Wenceslao: Pre-Spanish past

THE Fiesta Señor season in Cebu is officially on, ushered in by the traditional dawn procession, or the “Walk with Jesus” last Thursday. My wife and I passed by the vicinity of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño and the usual fiesta signs were observable, like devotees filling up the sidewalk while heading for the Basilica and vehicles filling up the roads where traffic was rerouted.

By the way, the fiesta is often referred to by the clueless as the Sinulog Festival. The Sinulog Festival is but among the activities of the feast of the Child Jesus and culminates with the Sinulog Grand Parade on fiesta day. The sinulog Festival is the cultural aspect of the fiesta and is mainly handled by the Sinulog Foundation and the Cebu City Government. So its Fiesta Señor, not Sinulog Festival.

I don’t have a problem with Cebu City’s Sto. Niño fiesta celebration held every third Sunday of January and which extends the holiday atmosphere conjured by the Christmas ritual in December to January. Our veneration of the Child Jesus could be traced back during the Spanish colonial period, meaning it is deeply rooted in our religiosity. But the fiesta should not lead to the downplaying of the earlier phases of our history.

Cebu’s history did not start with the Spanish colonization of our country and with it our being drawn into Catholicism. But because we focus too much on the fiesta and the Sinulog, we tend to lose interest in what could be a more glorious part of our history, the pre-Spanish period. Cebuano history did not start with the finding of the Sto. Niño image, given by the group of Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s chieftain Humabon decades earlier.

My proposal made a few times before is for the Cebu City Government (or should it be the Cebu Provincial Government) to organize a major activity that would showcase Cebu’s pre-Spanish society. Perhaps Capitol can link up with the Lapu-Lapu City Government and come up with a bigger “Kadaugan sa Mactan” festivity. Because unlike the Fiesta Señor, which in a way celebrates our defeat to the Spaniards, the Kadaugan showcases Lapu-Lapu and the old Cebu “civilization.”

Or we can look for other high points in the pre-Spanish period of our history and play it up. Our historians can help the Capitol in the research aspect.

I think that with more data of pre-Spanish Philippine societies coming out the past few decades, it is time for us to play up that almost forgotten period of our history. We now have the materials to reconstruct that period that the Spanish colonialists attempted to obliterate from our collective psyche. The truth is, we would understand the Filipino more if we learn from our pre-Spanish past.

I know that because I too became prouder of our race when I read the works of historians like William Henry Scott, who wrote the book, “Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society.” Pre-Spanish society was peopled by a proud and independent race that considered foreigners, like the Spaniards, Chinese, English, Arabs, etc. as equals. If only we can showcase that through a festival or similar major activities that would compliment Fiesta Señor and the Sinulog.
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