by: Flor Jackson
NAVAL, Biliran – Some 6,000 devotees of Señor Sto. Niño from Naval, the capital town of Biliran province and the rest of the towns in the province including those from the nearby towns and barangays of Leyte trooped to the Naval port early in the morning on Friday, October 21 to meet the pilgrim image of Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu and St. Therese of the Holy Child Jesus which were scheduled to arrive 6:00 o’clock in the morning.
The visit of Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu dubbed as “Duaw Sto.Niño” to Naval en route to the St. Therese Diocesan Shrine was the first visit ever by the Holy Child outside of the Diocese of Cebu and part of the ecological evangelization of the church, said Rev. Fr. Tito Soquiño, OSA, Chairman of the Sto. Niño de Cebu Augustinian Social Development Foundation, Inc.
Ships of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine Navy (PN) escorted the two separate Navy vessels that carried the images of Sto. Niño de Cebu and St. Therese.
The pilgrim images were accorded grand arrival honors at the Naval port by the Naval State University (NSU) students.
The welcome party was led by Dr. Edita Genson, NSU President and Over-all Chairman of the “Duaw Sto. Niño” in Naval and Bishop Filomeno Bactol of the Diocese of Naval together with Naval Mayor Susan Parilla, Vice Mayor Redentor Villordon and other local government officials and employees of LGU-Nava.
Also at the port of Naval to meet the “Duaw Sto. Niño” were officials of the national government agencies; faculty, students and employees of the NSU; provincial government officials and employees, different religious groups and other organizations
The “Duaw Sto. Niño” team from Cebu that brought the pilgrim images of Sto. Niño and St. Therese was led by Fr. Soquiño together with Rey Martinez, Founding Chairman of the St. Therese Diocesan Shrine in Brgy. Obispo, Calubian, Leyte; Mayor Jose Emery “Joy” Roble of Hilongos, Leyte, co-Founder of the shrine and co-owner of Roble Shipping Lines; and Rene Mercado, chairman of “Duaw Sto. Niño” Cebu committee. Also with the team were some guests and devotees aboard a ship owned by Roble Shipping from Cebu and other parts of the country and the Visayas area.
At the end of the arrival honors, the pilgrim images of Sto. Niño and St. Therese were processioned to the Naval Cathedral where a mass was said by Bishop Bactol together with priests from the Naval parish and guest priests from Cebu.
In his homily, Bishop Bactol urged the devotees of Sr. Sto. Niño to care for the creation of God and help preserve the environment.
He mentioned about how people carelessly throw plastics into the sea that poison the fish, one of the many reasons why fishes are getting scarce. “Because of global warming, plants don’t bear fruits anymore”, he said.
“As we care for the plants, nature and the fauna, we have to thank Sr. Sto. Niño and St. Therese for their visit to Naval. Let us give care for the graces we have received from them”, he said.
Immediately after the mass, Sr. Sto. Niño de Cebu and St. Therese of the Child Jesus were processioned by the devotees to the NSU for the university visit.
The highlight of the “Duaw Sto. Niño” at the NSU was a symposium about environmental protection which was attended by the students, faculty and employees of the said university. Some devotees likewise attended the symposium.
Rev. Fr. Soquiño who was the speaker, informed that the event sent a message to everyone to unite in helping protect the environment.
“The new mission of the church today, is ecological evangelization. We have to spread the good news – contemporary message of protecting the environment”, he said.
He also urged everyone to help in the campaign against forest destruction and air pollution. He encouraged the audience to practice proper waste disposal by segregating their trash to prevent pollution.
Part of the symposium was a presentation of video footages taken by the SEA Knights, a group of 20 active scuba divers from Cebu whose objective is to help protect marine resources. A good number of members of the SEA Knights are priests.
The video footages showed the real status of the marine environment in the Visayas area, some of them, especially the coral reefs were destroyed due to dynamite fishing and other forms of illegal activities at sea.
The symposium was followed by a procession back to the Naval port for the departure honors.
Some 50 boats with colorful and glittering buntings from Naval and other municipalities and barangays of the province joined in the fluvial procession to Calubian port then a motorcade to the St. Therese Diocesan Shrine in Brgy. Obispo, Calubian.
The “Duaw Sto. Niño” in St. Therese Diocesan Shrine Barangay Obispo, Calubian and in Calubian town was capped with an early morning coastal clean-up and mangrove planting along the coastal areas of Calubian, and also the setting up of bouys in Calubian seas on Saturday, October 22.
“Duaw Sto. Niño” in Naval, Biliran and in Calubian, Leyte carried the theme “Climate Change, What the People Can Do to Respond to the Problem.” (FJ/PIA 8 Biliran)