TACLOBAN CITY-Amidst ardent strides to rise above the adversities that came along the unprecedented devastation caused by supertyphoon Yolanda on November 8 last year, Taclobanons and other devotees of Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban gathers once more to fete the 125th feast of their heavenly patron. Archbishop John Du will lead the faithful of the Pontifical Concelebrated Mass on the feast day, June 30, while Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, his predecessor, will be the main celebrant in the concelebrated Pontifical Mass on the vesper. The masses will be held at the Rizal Park where a temporary makeshift was put up as the Santo Nino Church is undergoing repair. The church sustained major damages during the onslaught of Yolanda. “This year’s fiesta celebration will be like no other celebrations in recent years,” according to the Sto. Niño Parish priest Rev. Msgr. Alex Opiniano. “Apparently, super typhoon Yolanda left the people with no reason at all to celebrate. How could one, having been forced to live in harsh and difficult conditions even entertain the idea of a festivity, especially those practically left with nothing or worst those who lost their loved ones?,” Opiniano said. He further remarked that with what the people have gone through after the great devastation, they are in the best position to focus on the most important reason of the celebration – God and His love, minus the trimmings and distractions that blind us from attending to the essentials of the celebration.” Yolanda , which for a while crippled the local economy and put in standstill the lives of thousands of residents in Tacloban and nearby towns, left a deep scar in the emotions and mental disposition of the survivors and posed a great test not just on their resilience but the steadfastness of their spiritual faith as well. The religious fervor is one most vulnerable in this catastrophic experience that no human would dare facing in life. “There is so much to thank the beloved Señor Sto. Niño for, one is our presence (in the novena mass), meaning we survived the typhoon, and for all the other blessings that we have been receiving,” Sto. Niño Parish co-pastor Rev. Fr. Isagani Petilos said in his opening prayer at the well-attended first day novena mass on June 20. Rev. Fr. Amadeo Alvero considers this year’s celebration of the fiesta to be more meaningful especially among the parishioners who were saved from the storm that killed thousands of residents including those residing within the Sto. Niño Parish. This blessing of being saved is reason enough for the people to join the local church in thanking the Heavenly Patron through the masses, he said. Maritess Magno, a young mother of three, needed to evacuate to the Sto. Niño Church with her children a day before the typhoon was expected to hit Tacloban City. Her husband was left to tend to family’s belonging in their house in Brgy. 37 Reclamation Area, one of the hard-hit areas of the typhoon. She along with other evacuees in the social hall of the parish did not escape the torrents of the seawater that gushed inland to about a kilometer from the shores. She claimed the heavens including Sr. Sto. Niño de Tacloban heard their prayer and saved all of them, who needed to immediately transfer to the nearby Rizal Central School for safety. Though very much worried, Magno prayed even more intensely for the safety of her husband. Meantime, Magno and her family are housed in a small building located beside the stage of the Plaza Rizal which now serves as the altar of the Sto. Niño Church, while the repair of the church edifice is underway. Her ordeal and the survival of her family has drawn them nearer to God and fortified their faith in the Sto. Niño, whom the people of Leyte consider as their Heavenly Protector. This year’s fiesta theme bears the theme of the universal Roman Catholic Church which is “Laity: Called to be Saints… Sent forth as Heroes.” Fr. Alvero exhorted that the celebration of the fiesta is one way of leading the lay people towards saintly life and be heroes in their family and the society, manifesting such saintliness even in their social activities. “The Sto. Niño could lead you to be honest, even if others are not, and make a difference (in the community) as a Christian, meaning in you social life” he said.
By Eileen Nazareno Ballesteros