Saturday, January 09, 2016


WE desire; we attain. What we cannot attain, we desire all the more. Simply put, that is how complex humans are.

For the first time, the boys and I joined the first mass that was the opening salvo of the nine days of prayers for the Sto. Niño. Anticipating the competition for parking space, I was the first to prepare at 2 a.m.

An early riser, I don’t find waking up a challenge. Yet my sons, too, woke and dressed without a fuss. We parked at the Cebu Cathedral grounds, which was nearly full. I felt the same surprise when, entering the Basilica, we found all the seats inside the church and in the Pilgrim Center taken.

This was at about 4 a.m. I have rarely been in the midst of a crowd of that size gathered in an enclosed area. If someone gave me the actual numbers of all the people standing between the nearest exit and my sons, I might have panicked.

Yet, the most outstanding feature of that dawn crowd waiting at the Basilica was the discipline. The numbers only became impressive after I noticed the crowd’s uncharacteristic docility and amiability.

Many devotees carried images of the Holy Infant, some nearly as tall and heavy as a toddler. A group of men lifted a bier carrying a statue that may have been used in processions. The crowd parted to give way to them without fuss.

According to Sun.Star Cebu’s Justin K. Vestil and Daryl Niño T. Jabil, about 300,000 devotees joined the “Walk with Jesus” dawn procession that covered the two kilometers from Osmeña Boulevard to the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

Starkly eloquent, Amper Campaña’s photograph on the Jan. 8 front page of Sun.Star Cebu captures the drama of the moment when the image of the Sto. Niño leaves the streets and enters the Pilgrim Center.

The photo is great storytelling without words: the passion of veneration moving thousands of pilgrims to spontaneously raise hands, replicas, candles, cameras and phones at the Sto. Niño, set off by the discipline and unity sheathing each speck of humanity, unmoved by hours of waiting or walking, to act as one synchronous whole.

It is a tale of binary opposites, oppositional by convention but, in this context, complementary. There is passion balanced with restraint, the individual merging with the collective, all made coherent by the globe of light at the heart of that dark sea of humanity, the Sto. Niño.

Even more beautiful than Campaña’s Jan. 8 banner photo on Sun.Star Cebu is the Cebuano word, “pangaliya”.

According to online dictionaries, “pangaliya” means adoration. In the Catholic tradition, “pangaliya” is interchangeable with “pangadye (prayer)”.

In implying an entreaty offered to a higher being, “pangaliya” is closer to “panguyo,” “pamalihog,” “hangyo” and “petisyon”.

The devotees gathered for the dawn opening mass of Jan. 7 give another meaning to “pangaliya”: discipline.

To venerate requires discipline to wake up early and adjust daily routines to join the novena. The discipline extends to consideration for other devotees sharing limited space and respect and obedience for the authorities implementing measures to maintain order and system.

For Sto. Niño devotees, the challenge is to translate “pangaliya” day by day. Beyond the Sinulog, is there “pangaliya”?

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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s January 10, 2016 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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