MANILA -- January is a month-long celebration for several provinces and cities all over the country honoring the Infant Jesus.
One of the most famous of all the feasts in the country is the Sinulog Festival held annually in Cebu during the third week of January. The feast is meant to honor the historical statue of Sto. Nino de Cebu -- the relic given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of Rajah Humabon. It is also considered to be one of the oldest religious images in the Philippines.
However, the original feast date for the image was April 28 but with the approval of Pope Innocent the XIII in the 18th century, the feast was moved to the third Sunday of January to avoid conflict with the "Eastertide" or 50-day period from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.
The festival features their rich culture through street parade with participants in bright colored costumes and dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets and native gongs which became tourist attraction as time goes by.
The festival also has various competitions such as dance and beauty contest.
In Kalibo, celebration in honor of Senor Sto. Nino is through Ati-atihan which is known as the "Mother of all Festivals in Philippines."
Ati-atihan is well-known worldwide since domestic and foreign tourist flock the feast yearly for the Aklanon’s indigenous face paints, costumes and weapons accompanied by tribal dance and music during the parade along the streets in the city where they shout “Viva Kay Senor Sto. Nino.”
Dancers paint their faces and pretend to be Aetas or Negritas, They dance along the streets to the tune of a lively chant.
During the celebration, thousands of Catholic devotees from all over the country and those from abroad felt the urge to come and join in the wholesome, frolic and religious fervor of thanksgiving to the Holy Child, Sto. Niño.
The main idea of Ati-Atihan is to parade the image of Sto. Nino as thanksgiving, around the streets of the town in the rhythm of drums.
The devotees in this area celebrate the feast in a simple but sincere way of attending mass and procession with Sto. Nino being the center of everything.
Another street merrymaking in honor of the Infant Jesus is the Dinagyang Festival which is usually being held in January 20-22 each year.
The highlight of Dinagyang Festival, Iloilo’s version of Ati-atihan is when the devotees bring their images of Sto. Nino and parade it along the IloIlo river.
According to the history, the replica of the image of Señor Santo Niño was first brought from Cebu by the San Jose Parish in Iloilo City.
The celebration is participated by various tribes from the province which prepares different colorful and pompous affair such as street dancing which shows their heritage and rich culture.
In Lambunao, yearly feast honoring the Holy infant was called Binanog Festival which is held every second Sunday of January.
Binanog festival is a lively and colorful dance that shows the richness of the cities culture. It was derived from the ‘Binanog Dance’ which a courtship dance describing the movement of a bird called ‘banog.'
In the festival, the Binanog dance is well used interpreting different ways of courtship through dancing.
Feast day of Sto. Nino is also being observed in Hinirugyaw Festival in Calinog, every January 30 to February 6.
Ilonggos from Calinog shows their devotion to their patron through flooding of food and a live Sto Niño contest among boys seven years old and below.
In Kabankalan City, Sinulog (Kabankalan) Festival is being observed from January 10-16 of each year to honor the intercession of the Sto. Nino which they believe the reason they achieved success in the battle against Moro pirates in the early age.
According to the history of Kabankalan City, Filipinos who accept Christianity in the area were often attacked by Moro pirates. The people said, a small child waving a sword at the top of the church tower was seen by the pirates in the last battle which caused them to backed out and leave the area.
Another festival of the province is the Ibajay Ati-Ati Municipal Festival in the city of Cadiz where a series of procession and masses are being held from January 24-30.
The highlight of the feast is the transferring of the patron Sto. Nino from from the Ibajay Cathedral Rectory to the parish church.
Legend has it that the image would often disappear from the church, and the festival is held to persuade the Sto. Nino to stay.
Butuan and Guimaras
In Kahimunan Festival in Libertad, Butuan City and Kinaradto Festival in Buenavista, Guimaras every 16th of January, Sto. Nino is the star of their feast since it was the city’s patron.
Celebrations are through grand parade of the image, procession, masses and various competitions that mirrors their patron.
The Lakbayaw Festival in Tondo is also a major feast honoring Senor Sto. Nino every third Sunday of January.
Sto. Nino devotees in the most crowded area in Manila conducts procession, parades and masses for the infant Jesus. They usually carry the image while cheerfully dancing on the streets.
On the last day of January of each year, Sto. Nino Festival is being held in Malolos where exhibits such as procession of over 100 images of the patron is being done in the streets.
Statues of Sto. Nino in various kind of clothing such as Police Sto. Nino, Nurse Sto. Nino and basketball player Sto. Nino is the highlight of the festival which became popular tourist attraction.
The feast of the Infant Jesus started in the Philippines when a statue with an image of carved from wood and coated with paint, stood 30 centimeters tall, and wore a loose velvet garment, a gilded neck chain and a woolen red hood with a golden sphere believed as the replica of the world in the left hand, and the right hand is slightly raised in benediction was found in a pine box amid the ruins of a burnt house.
From then on they associated it with the image of Sto. Nino and was later taken out for procession. (Sunnex)