We are now a week away from the feast of the Holy Child of Cebu, which this year will take over the third Sunday after Epiphany. The propers of the Holy Child are those of the Holy Name of Jesus. The fixing of the feast on the third Sunday of January is a holdover of the earlier arrangement of the universal calendar. The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus was traditionally celebrated on the second Sunday after Epiphany. Previously, in many places within the Spanish realm, the feast was kept on 14 or 15 January.
For some years now, we have sung the gozos with its traditional estrofas, the original text that was printed with the novena licensed by the then bishop of Cebu, Fray Martín García y Alcocer, O. F. M., in accordance with the decree of Pope Urban VIII and in conformity with received practice, on 9 November 1888—novena decorated with indulgences by former bishops of Cebu: forty days by Fray Romualdo Jimeno Ballesteros, O. P.; and another forty days by Fray Benito Romero de Madridejos, O. F. M.—in the place of the new set that is now sung.
Regarding the text, the original longer text incorporates the invention narrative of the image. Afterwards, the estrofas describe the devotion of the Cebuano people. What prompted the reform of the text, in our opinion, is the mention of the practice of ‘throwing’ the image of the Holy Child into the sea during times of drought. The First Plenary Council of the Philippines reprobated this custom.
Musically speaking (click on the thumbnail to access the sheet music), perhaps the trickiest part of this gozos is the estribillo. The modulation approaching it sometimes becomes very misleading that one needs to be attuned to the melody in order to work out how to sing the part. One ‘cheat’ to obviate the difficulty is to drop a whole step at the end of the first half of the copla, in order to sing the first note of the estribillo.
A seasoned choir singing the gozos generally will breeze through the transition to estribillo, but less fortunate but no less devout crowds, perhaps victim of the removal of decent music education in the Philippine public school system, often stumble. And so, we also provide a modified version of ours (click on the thumbnail to access the sheet music), an alternative sheet music with the aforementioned ‘cheat’, wherein we also included an English translation of the gozos. Of course, there are other techniques out there to commence the estribillo without attracting noticeable dead air. Suum cuique, whatever works for this case.
Benedictus Deus nomenque sanctum eius.
Note: The tone used in Cebu is by no means the only one that exists. Here is another tone, used for nine days in a barangay novena in honour of the Holy Child, sung with the original text of the gozos.