Millions of Filipinos join Santo Nino feast amid volcano fears

Devotees of the Child Jesus are told to help people displaced by the Taal volcano eruption
Millions of Filipinos join Santo Nino feast amid volcano fears

Devotees raise replicas of the 500-year old image of the Child Jesus for priests to bless after the celebration of Mass in the Minor Basilica of the Santo Nino in Cebu. (Photo by Joe Torres)

As millions of Filipinos celebrated the feast of Santo Nino or Child Jesus amid fears of a volcano eruption, a bishop called on Catholics to face calamities with trust in God.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga called the attention of devotees of the Child Jesus to the plight of people displaced by the eruption of Taal Volcano, 60 kilometers south of Manila.

"In spite of the natural calamities in our country, let us depend on God and ever trusting in Him," he said.

Evacuations from around the ash-spewing Taal volcano continued on Jan. 17, with at least 57,000 people reaching evacuation centers since Jan. 12.

Displaced villagers were crammed into some 257 evacuation sites, and officials reported that they were struggling to supply people's basic needs, including ash masks, toilets and bottled water.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said there had been nearly 600 volcanic earthquakes, some as strong as magnitude 4.

Taal is one of the smallest but most active volcanoes in the world. It has erupted more than 30 times in the past 500 years, most recently in 1977.

An eruption in 1911 killed 1,335 people, and another in 1965 killed an estimated 200.

Devotion to the Child Jesus

Devotion to the Santo Nino, an image of boy Jesus usually dressed as a king, has been part of popular piety in the Philippine for centuries.

The oldest and most popular image of the Santo Nino can be found in the central Philippine city of Cebu where the grandest celebration dubbed the "Sinulog" is held every year.

Every January, millions of people flock to a basilica in Cebu where the Santo Nino image is housed while religious processions and colorful parades are held in the streets of the city.

In recent years the events have reportedly drawn up to three million people, making Cebu’s Sinulog one of the largest annual events in the Catholic world.

The "Sinulog" or dance prayer, the oldest festival in the country, comes from the Cebuano word "sulog" or water current. A motion this group-dance is body movement depicting flow of water to the beat of drums.

Devotees wave their hands in the air and shout "Viva Senor Santo Nino!" of "Hail to the Holy Child! and "Pit Senor!" short for "Sangpit sa Senyor (Call to King)"

The 38-centimeter-tall image of the Santo Nino in Cebu is a gift from Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the queen of the island, Juana, during her baptism as a Catholic.

"Let us live our life on obedience, in submission to God’s will and under the guidance of our parents," said Bishop Santos.

On Friday, Jan. 17, an estimated 300,000 Marian devotees took part in a religious procession dubbed "Walk with Mary" in Cebu.

The dawn procession has become an integral part of the celebration of the feast of the Child Jesus.

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