THE Philippines is known for its festivals, with three of the biggest celebrated in this month of January – the Ati-atihan of Kalibo, Aklan, the Sinulog of Cebu City, and the Dinagyang of Iloilo City, all in honor of the Sto. Niño.
The Ati-atihan is one of the oldest festivals in the country. It celebrates the coming of ten datus led by Datu Puti and their people from Kalimantan, Borneo, in the 13th century to Panay island, where they were welcomed by dark-skinned Atis led by Ati Marikudo. Together the highland Atis and the lowland Marayons came to celebrate good harvests with street dancing. After the Spaniards came in the 16th century, the festival became a homage to the Santo Niño.
The Sinulog Festival of Cebu City celebrates the coming of Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu in 1521 and the baptism of 800 natives led by Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana, who was given a Santo Niño. Centuries later, in 1967, an Augustinian priest introduced the devotion to the Sto. Niño to the parish of San Jose in Iloilo after observing the Ati-Atihan in Aklan. The following year, a replica of the original Sto. Niño of Cebu was brought to Iloilo as a gift to the parish of San Jose.
As the people of the Visayas celebrate the Ati-atihan, the Sinulog, and the Dinagyang, many other towns and cities in the Philippines pay their own homage to the Santo Niño. A week after the mammoth procession of the Black Nazarene to the Quiapo Church in Manila, Tondo celebrated its own Santo Niño feast. Malolos, Bulacan, has its Santo Niño de Malolos Festival, and way down south in Mindanao, the people of Butuan City in Agusan del Norte also pay homage to the Christ Child.
And this is only in January. In all the succeeding months of the year, fiestas of all kinds honoring various saints will be held all over the country. Next month, February, one of the biggest will be held in Baguio City, the Panagbenga – a “season of blooming” – which celebrates the flowers of this summer capital of the Philippines.
We are hosting this year’s Miss Universe pageant, with beauties from around the world visiting various attractions in our country preparatory to the coronation night at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City on January 30. Twenty of the international beauties were in Vigan City in Ilocos Sur where the world saw them wearing the beautiful Philippine terno as they walked along historic Calle Crisologo.
In the last few months, we and the rest of the world have seen our nation grimly going after the drug menace in our country. We have asserted our territorial claims and our independent stance on international issues. We have now shown the world our other face as a nation that is devoted to its saints, loves its festivals and its fiestas, and is determined to celebrate them with joy as much as piety and devotion.