Taclobanons gear up for Sto. Niño fiesta with ‘Balyuan’

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TACLOBAN City, June 28, 2015 – Taclobanons celebrated the Balyuan rites on June 20 to kick off the religious activities leading to the fiesta celebration in honor of the city’s heavenly patron, the Señor Sto. Niño.

Fr. Gilbert Urbina, Archdiocese of Palo Episcopal Vicar on Pastoral Action blesses youths, students, and educators on the second day of the novena Mass in honor of Sto. Niño de Tacloban whose feast is celebrated on June 30. (Photo: Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros)

The Balyuan or the annual re-enactment of the exchange of the images of the Sto. Niño venerated in St. Michael the Archangel Church in Brgy. Buscada in Basey, Samar and the one in Sto. Niño Church in Tacloban City took place with the help of Church and government leaders in Tacloban and Basey, with the cooperation of some selected primary schools.

Story of 2 images

More of a legend than a historical account, the story handed down from generation to generation narrates that “Kankabatok” (now Tacloban) was a prosperous barrio of Basey which had for its titular head and protector Sr. Sto. Niño whom the locals venerated through a small, but not-so-well sculptured statue.

Meanwhile, in Buscada, a quaint barrio also of Basey, people venerated a newer, bigger, and better-sculptured image of the Sto. Niño donated by a Tagalog businessman. Legend has it that the business of this donor prospered shortly after his generous gesture.

“Because Kankabatok was a bigger and more prosperous barrio compared to Buscada, the parish priest of Basey that time deemed it wise to arrange an exchange of the two images. Kankabatok received the bigger and more beautiful image, while Buscada had the smaller image from Kankabatok,” according to the local tourism office’s version of the story.

Coming of Jesus

For Fr. Ronel Taboso, pastor of the Sto. Niño Parish in this city, the exchange of the two images points to something deeper.

In his homily at the commemorative Mass held inside the parish church, the priest said, “The Balyuan Rites remind us of Jesus’ coming,” and how people make use of their lifetime, living the teachings of Christ.

“Our life is a life of service centered on the love of God. It is God that fills our heart and we [make ourselves available] to Him,” Taboso added, alluding to the Biblical precept that, “We cannot serve two masters, God and mammon.”

He also cited the hidden life of Jesus from the time he was 11-years old until he reached the age of 30, which he said was spent serving Mary, His mother.

According to the priest, Christ’s rendering of his whole self for others, His honesty, His submission to authority, and to his parents’ guidance are among the attributes of the Señor Sto. Niño which people should focus on.

Pontifical Masses

Palo Archbishop John Forrosuelo Du will be the main celebrant of the pontifical concelebrated Mass on the feast day, June 30; Bishop Filomeno Bactol for the afternoon Pontifical Mass; and Bishop Crispin Varquez for the Pontifical Concelebrated Vigil Mass.

Taboso, who heads the fiesta executive committee, also called on the faithful to participate in all the religious activities related to the feast day.

A traditional motorcade honored the two images of the Señor Sto. Niño as it went around the City of Tacloban. All vehicles and those on board were blessed after returning to the Sto. Niño church. The motorcade heralded the start of nine-day devotion of novena Masses in honor of the city’s heavenly patron.

During the novenario, individuals from various sectors of the society from the lowly vendors to government and business leaders, as well as men in uniform in Tacloban are given opportunity to be blessed on designated dates.

According to the Tacloban tourism office, the exchange from which the current “Balyuan” rites are based took place in the middle of the 18th century. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros/CBCP News)

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