According to the estimates of Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Col. Ireneo Dalogdog, who coordinated with the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO), around 300,000 people showed up for the procession, which had been canceled in 2021 and 2022 due to the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.
He said this was evident in the thick crowds of people who filled Osmeña Boulevard from Fuente Osmeña to the Basilica del Sto. Niño de Cebu in the downtown area.
“Actually, this is my first time to witness this Sinulog, especially Walk with Jesus, and I also talked to (CCDRRMO head) Mr. Harold Alcontin. According to him, na-double yung mga tao na nag-join sa Walk with Jesus (the number of people who joined doubled). Previously, naa tay figure nga (the figure was) 150,000. And, according to him, double,” he said.
Dalogdog said the event was peaceful and orderly, adding that they didn’t record any crime since the procession started around 2 a.m. until the mass ended inside the basilica.
He said he deployed close to 1,000 police personnel to secure the procession route, while he ordered all patrol cars of the police and the Mobile Patrol Unit to conduct roving patrols.
Police Regional Office-Central Visayas Director Brig. Gen. Jerry Bearies said it was also his first time to witness a Sinulog event.
Overall, he said their security implementation needed only minor improvements since his personnel knew what to do after they conducted tabletop and simulation exercises the day before the opening salvo of the 458th Fiesta Señor.
According to Wikipedia, a tabletop exercise is a “discussion-based session where team members meet in an informal, classroom setting to discuss their roles during an emergency and their responses to a particular emergency situation.”
A mass followed the Walk with Jesus at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño on Thursday.
During the mass, Fr. Nelson Zerda, rector of the basilica, advised people to take life’s challenges as blessings in disguise to enable them to examine themselves, particularly their characteristics.
In his homily, Zerda reminded people, particularly those in public service, not to let their pride win over them and affect their service.
He said the Divine always gives its people problems to serve as a wake-up call for them to change their bad behaviors and repent of their sins.
“Usahay bisan dira sa atong pagpangalagad, usahay taas ang atong garbo. Sakto si San Augustine sa iyang mga pulong nga nag-ingon even pride lurks in service. … Mao nga usahay ang Diyos mogamit og pamaage nga masakitan ta. Iya tang bansayon. Iya tang hinloan. I-purify atong mga kasing-kasing,” said Zerda.
[Sometimes in our service, our pride rises high. St. Augustine was right in saying that even pride lurks in service. … That’s why sometimes God uses ways to hurt us. He will train us. He will cleanse us. He will purify our hearts.]
Among those who joined the Penitential Walk with Jesus and the mass was Dodoy Teberio Sumanting, 27, from Samar, a devotee of the Sto. Niño since he was a child.
He shared that even if there were many churches in Samar, he still visits the Basilica del Sto. Niño as praying to the Child Jesus gives him serenity. He rejoiced that physical activities for the Fiesta Señor finally resumed after almost two years of postponement and prayed that the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic would end this year.
Good health for the family is what Feliciana Gerosa, 67, from Barangay Sawang Calero in Cebu City wished for, as she attended the Fiesta Señor opening salvo activity.
A Sto. Niño devotee since she was a teenager, she recalled how the miraculous child helped her by giving her small miracles to survive life. She said she was glad physical activities were back, as it had been her tradition to attend them, especially the processions.
Fr. John Ion Miranda, the Basilica’s media liaison officer, said the crowd numbered around 5,000 inside the church. (AYB / PJB, HIC)