Currently on its second year, the Sto. Niño devotion in St. Agatha Parish of the Diocese of Sale, is in full swing. Its impetus from Archdiocese of Cebu, with hash tag #PADAYONTANIÑO, it is a play of words challenging everyone to move on despite the pandemic, with the Holy Child leading the way. The Niño or Ninyo means we are in unity with the Holy Child. It is really a tidy wordplay of the Holy Child (Niño) and the devotees (ninyo, a Cebuano word meaning us) coming together.
2021 was a meaningful year for the Sto. Niño devotees of St. Agatha. Faced with the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, the prayers dampen the fear, and a new celebration was born. From the novena-mass of Simbang Gabi in December 2019 – a votum specially devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary – it gave birth to the Sto. Niño devotion, akin to the Lady giving birth to her Child.
The novena started on 7th January and will culminate on 15th January 2022. Different priests and preachers were invited, notably Frs. Andrew Madry, Confidence Masvosva, Novelito Lim, Junray Rayna, Percival Sevare OSA, Michael Willemsen and Stanly Devasia. Each mass has a Sinulog dance offering and the traditional waving of hands while singing the Batobalani Sa Gugma (Magnet of Love). The 16th of January 2022 will be the feast of the Sto. Niño of which the famed Sinulog dances, a dance offering to the Holy Child, will lead the procession of the Holy Child, together with the devotees.
This year the Sinulog Committee, headed by Madeleine Hidalgo and Beth Avila, has coordinated the Sinulog dances, of which four (4) groups were formed: the Pakenham Group led by Miriam Bacolod; the nurses group headed by Precy Zhang; the liturgical group, with this year’s Sinulog queen Teresa Mabitad; and the Kabataan dancers with Tulip Ramirez. The drums are formed through the efforts of Giomel Pardillo and ably supported by male devotees and young lyrists Gilly and Danica Mollaneda.
Madeleine Hidalgo, the chairperson and speaking in behalf of the Sinulog Committee, noted that “all these things happened through God’s grace and with the concerted efforts of everyone, not just the Cebuanos or the Filipino devotees.” Beth Avila, the vice-chairperson, shared that facing the challenge of the times the community invokes the Lord’s prayer and in unison prays “Thy will be done.” Many plans were shelved but the novena and the Sinulog celebration will stay on.
It is a humbling experience that the community who prays together with the Mother of God has seen the light of the Sto. Niño and will continue to celebrate this devotion in the future.