Amid the COVID-19 pandemic

SENIOR SANTO NIÑO. Despite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taclobanons and other devotees will continue to honor and venerate Senior Santo Niño. This year’s marks the 131st fiesta celebration of Tacloban City. (Photo by: RYE G. AYON)


TACLOBAN CITY- Amid the pandemic spawned by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Taclobanons will continue to honor and venerate the Child Jesus or Senior Santo Niño which will have His feast day today, June 30.
While several cultural activities have been cancelled due to public health concerns, the traditional religious activities would continue as has been strictly observed in the past.
Today marks the 131st fiesta celebration of the city’s annual fiesta.
No less than Archbishop John Du of the Archdiocese of Palo will lead the morning Pontifical Mass to be held at the Santo Niño Church, the seat where the centuries-old miraculous image of the Child Jesus can be found.
But due to the pandemic, instead of the usual over a thousand massgoers, only about 300 faithful would be allowed inside the church, Fr. Jan Ian Brylle Callera, one of the assisting priests of the Santo Niño Church.
He said that parishioners need not go to the church to hear the Pontifical Mass as this will be through livestreaming at 9:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Faithful can also attend the Mass at the Rizal Park, just across the Church, where speakers and video wall was set up with the health protocols to be strictly observed like wearing of face masks and social distancing.
But those who will attend will be ask to fill a form for contact tracing purposes.
Fr. Callera said that from the previous 200 to 300 boats that joins the fluvial procession, they limited the number to only five boats, where on one boat will carry the image of Sto. Niño while on the other boats are the prayer leaders and security.
“Each boat will only carry 50 percent of its capacity and those who will join are pre-identified by the parish,” he said.
After the fluvial procession, a motorcade procession will follow, a modification from the usual land procession activity which is practice in previous fiesta,” he added.
The church had earlier cancelled the traditional Balyuan Rites held every June 20, a tradition where the image of the Sto. Niño of Tacloban is ‘exchange’ with the image of Sto. Niño de Buscada of Basey town.
“Balyu-an” (or exchange) is a religious tradition that can be traced back to the time when Tacloban, then named Kankabatok was but a mere Sitio of Basey Town.
Kankabatok has grown into a prosperous settlement, that the Spanish Parish Priest of Basey arranged an exchange of Sto. Nino images.
Kankabatok received a bigger and more beautiful image while Buscada had a smaller image from Kankabatok. Every year, the local government units of Tacloban and Basey continue the ritual in celebration of their shared history and filial devotion to the Holy Child.
Tacloban City is the only locality that celebrates the feast day of Sto. Niño on June despite the church declaration of celebrating it every third Sunday of January.
Celebrating the feast day on every June 30 is a commemoration of its arrival on June 30, 1889 after the ship that carrying the image caught fire off the coast of Mindoro and Romblon on 1888.
Many claims that the arrival of the image of the Holy Child Jesus had stopped the cholera epidemic that hits residents of Tacloban and its nearby Basey town.
While Church activities continue with some changes, festival activities related to the Tacloban City fiesta like the Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival of Festivals and the Sangyaw Festival were suspended this year in compliance with the order prohibiting mass gathering in a large crowd like fiesta.
While Sangyaw Festival organizers did not create activities for the city fiesta, the organizers of Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival of Festivals continue with some of its activities through online contest and livestreaming.
This includes contest on Sto. Niño Barangay and Home exhibit, Pintados Tiktok Festival, acrylic painting contest, poster contest and the search of Miss Teen and Miss Pintados 2020.
‘We decided to come up with these activities for residents in the city to have diversion. Most are worried due to Covid-19 specially that positive cases is increasing,” Eugene Tan, Pintados Festival president, said.
“Aside from following health protocols, this is also the time for us to strengthen our faith to him. All our activities are geared toward the celebration of his feast,” he added.