I am a Sto. Niño devotee and for the past 8 years now, I have always been an active participant in either the novena, the solemn procession or the Sinulog every January. The Basilica is four blocks from our apartment, and I always pass by The Metropolitan Cathedral every time I visit. However, I have never heard mass nor have I tried to wander inside it despite its new facelift. I am no stranger to some of the more recent events at the Cathedral. Weddings of Cebu’s who’s who, the President’s thanksgiving mass after her landslide victory in Cebu 6 years ago and the recent renovation works are among some of them. I have also read about its rich history online(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cebu_Metropolitan_Cathedral). It just never occurred to me to be a parishioner of this church.
This lent, I took a four – day vacation leave from work without any plan on how to spend it. I ended up staying home. Today, Good Friday, I decided to visit the Cathedral since it seemed to be teeming with activity over the Basilica. Several days earlier, I saw a huge stage being set – up almost covering half the street in front of the Church. I also saw some large tarpaulin posters announcing the activities in the coming days.
My father goes there regulary to hear mass and earlier, he mentioned that the Cathedral has lined – up some of the most notable Cebu priests to celebrate Mass and he also mentioned the usual procession. Among the line up, Cardinal Vidal, Bishop Cortes, Msgr. Alesna, Dakay and Villarojo. I do not have an idea how the procession looks like.
It was high noon and as I approached the entrance, I noticed it was jam – packed. I also saw several cameramen from a local TV network covering the mass. I decided to stay at the sidelines.
Now, I am not a practicing Catholic. Other than my annual panata to the Senyor Sto Nino to do the Sinulog dance and Novena, I rarely go to church to hear mass. A large part of this is because I end up walking out even before the homily is over. In my humble opinion, priests need to take up some training on public speaking and speech writing. Pwera Saway. Years ago, I go to Mass expecting to be inspired, but always come out, turned off. I do not appreciate how homilies have been reduced to mere anecdotes, worse, from emails I have already read and passed on. Sometimes, when I am patient enough to sit thru one, I end up having a hard time figuring out how the homily, usually about some funny experience of or some bashing from the priest, relates to the Bible. I am sure there are priests who are good orators and speech writers out there, either I keep missing them or I go to the wrong church. I cannot remember one good homily.
Today, I cannot stop myself from nodding with approval as I sat thru the Siete Palabras. Each priest related the Gospel to relevant social issues without the usual angst and bashing, but with informed opinions and the effort to inspire. These included the relevance of keeping our Filipino heritage in this fast changing world, being more aware of environment issues, actively participating in government and economics wtih ethics among others. I stayed long enough to hear the “Ikatulong Pulong” as it became scorching hot where I was stationed. I finished the rest on television at home.
I went back just in time to catch the preparations for the late afternoon procession. I didn’t see any carro in front of the church, so I walked behind it and saw that the carros were being arranged at D. Jakosalem street. It was already 3:30pm and the procession was scheduled for 5:00PM. I was amazed how they were able to assemble the tableau, flowers and lights for each carro in less than 2 hours. It was my first glimpse into the Siete Palabras and the Lent procession. Who needs to go out of town?