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15 December 2020, CEBU CITY– The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the source of income of the candle vendors, photographers and candle workers in the Basilica del Santo Niño in Cebu City.

With the prolonged lockdown imposed by the government, many of the vendors and workers lost their meager source of income from daily sales and wages.

To respond to this need, the Philippine Augustinians Development Office (PADO) conceptualized an alternative livelihood for the candle vendors and photographers who are members of the Basilica United Candle Vendors and Photographers Association (BUVPA) and production workers of the Candle House affected by the recent crisis.

This project is something that will not take them far from the basilica, something novel that maximizes their selling experience while at the same time imbibing them with newly acquired skills. The venture that emerged is a souvenir shop within the basilica compound that offers customized souvenir items related to the historical significance of the place.

The project’s name is RISING UP TOGETHER with the shop aptly named, “Souvenir Shop Niño”.

PADO’s resource generation programs– Santa Monica Credit Cooperative (SMCC) and Santo Niño Publishing House (SNPH) spearheaded the conceptualization, development, trainings and initial operations of the project. This project is a joint effort of both SMCC and SNPH with SMCC promoting cooperative membership to beneficiaries and management systems, while SNPH provides skills trainings and technical support to printing needs. Thus, the shop is a collaboration of the different Augustinian institutions converged by PADO, i.e. Colegio del Santo Niño (CSN), Basilica del Santo Niño (BSN) and Santo Niño Candle House (SNCH).

Last December 15, 2020 the Souvenir Shop Niño was officially launched at the CSN campus waiting area (temporary store space) while the store’s identified location beside the candle area of the basilica is still being prepared for the construction of the shop scheduled early next year.

The launch was graced by Fr. Jose Rene C. Delariarte, OSA, Fr. John Paul S. Mabanta, OSA together with staff members; PADO staff, Fr. Leonard B. Realiza, OSA and staff; CSN Director, Fr. Vicente F. Amplayo, OSA; Fr. Raul A. Cabugao, OSA; Justice and Peace Commission Head and SNAF Director, Fr. Aladdin P. Luzon, OSA and staff; Basilica Rector, Fr. Pacifico C. Nohara, OSA; and, BUVPA President, Mr. Dante R. Tapdasan and member-beneficiaries including workers from SNCH dubbed as Sales Agents of the “Souvenir Shop Niño”.

Messages of welcome and inspiration were delivered and ribbon-cutting was done led by Fr. Jose Rene C. Delariarte, OSA on behalf of the Prior Provincial, Fr. Andres D. Rivera, Jr., OSA. He was joined by guest friars: Fr. Leonard B. Realiza, OSA, Fr. Aladdin P. Luzon, OSA, Fr. Vicente F. Amplayo, OSA and Fr. Raul A. Cabugao, OSA.

In their inspirational messages, the friars congratulated immensely the BUVPA members who successfully finished the pre-deployment skills trainings and exhorted them in getting involved to this enterprise that seeks to alleviate the effects of the pandemic in their livelihood. The program ended with a “Sinulog” dance number by the BUVPA sales agents who grooved gracefully to the very familiar beat. (Carmelita M. Egot, PADO Asst. Executive Director).

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