Sinulog choreographer thanks Sto. Niño for blessings

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NINE years ago, a late afternoon fire destroyed the dance studio of award-winning choreographer Val Sandiego.

The fire happened just two days before he and his famous Sandiego Dance Troupe were scheduled to dance in the annual Sinulog Mardi Gras.

Along with their dancers’ costumes and props, more than a hundred of the Sandiego family’s antique Sto. Niño icons were destroyed in the blaze.


Sandiego, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu yesterday, recalled how he saved two Sto. Niño icons while his studio was being swallowed by the flames.

On that fateful day, he was baffled why God was punishing him, despite the faith and devotion he and his family had shown.

“Pinakagrabe gyud to (That was the worst). It was really a test of faith for us,” said Sandiego.

“It was the only Sinulog that na-feel namo nga gihuboan gyud mi,” he added, referring to the aftermath of the fire, when they opted to perform with no props and costumes, but only wearing white shirts and jeans.

Almost a decade after the incident, Sandiego still remembers the fire as though it only happened yesterday and the tremendous effect it had on their lives.


Sandiego has not replaced the Sto. Niño icons lost in the fire, as most of them were rare.

Out of a hundred antique icons, only seven were left, including the two icons that Sandiego personally saved.

One of the icons he saved was a 300-year-old wooden statue of the Sto. Niño, which resembled the original icon found in the Basilica del Sto. Niño de Cebu.

The icons, mostly antiques dating back to the late 1600s, are worth millions of pesos.

But Sandiego said he no longer collects antique icons, as he felt that being a collector of the Sto. Niño icons was not a form of devotion to the Child Jesus.

He still dedicates his time, though, in exhibiting his remaining icons, especially in his ancestral house in Barangay Parian and some museums in Cebu.

After the fire and the several trials they encountered over the years, the family has been inspired to devote more to the Sto. Niño through their constant participation in the Sinulog grand parade as guest dancers, Sandiego said.

Power of dance

He said their dancing is a form of prayer and sacrifice to the Child Jesus, he credits this for the many “miracles” that happened to his family and his dancers.

He said some of their dancers who suffered the worst of illnesses such as cancer and leukemia were “miraculously healed” by the power of dance.

Sandiego believes that the Sto. Niño was working his miracles through the dances they offer to him.

For this year’s Sinulog, Sandiego hopes their dancing would give him and his family good health and blessings for the succeeding years.

One thing he learned of giving oneself to the Sto. Niño is that the Child Jesus has ways of telling the faithful that he is always there for them.

He recalled that a day after the fire, he was surprised that many people called him to offer help by providing sponsorships, financial aid and even offered costumes so they can perform in full regalia during the Sinulog parade.

When he saw the outpouring of support, Sandiego felt as though the Child Jesus was tickling him all over.

“Bisag gi-testingan ka niya, ang Sto. Niño mokalit ra sad nag pangitik nimo para mupakatawa bisag nagkalisud na ka. Mura gyud siya og bata (Even when testing your faith, the Sto. Niño would suddenly tickle you to make you laugh even during hardship.

He truly is like a child),” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 11, 2011.

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