ending at Muelle Loney Street where the boats will disembark, as the devotees will prepare for the foot parade.

Also, 15 floats carrying different images of Sto. Niño will join the solemn foot procession together with the devotees, seminarians, and other members of the parish.

The foot procession will start from Muelle Loney Street, going to the streets of Montinola, Iznart and J.M. Basa, and will end at the San Jose Church in front of Plaza Libertad for the mass and blessing of the floats, Sto. Niño images, and devotees.

Alor said the fluvial procession serves as a reenactment of the arrival of the Santo Niño image of Cebu, while the solemn foot parade is a penitential procession to petition for the success of the festival, as well as part of the celebration of the feast of the Holy Child.

Maria Flor Muralla, president of the Cofradia del Senior Sto Niño de Cebu, said the fluvial procession is not just one of the highlights of the Dinagyang Festival, but a journey of faith that was gifted to Ilonggos and one that should be shared.

“This shows our deep devotion to Senior Sto. Niño, the child Jesus. Ina ginapakita ta sa iya kung paano ta siya gina-palangga kag gina-tagaan gid sang honor ang devotion naton sa iya. Those who have already experienced sang mga amu ni nga panaad nila nga naga-join, there is something new nga gakatabo sa ila as they feel more guided,” Muralla added.

Meanwhile, some devotees said they are eager to attend the event again to show their strong devotion and faith in Sto. Niño after the celebration of faith stopped for two years.

“Wala man na gabag-o akon pagtu-o kay Senior Sto. Niño kay halin sang una, ang guide nga ginahatag ya, sobra-sobra gid, kag subong nga nagbalik na ang prosisyon (fluvial and foot procession), ti manami lang kay pamaagi man ni para mabalik man bala kag pasalamat sa mga grasya nga nahatag ya,” according to Cecil, 49, from Calumpang, Molo said.

One devotee from City Proper district said that she is worried that there will be fewer people who will join the Grand Religious Sadsad on Jan 21, 2023 since it will be held at the same time as the Dinagyang ILOmination.

“Tani pareho man sang-una, damo man ma-upod kay ti ang Sadsad gin dungan man nila sa daw bag-o bala to nga didto sa Mandurriao (Dinagyang ILOmination),” alias Gina said.

Alor said that they are still hopeful that there are still many devotees who will join the Grand Religious Sadsad despite having a similar schedule to one of the highlights of the Dinagyang Festival.

“Actually, indi man na naton ma-imbitar, kay syempre ang mga tao mahambal na ya nga ay diri may bag- di nga event, pero may mga tao man ya nga devotees, kabalo ka kung din ka makadto, kung ano imo priority. Kag ining ILOmination guro, para ni ma-cater man guro ang iban naton nga mga bisita nga hindi makasulod sa City Proper district,” Alor said.

“Sa Sadsad ya, wala sang pili, bata ukon tigulang, may disabled, dira mo na makit-an, elbow to elbow kamo da, gabitbit sang Sto. Niño images of different sizes, bug-at pero ginakarga gid because nabatyagan nila nga wala gid sang kabug-at basta ang pagtuo ara,” he added.

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