The image of Sto. Niño El Capitan General of the Augustinian Recoletos emerged from 35 years of hibernation to join the procession during the feast day of San Sebastian around the basilica on 20 January, 2013.
There were two coincidental religious observances yesterday, 20th January: the moveable feast day of Sto. Niño, which is on the third Sunday of the month, and that of San Sebastian, which is fixed on this date.
San Sebastian is the patron saint of our hometown San Narciso in Zambales; likewise, the cities of Lipa and Bacolod, and Pinagbuhatan of Pasig. Religious tradition has the Roman Catholic and Aglipayan parishes in our town, and perhaps Lipa, Bacolod and other places in the country, honoring the martyr saint with an early evening procession. Reports say that in Pinagbuhatan, the procession is a day activity, and there's a dousing with water, which has replaced the fluvial procession of olden days, among the celebrators just like during the June feast day of San Juan, .
For reasons of history, we went to the Basilica of San Sebastian, the iconic steel church, on R. Hidalgo in Quiapo yesterday afternoon. The Augustinian Recoletos served in our church from 1849 until 1898, and they were the ones who designated our parish the parroquia de San Sebastian. We were right on time for the mass, which we found has Bishop Teodoro Bacani concelebrating it with the Recollects. Bishop Bacani was our assistant parish priest during the martial law years.
We haven't heard "Fr Ted" (that's what we called the bishop then) deliver a sermon for years. He's one priest that gets one's focus because of his style in delivering a message, which he injects with a dash of humor or an interesting anecdote.
We thought he floored the Recoletos when he surmised that the Sto. Niño is not part of the parish celebration of their patron saint's day unlike other places in the country. Earlier in the day, we already saw pictures of preparations in our hometown that the boy Jesus will be in the martyr Sebastian's procession.
|The parish priest carries El Capitan General to the carroza for the procession.|
At the end of the mass, after a profusion of thanks to benefactors, sponsors, guests, parishioners, etc, the parish priest looked at the bishop and joyfully announced that he has a surprise -- the Recoletos are bringing back their Sto. Niño back into the limelight after 35 years of hibernation, and the El Capitan General will be in procession too.
That explained why there were military men who attended the mass, the El Capitan General is the patron saint of soldiers.
The military title reminds that the governor general of the Philippines during the Spanish times was also the capitan general of the army.
The din of the Sinulog festival has drowned out a relatively unknown 'military' tradition that underlies the procession of the Sto. Niño in Cebu City.
The resident Sto. Niño at the basilica is also called El Capitan General. Before the image goes out in procession, there's another image that moves in -- the Sto. Niño from the San Nicolas Parish, which carries the title El Teniente de la Guardia.
In a recent story in the Philippine Star, Bronce (2013) wrote that this take-over reflects the military practice of having a second-in-command replace the general whenever he leaves camp.
Bronce, Quennie S. (2013 Jan 17). Sto. Niño de Cebu: El Capitan General. The Philippine Star Online. Retrieved from