Monday, January 17, 2011
FOR THE PAST THREE years I have joined my outdoors club – the Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS – participating in the Sinulog Solemn Procession in honor of the Holy Child Jesus of Cebu or the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu. This is the main event of the religious aspect of the Sinulog and is held on a Saturday. The mardi gras follow the following day and it happens every third Sunday of January of each year.
So today, I take a half-day from work and it seems I am on a mission. It is hot and humid but there's a haze in the mountains that forebode the coming of rain. I wear two t-shirts, a pair of jeans, my outdoor floppy hat and resurrected my pair of Coleman hiking boots. I carry a black Ortlieb dry bag and inside this were an extra shirt, my wallet, two USB flash drives, my Sony DSC220 digital camera and a back-up camera – a Kodak C713, Nokia 2700 and Motorola V3 cellphones.
I arrive at 1:00 PM at our assembly area near Sunburst Restaurant in Legaspi Street at the back of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Already there were old CeMS holdovers: Daddy Frank Cabigon, Nonoy Edillor and Dennis Legaspi. Current CeMS President Jon Consunji arrive ten minutes later. After many cellphone calls, we proceed to the starting point of the procession which is the entrance arch of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu.
Due to the large crowd, we could not come closer and the carriage that carried the statue of the Holy Child evolve from the inner courtyard and out into Osmeña Boulevard taking a right turn to Jakosalem Street. We took a shortcut instead to Magallanes Street and wait for the carriage to pass. It did arrive near the Magellan's Cross kiosk and it is the closest look I have of the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu for this day and I took a hurried shot despite the drops of light rain beginning to dominate the city.
Then we move with the flow of the crowd at 1:45 PM right behind the wake of the carriage. Up ahead the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu is getting farther and farther from my view and now it is being obscured by the number of sprouting umbrellas. The pace slackened and there are countless times that the mass of people remained still. The rain begin to drop in greater intensity for a time and then vanish and return again. We walk shoulder-to-shoulder at the narrowest part, steps limited and forced.
At the intersection of dear old Colon Street, Leon Kilat Street and Borromeo Street the heavens let loose a strong shower. Many people deserted the streets and took shelter in the sidewalks. Now I have elbow room. Meanwhile, my companions evaporated from behind me. I thought they were well-protected by their umbrellas? I remain steadfast in my devotion of the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu and proceed on with my sacrifice.
By the way, I have prepared for this activity by fasting. Just drank red-ginseng tea in the early morning. No meals, no water after that. By the time I pass by Leon Kilat Street, I begin to totter during the walk and during moments of halt. Feeling seems familiar. Closed my eyes and focused on my prayers and then I sense the urgency of my purpose and I know now where I am going. The burning hunger and thirst are just distractions.
I am at a loss now of the true direction of the route. Parasols all around me limit my vision. I am soaked with rain and so do these umbrella-carrying pilgrims. I don't think they have a drier advantage over me. Like me, they are also wet and their dependence on these rain covers doesn't serve a purpose. Umbrellas are a nuisance, don't you think? They poke you in the eye, on the top of the head, the temple, the ears, neck, nose, the mouth and they carry water down to you and among themselves.
The route take a left turn to P. del Rosario Extension by the time it cross the Natalio Bacalso Avenue and the road is flooded on its left lane so people massed on the right lane where it is most shallow. As it approach the USC-Girls High School it is dry land once again, crossing a bridge where the Guadalupe River is raging, then taking a right turn to V. Rama Avenue. This stretch is unbelievably broad and I feel wide spaces now between fellow pilgrims and those umbrellas.
Reaching a distant corner, the path lead to B. Rodriguez Street up to Fuente Osmeña where a lot of devotees stream in coming from Capitol and General Maxilom Avenue and join the main body on Osmeña Boulevard. It is another shoulder-to-shoulder episode and those pesky umbrellas they are all over me again. I take evasive maneuvers and take refuge among an oasis of bare-headed devotees. The rains never stopped, still, there were more people joining. Over a million people are all over the streets, I reckon.
It is dusk as I arrive at the welcome arch of the basilica and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist have already started. It rained harder this time. Twice the power transformers overloaded but the Mass continued. More and more people with umbrellas converge on the entrance and the rain slackened. Once again, the rain unleashed its strongest for the day. People with umbrellas began to move for safer places. I fear that there would be a stampede but it turned out alright. After the Mass had ended, I walk back to my home.
I am so famished and I eat a full dinner prepared by my loving wife after a quick shower. I love the kids talking to themselves and it gives warmth to the home and a good excuse for me to have that third serving. I deserve that extra plate. Meanwhile VIVA SEÑOR SANTO NIÑO DE CEBU! PIT SEÑOR!
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