Love, Crowd Overflowing

1/8/10 - Thousands of devotees yesterday walked in solemn, prayerful unity in a candle-lit dawn procession to the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino for the first day of novena masses for the Feast of the Señor Sto. Niño in Cebu City.

Police said the crowd reached 30,000. The huge turnout was bigger than last year's.
Families came, some carrying their household images of the Infant Jesus . They prayed the rosary along the one-kilometer route down Osmeña Boulevard from Fuente Osmeña to the church.

The crowd overflowed the basilica grounds. Iron gates had to be closed to prevent more people from streaming in.

“Look at our mountains, these are already deforested,” said Basilica rector Fr. Rodolfo Bugna , OSA, in his homily.

“The trees, which are our protection from floods, are already cut down. We need the trees now because of the pollution in the air.”

He echoed the Pope's New Year's message to “protect creation.”
Cheers of “Viva, Pit Señor!” went up as the carroza of the Sto. Niño entered the gates. People waved their hands in fond welcome.

They waved again, when they sang “Bato Balani sa Gugma”, a song of love for the Sto. Niño, as the morning sun started to break over the crowd gathered for the outdoor Mass.
This year's celebration marks 444 years of the Sto. Niño religious feast, 25 years of the founding of the Filipino Augustinian province, and 75 years of the Cebu archdiocese.

Augustinian friars are safekeepers of the centuries-old image of the Sto. Niño. During the Mass, businessman Jose “Dodong” Gullas and his wife Nena were installed as this year's Hermano Mayor and Hermana Mayor, who are tasked to be “chief promoters” of the devotion to the Sto. Niño.

Fr. Bugna aired a challenge or “Hagit” to the faithful. He said “hagit” stands for Handumanan or memories, Awit or singing with religious fervor, Gasa or gift that is love, Ilis or change of culture and Tabang or helping others
(Cebu Daily News)

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