Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Niño , the province’s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.
It was a Friday and for devout pilgrims of the Sto. Niño, the Basilica is the place to be, just like in the Black Nazarene Basilica in Manila. I had to squeeze through the throng and gaze at the sea of people just outside the church participating at one of the hourly masses. After the masses are done, the number of devotees dimish and one could see some interesting rituals and practices come alive.
Snaking from the chapel into the street, people are lining up to have their chance of touching the glass partition of the Sto. Niño. At another area, some old and not so old ladies with candles in hand approach and offer to say prayers for you. For a peso per stick of wax, they dance the sinulog and once done, they give it to you, already blessed with their prayer and you can light it on containers that collect wax drippings just outside the walls. If you’re confident of doing it yourself, you can go to the lighting area where for a small donation, you can light small candles yourself.
Outside the walls, just beside the road are many stalls selling icons of the Sto. Niño and other religious images and trinkets. It’s a spectacular sight as rows upon rows of red and occassional splashes of green are neatly assembled, wrapped in plastic, one stall to the other. At some corner, newly painted plaster is laid out into the sun to dry or a seller is patiently sewing and gluing an icon’s cape.