By Malou Guanzon-Apalisok
Cebu Daily News
Monday, October 17th, 2011

It’s all systems go for the Duaw Sto. Niño to Naval, capital town of the neighboring island of Biliran and on to the coastal town of Calubian in Leyte this Oct. 20.

As a media volunteer for this twin event, I had the privilege of presiding over a news conference in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines headquarters in Intramuros, Manila early last week. This was at the height of Tropical Depression Ramon which everybody expected would hit the Visayas. I felt a bit anxious flying to Manila Tuesday afternoon, but I thought the decision whether to proceed to the capital city or not despite the storm signals depended mainly on the airline. Cebu Pacific touched down in Manila around 6 p.m. under overcast skies. Tagalogs call this weather condition makulimlim. The dreary subtext to this term should make us think about natural disasters and how government and citizenry should respond to these situations.

The CBCP news conference for Duaw Sto. Niño was organized by Bishop Filomeno Bactol of the Diocese of Naval but TD Ramon prevented him from flying to Manila although he made it as far as Ormoc. Fortunately, Fr. Tito Soquiño, OSA, executive director of the Sto. Niño Augustinian Social Development Foundation (SNAF for short) was around to field questions from Manila media. He was joined in the panel by Rey Martinez, founder of the St. Therese Shrine in Calubian, Leyte. Mayor Doroteo Palconet of Calubian, Marlene Sanchez of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Msgr. Cesar Salomon, vice rector of the St. Therese Shrine in Pasay City and lawyer Cita Garcia, chair of the Millenium Saint Foundation, a private organization that works closely with the shrine in Pasay.

The Duaw Sto. Niño is a social development program of the Order of Saint Augustine. It aims to deepen the faith of the people by bringing the image of the Holy Child to the poorest of the poor islands around the country. In keeping with the signs of the times, ecological themes are also being drummed up in each visit. This week’s event is a huge undertaking but the mobilization of a good number of national government agencies like the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard as well as local government units, private business and professional groups just comes naturally. This year, the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts will join the Duaw Sto. Niño and the pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Therese in Calubian, Leyte which coincides with the shrine’s fiesta celebration.

During the press con, Fr. Tito expressed satisfaction with the all out support of the navy for this event. The Naval base in the Visayas, formerly known as Naval Forces Central now known as Naval Base Rafael Ramos is led by Commodore Cyril Carlos. The NBRR is mobilizing three vessels for this event, even as the hands of the Philippine Coast Guard and the PCG Auxiliary are all on deck so to speak.

Because the civic side of the Duaw Sto. Niño complements the enforcement of ecological regulations actively pursued by the navy, Fr. Soquiño was moved to remark during the press con how delighted he is to see that the Church and the State do not work at cross purposes. Rather, he sees a convergence of direction and goals and I think that bodes well for our people, our country and our planet. By the way, the press con in Intramuros was very well attended.

The following day, Martinez and I went to the Catholic Media Network (CMN) broadcast studio in Ortigas to sit down with anchor Ariel Ayala for a live interview. The on-air tête-à-tête which was beamed to all CMN affiliates all over the country had Ariel and his staff in stitches because of Rey Martinez’ funny way of telling stories related to his encounter with St. Therese when her relics visited the country in 2000, and his decision to build a shrine in Calubian on a hill overlooking the seawaters of the Naval-Calubian Bay.

All in all, the media blitz for the Duaw Sto. Niño which pooled together local media friends and partners in Manila was very hectic, but was all worth it.

The Duaw Sto. Niño to the Diocese of Naval reels off on Oct. 20 with a send off Mass at 5:30 p.m. at the Basilica del Sto. Niño, to be followed by a foot procession going to the Malacañang sa Sugbo port. The Philippine Navy vessel which Sto. Niño will depart Cebu at 8 p.m. Roble Shipping Company has opened up a special trip going to Naval on this day to accommodate pilgrims, so it would be advisable to buy a ticket ahead of D Day if you’re interested in going.

Last Friday, the organizers held a meeting to finalize preparations. Listening to all the reports, it seemed as if the groundwork for the events was intended for the Sinulog.


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