GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 January) — Thousands of devotees and visitors are expected to gather here on Sunday, Jan. 15, for the annual feast of the Señor Sto. Niño de Bula, the city’s biggest patronal celebration.
Roel Granfon, 2017 Sto. Niño de Bula festival director, said Friday they are all set for the festivity, which will be highlighted by the highly anticipated fluvial procession along the Sarangani Bay.
He said at least 100 fishing boats owned by tuna fishing companies based in the city have confirmed to join the traditional fluvial procession.
“We again expect another huge crowd but we have prepared for this and everything is now in place,” he said.
Granfon said the patronal celebration, which drew as high as 100,000 devotees and visitors in the past years, opened last week with the novena at the Sto. Niño de Bula Parish in Barangay Bula and various civic activities.
He said the highlights of the feast will begin on Saturday with an inland procession of the Señor Sto. Niño in parts of the parish and the neighboring areas.
On Sunday, the feast day, the activities will begin with the traditional mass at 5 a.m. followed by the fluvial procession, he said.
Granfon said an amphibian will carry the image of the Señor Sto. Niño de Bula to the shores of Purok 5, where it will be transferred to a carrier boat — the F/B San Felipe 8 — owned by the NH Agro Industrial Inc.
The procession will last about an hour and will pass through portions of the Sarangani Bay all the way to the city fishport complex in Barangay Tambler, and end at the Queen Tuna Park near the city center, he said.
He said another procession will accompany the return of the image to the parish church, where 10 more masses are scheduled until 10 p.m.
Fishing magnate Marfenio Tan, chair of the fluvial procession committee, said they have set the necessary measures to ensure that the festivity will be smooth, safe and secure.
He said they required all participants in the sea procession to wear life vests in its entire duration.
Unlike in the previous years, he said they have banned the use of fireworks during the procession for safety considerations.
In terms of security, Sr. Supt. Maximo Layugan, city police director, said they will maximize the deployment of their personnel at the festival venues.
He said the Police Regional Office-12 has assigned additional personnel in the area for the festivities.
The official said teams from the barangays, city government, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, maritime police and the Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan will augment the security operations.
Now on its 39th year, the feast of the Señor Sto. Niño de Bula is supported by local tuna fishing companies, a number of which are originated and based in Barangay Bula.
Industry players and fishermen believe their devotion to the Señor Sto. Niño has brought blessings to their operations. (MindaNews)