THOUSANDS of people, devotees and tourists, are flocking to Cebu this weekend for the Sinulog.
Unlike the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, where millions of people go for its religious significance, the Sinulog is a weeklong religious festival, mardi gras and commercial riot.
Non-religious activities have been going on for a week even as thousands of people fall in line at the Santo Niño shrine to pray to the Child Jesus.
And yes, people pray for money, career, success, love, family – seemingly in that order. Nobody seems to listen to the exhortation of some religious leaders to also pray for others, for country, for peace, among other “profound” issues.
We can understand why most pray for fortune. One needs to have the cash to just even light a candle at the Santo Niño shrine. With the commercialization of the celebration it is hard to avoid the temptation.
There’s too much of good things in Cebu to spend on. Thanks to the Santo Niño! Malls and shopping centers have been offering up to 50 percent discounts. Even restaurants and eateries give away free T-shirts with Sinulog prints to diners.
There’s a lot of color in the streets. Music is in the air. There’s no place that you can’t hear the beating of the Sinulog music. It’s fiesta time.
And while tourists and moneyed pilgrims stay in hotels and inns, the poorer devotees stay in cheap pension houses and, reports say, tents near the basilica of the Child Jesus.
There seems to be no stopping faith and commerce in the country’s first Christian province where Ferdinand Magellan landed on March 16, 1521 and gifted the local queen the image of the Santo Niño dressed in kingly regalia, orb and scepter in hand, and an elaborate crown on its head.
And the rest is history, although Cebu’s dried mangoes and danggit, and the beautiful girls of the island seem to be competing already with the Santo Nino as Cebu’s main attraction.
The Catholic Church is not complaining, at least publicly. As long as the “devotional” aspect of the celebration remains to be at the core of the celebration, even not as prominently, Church leaders are confident that the faithful in Cebu will remain steadfast and loyal to the “Mother Church.”
Indeed, religion can be good business as business has become a kind of religion too in our time. Who’s complaining? The Church badly needs the faith and loyalty of people at a time of threats of secularism, other religions and issues contrary to its teachings, like the Reproductive Health Bill.
“The Church is very much alive here as it takes on a very proactive role in the development of culture, formation of values, like the protection of families,” local Church historian Father Marvin Mejia told us. “All these are important issues,” he said.
He said that despite the challenges, Cebu and its people remain a catalyst in the deepening of the Christian faith and spreading the Gospel – in whatever means and forms – to other parts of the world.
Cebu can always take the example of Magellan who brought Christianity to the islands via cunning and intimidation. Today Cebuanos can spread the faith through the preaching of their charismatic clergy and the creativity of the province’s tourism specialists. Joe Torres