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Viva Sto. Niño! Jan 14-18, 2012 in Cebu Province!

As the Zest Air landed on Mactan International Airport at 5:30am of Jan. 14, I welcomed the fact that it was my first time ever to set foot in Visayas, in the culturally-rich Province of Cebu. I was fetched by the vehicle of the Tumulak Family (Tito Romy, Tita Malou), at whose residence in Casa Nuestra, Brgy. Bangkal, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu I stayed with during my entire “first-time” trip to Cebu (thanks to Tita Nanette Reyes, who introduced me to them).

We first stopped near a shore to watch the fluvial parade of the pilgrim boats, one among them carrying the most-awaited image of Señor Santo Niño, the patron of Cebu. My days in Cebu coincide the highlighted activities of Sinulog Festival in honor of the Child Jesus. At the back of my mind, I was eager and looking forward to witness such very rare opportunity.

Plans, however, swiftly changed.

After watching the parade, Tito Romy toured me to the National Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Rule (“Nuestra Señora de La Regla”), the historic church of Lapu-Lapu City. At their house, I had a long nap. Soon as I got up, I realized I was not really feeling good because of the ear infection I still had since my last days in Manila. Because of that, I just stayed at home instead of going to Cebu to witness the civil festivities.

The next day, January 15, 6am was the Grand Pontifical Mass at the Augustinian-ran Basilica Minore del Señor Sto. Niño presided by Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma, DD, STD. I and Kuya Vincent arrived late because of the long traffic connecting Mandaue and Cebu City. We tiptoed slowly through the sidewalks, though difficult it was for us because of the stretching number of pilgrims (which totalled up to 2 million during that week, accordingly). Balloons were released during the offertory hymn. After the Mass, we managed to get through the interior of the basilica amid the flow of visitors slowly blocking our way. I had picture in front of the retablo of the basilica, which I later deleted unfortunately because I found it my entire shirt was embedded in perspiration.

Lunchtime til afternoon – I toured and stayed at San Carlos Seminary College (SCSC). The name San Carlos made me think that San Carlos Manila and Cebu (plus University of San Carlos) are intertwined. (I late found out there are slight differences between the three). Anyway, I had lunch with the formators there, Fr. Vito Jumaoas, Fr. Benedicto Tao, and the most respected formator Msgr. Rodolfo “Rudy” Villanueva, HP, prince of Cebu liturgical music. After a lengthy “kamustahan” with the seminary fathers, I felt lazy not to attend the fiesta happenings in the city because I couldn’t do so due to my uncomfortable ear condition. Rather, I spent the entire afternoon interacting with seminarians and viewing the different venues of the seminary. (I missed the procession and evening activities)

That evening, Kuya Vince, his wife, and his sister Mariel accompanied me to SM City Cebu. I was fortunate to watch the fireworks display (even though one was left for us to see). We toured around the mall and took multitude of shots and poses. The next day, January 16, Tita Malou and the rest accompanied me to places I never dreamt of visiting but worth seeing very much – Mactan Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City, Plaza Independencia and Fort San Pedro (counterpart of Manila’s Luneta Park), and the very much patronized Philippine Taoist Temple in the highlands of Beverly Hills, Cebu City (counterpart of Forbes Park in Metro Manila). That evening, I got a first taste of the most coveted food in Cebu – LECHON DE CEBU – which style and ingredients can hardly be imitated by restaurants elsewhere outside Cebu.

I was planning to visit other Masbatenyo friends (former seminarians now studying college in Cebu) on Jan. 17. But because of miscommunication and so many reasons, I decided to stay at home. Up to this very day, I felt nostalgic because I realized that January 17 was unproductive for me. After my stay in Cebu, I felt a bit sorry not visiting my friends, plus not being able to visit so many other beautiful churches in Cebu (like the Shrine of Guadalupe, the church of Pedro Calungsod, the Marian pilgrim site in Carcar, and the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City.) ANYWAY, there is always a “next time”

My last day in Cebu – January 18 – was spent solely for buying souvenir items such as keychains, a Cebu-imprinted shirt, mango puree, and famous “otaps.” My last stop was Sacred Heart School a.k.a. ATENEO de CEBU where I met a friend, a former seminarian at San Jose Seminary in Ateneo de Manila. Soon as I reached back home in the Tumulak Residence, I found out minutes were fast approaching before the plane would depart for Manila

“Madaliang picture-taking.” Then GOOD BYE. 9pm is almost nearing.

Tito Romy and Tita Malou accompanied me back to the terminal where I first met them. I am very thankful to God for granting me this opportunity to visit Cebu. Although I felt “kulang ang napuntahan ko,” I was relieved and redeemed by the fact that a generous and kind family such as that of the Tumulak welcomed and introduced me to CEBU. My endless gratitude to them! Before I left, I gave them items symbolizing my gratitude.

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