Basilica discourages practice of releasing ‘prayer baloons’
By Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Reporter
What draws millions of devotees to the Sto. Niño?
Fr. Tito Soquiño, OSA, said it’s because each devotee has a story to tell about how the Child Jesus touched and changed their lives.
“The attractiveness to the Sto. Niño grows over time. You have to talk about millions to be able to get a real picture. If we will summarize it, the Sto. Niño is the bato-balani (the magnet of love),” said Soquiño.
Soquiño, one of the Augustinian priests who are keepers of the centuries-old image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu, appealed yesterday to the thousands of devotees expected to attend the Fiesta Señor to stop releasing balloons in the air.
Devotees write prayers on slips of paper tied to the balloon strings, a colorful practice during the Fiesta Señor activities.
Soquino said balloons can end up in the sea where marine animals eat the synthetic material and die.
“We would like to request our brothers and sisters not to use balloons, which can cause damage to properties and lives as well,” Soquiño told Cebu Daily News.
He said remnants of balloons have been found in the internal organs of dead dolphins.
Balloons, which contain helium, also destroy electric transformers near the Basilica del Sto. Niño when they get entangled in overhead electrical connections.
“The feast of the Sto. Niño reminds us to take care of the environment. Let our devotion be a way to express our love for the environment. Let us give social meaning in our devotion,” said Soquiño, executive director of the Sto. Niño de Cebu Social Development Foundation.
Soquiño said they will discuss this with balloon vendors.
“We will try to do something about it. We understand that this has something to do with livelihood (for people selling balloons). We will try to talk with the vendors in a gentle manner,” he said.
To show concern for the environment, Soquiño advised people to also avoid drinking from plastic bottles during the Fiesta Señor to reduce litter.
Respect for Nature as God’s creation is the theme of an “environmental Mass” to be hold at the basilica’s pilgrim center on Jan. 10.
The appeal to avoid using balloons has been one of the eco-friendly reminders of the Augustinian fathers have been pushing in recent years.
It’s become a popular gesture among devotees to release balloons in the air when the hymn “Bato-Balani sa Gugma” (Magnet of Love) is sung.
The Fiesta Señor 2012 will kick off with a procession or “Walk with Jesus,” which will start from Fuente Osmeña to the Basilica del Sto. Niño at 4 a.m. tomorrow.
Fr. Rodolfo Bugna, OSA, rector of the Basilica del Sto. Niño, will officiate the 5:30 a.m. Mass, which will include the installation of this year’s Hermano and Hermana Mayores at the Church’s pilgrim center.
On Jan. 13, the images of the Sto. Niño, Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu and the Ecce Homo (bust of the suffering Christ) will be brought in a motorcade to the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City.
After an overnight vigil, the icons will sail on a galleon down the Mactan Channel for the fluvial procession from the Ouano wharf to Pier 1 in Cebu City on Jan. 14.
A reenactment of the planting of the cross, first Mass and baptism will be held at the pilgrim center afterward.
At 1:30 p.m., the procession of the Sto. Niño will be made.
From the basilica, the carrozas of the San Jose, Our Lady of Consolacion and the Sto. Niño de Cebu will pass along Juan Luna Street then to Osmeña Boulevard.
Upon reaching the Fuente Osmeña Circle, the procession will proceed to General Maxilom Avenue, Imus Street, MJ Cuenco Avenue, Gomez Street, Burgos Street, and back to the basilica.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will lead the pontifical Mass on the feast of the Sto. Niño on Jan. 15 at 6 a.m. at the basilica’s pilgrim center.