The Sto. Niño Fluvial Parade is a significant and mainstay event of the yearly Cebu Sinulog Celebration.
Every year, hundreds of devotees brave the rather turbulent waters of the Mactan Channel to show their devotion to the miraculous image of the Sto. Niño by accompanying the image through its short voyage. The lively flotilla starts from the image’s home in the Basilica Minore de Sto. Niño, takes its course along the channel, and ends at the St. Joseph Parish in Mandaue City, a sister city of Cebu. The Sinulog is deemed not complete without this holy, aquatic procession.
It has always been a tradition for the image of the Child Jesus to visit his foster father, St. Joseph, at the Mandaue parish before the grand day of festivities. Believers and devotees from all walks of life and from different municipalities of Cebu hold a vigil while the image stays at the parish for one day and night.
After the overnight stay, the image travels on its ceremonial “galleon” to the nearby island of Mactan, in order to reenact the coming of the image from the Spaniards nearly five centuries ago.
While the procession is solemn at its heart, there are accompanying drum beats, yells, cheers, fireworks, and sirens, all coming from the lively crowd trailing from the main boat. True-to-heart devotees do not seem perturbed at all by the racket going on around them, merely accepting the cacophony of sounds to be part of the ritual. It’s quite a visual feast for the foreigners and shutterbugs who regularly escort the convoy, riding decorated and retrofitted barges, motorized outriggered boats, yachts, and small catamarans. If that’s not enough, helicopters from a nearby Air Force base occasionally buzz around dropping petals on the procession.
Whatever vantage point you’re at, the Sto. Niño Fluvial Parade is quite a sight to behold.