MARCO Polo Plaza Cebu opened its annual exhibit of Santo Niño de Cebu images the evening of Jan. 6 at the hotel lobby. Msgr. Roberto Alesna of the Lahug Parish officiated the blessing ceremony.
The images have been graciously lent by devotees like Val and Ofelia Sandiego, Ernest “Ben” Chua, Helen Ynclino Bucag and Mark Steven Go.
The occasion also served to launch the hotel’s traditional culinary journey for January, “Sugbusog,” featuring Cebuano cuisine.
“It is the ninth year the hotel has Sugbusog,” said general manager Julie Najar in her effusive welcome speech. “Sugbusog is on up to Jan. 17,” she commented later, adding that it is always extended as many clamor for more of it.
“I chose seafood as the theme this year,” said Jessica Avila, the hotel’s consultant for Filipino cuisine. “And it is not just the balikbayan who clamor for an extension but the locals.”
All praises for the exhibit opening and for the Sugbusog launch was Cebu’s beloved Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who joined Julie, Jessica and Msgr. Alesna at the opening. Instead of cutting a ribbon, they dipped their fishing nets into a small baroto to catch a flapping kiton which went straight to the grill.
“It’s very succulent,” remarked Msgr. Alesna, who was seated across our table.
Dancers from Val Sandiego’s troupe livened the program; the girls in Maria Clara ensembles, the boys as Spanish soldiers.
I must say that the drum ensemble that played for the most part of the event was too loud (they had no amplifiers), or shall we say vigorous, as to drown all conversation.
Present were Marco Polo’s top brass, like resident manager Xavier Masson, director for sales and marketing Lara Constantino Scarrow, food and beverage manager Joward Tongco, communications manager Manna Alcaraz, sales manager Chino Quintana, PRO Yvonne Silva, events and promotions manager Tara Merced, E-manager Yumny Mariot, Dottie Adlawan of the engineering department, banquets manager Tess Catipay, and, supervising it all, executive chef Stefeno Verrillo.
Among the first nighters were former Department of Tourism VII regional director Dawn Roa, Bobit Avila and daughter Katrina, Thea Riñen, Dr. Nestor Alonso, Julius and Nelia Neri, Flor Ynclino, Honey Loop and Cookie Newman.
They all went home with net bags containing three sealed glass bottles with something sweet, bucayo; something salty, bagoong; and something sour, atchara.
Right now, Cebu is at the height of its fiesta in honor of the Santo Niño. Yesterday, there was a fluvial procession of the Santo Niño from the wharf of the Ouano family in Mandaue down the Mactan channel to Pier 1 in Cebu City.
Likewise, yesterday was the foot procession that drew thousands of devotees to join or to line the long stretch of streets. It was quite a sight—the Santo Niño smothered in orchids.
Last event of the Santo Niño fiesta will be on Friday, Jan. 22, when the “Hubo” takes place. It is the ceremony of undressing the image of its fiesta clothes and changing to what it would wear for the rest of the year, until the next fiesta.
For the next five years, the Santo Niño fiesta will grow even more in dimension and significance in the run-up to 2021, which marks 500 years of the “discovery” of the Philippines by Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain.
In March 1521, Magellan and his expedition of three caravelles came to Cebu. They held a Mass, during which the cross was planted and Cebu’s King Humabon was baptized as Carlos, the name of Charles, the Great, at that time King of Spain and Emperor of Germany.
Humabon’s wife Humamay was christened Juana in honor of Spain’s deranged queen, mother of Charles the Great.
Cebu’s queen was given the statue of the Santo Niño, which she was said to have embraced and held close to her heart.
Subsequently, Magellan was killed in Mactan by Lapu-lapu and his men. His expedition, down to just one ship, returned to Spain under Juan Sebastian de Elcano, completing the first voyage around the world by a single ship.
Spain made various attempts to follow Magellan’s trajectory to the Philippines, which got its name from Spain’s King Philip II, son of Charles the Great.
Finally, in 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi made his way to Cebu.
He and his men found the Santo Niño in a nipa hut, and that is the very spot where the Basilica del Santo Niño de Cebu now stands.
Preparations for 2021 are already under study by the Archdiocese of Cebu, said Msgr. Alesna. Members of the Cebu City Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission have also taken up the matter in some of their meetings.
But the question is: Who will be the Mayor of Cebu City when 2021 comes around?