Cebu prepares the Feast of Santo Nino
Cebu, the Philippines, 15 January 2018 -- Christmas is longest in the Philippines, starting as early as September when we start hearing Christmas tunes aired on the radio and ending only on Three Kings in January. But particularly in Cebu it becomes a bit longer than the rest of the country as Cebuanos prefer to celebrate Christmas till Sinulog. If you don’t believe me, check out the big Christmas tree that’s still up in Fuente Osmena.
A Nation Divided
We Filipinos share more things in common than these soldiers at war. Besides being Christians and believing in Christ and Christmas, we share common like for lechon, fiesta, simbang gabi, carnival, caroling, white sand beaches, exchange gifts and many more.
But in spite of having the same blood and similar features like brown skin and flat noses, there is no truce in the Philippines this Christmas and maybe far beyond Christmas. From our leaders down to the simple people we all fight and bicker. From the halls of Congress and the Senate down to Facebook and Twitter. We quarrel on from profound to trivial, from peace, human rights, drug wars, marriage, dengvaxia and even to the latest and useless intrigues among movies stars and pageant queens.
We have all become politicized – identified and divided ourselves into parties. More than Filipinos we are yellows, reds and blues. Since we have been transformed into such, the Señor Sto. Niño becomes our only hope and inspiration.
Señor Sto. Niño
The Sto. Niño featured significantly in Philippines history for two times – first in 1521 when the first Filipino Christians led by Queen Juana welcomed the catholic faith by receiving baptism from Fr. Pedro Valderama. The small statue was Ferdinand Magellan’s baptismal gift to the queen. However the happy event ended in tragedy when Magellan was killed by Lapulapu’s henchmen who repulsed the Spaniards in neighboring Mactan Island. The foreigners hastily left after that.
Then for 44 years the Sto. Niño remained in oblivion until 1565 when the Spaniards under Miguel Legaspi returned to Cebu. This time the Sto. Niño once more played a key role in our history. Legaspi drove the natives up to the mountains while burning the village on the shore. Next day however the Spaniards discovered the Sto. Niño in one of the smouldering huts. It survived the fires as if to say to the Spaniards and the Cebuanos alike “Ayaw mo magpangaway kay manag-soon mong tanan.” (Stop all quarrelings for you are all siblings.) The Sto. Niño united them all in friendship regardless of their big racial differences.
The late Ricardo Cardinal Vidal
It is quite timely to heed the call of the late Ricardo Cardinal Vidal whom we love so much. When he was still with us said “Ayaw kamo pagpangaway!” Remember in his wake you saw PGMA, Erap and Duterte – of course not altogether. But they are on opposing parties and ideologies and yet they all respected the cardinal because he never fought anyone. Especially when everyone else was putting down one politician, he was there advising and even consoling them. He was not politicized unlike some leaders even in government, education and religion. But he was a good pastor looking after the lost, the last and the least. He lived his teachings especially this one “Ayaw kamo pagpangaway!” He believed in unity and reconciliation. Above all he believed in the Sto. Niño.
500 Years as Catholics
Three more years and we shall celebrate the 500th centenary of Christendom for the entire Philippines. At this point in time the Sto. Niño already invites us Filipinos to return to the gospel for we have forgotten about what he teaches in the gospel after 5 centuries of being catholics. In 500 years we have forgotten how it is to follow Christ. We need therefore to re-evangelize ourselves because as Filipinos we have become enemies more than brothers despite of many us being Christians. In spite of being more similar to each other than the Spaniards and Filipinos in the time of Legaspi and Tupas, Filipinos today war a lot notwithstanding the fact that they are brothers in blood and in faith.
We need to go back to the Gospel where we started 500 years ago. We need a new evangelization. Hear again the gospel and live it as it should be lived by renewed disciples.
Let us ask our inspiration the Señor Sto. Niño to bless our nation in this regard.