THOUSANDS of revelers once again flocked to the "Rising City of the South" to be part of one of the most must-visit festivities in Negros Occidental and experience the Kabankalanons' living devotion to the Holy Child.

Themed "Senior Sto. Niño, ang Aton Ubay Padulong sa Padayon nga Kauswagan, Kalipay kag Katawhayan," the 10-day Sinulog sa Kabankalan Festival yesterday capped in a meaningful celebration of thanksgiving and faith.

Now on its 42nd year, Sinulog Festival has been a testament of how Kabankalanons look back and value history while they aspire for a better future.

Mayor Isidro Zayco, at the sidelines of the festivity, said the focus of this year's festivity is on its religious aspect.

It can be recalled that during the early days, coastal villages were vulnerable to raids by Moro pirates.

Kabankalons and people from neighboring localities believed that the child Jesus saved their ancestors from the attacks of pirates. Since then, they come together in a celebration honoring Sto. Niño.

"We are forever grateful to Sto. Niño for the blessings He has given to the people of Kabankalan," Zayco said.

The mayor added that they continue to pray that Kabankalanons will be spared from danger and calamities.

Highlighting the annual festivity is the street and arena dance competition.

Clad in colorful costumes and dancing with images of Sto. Niño, this segment of the festival mirrors the dynamic faith of every Kabankalanon.

Dancing to the tribal music and beat of the drums, seven tribes competed for this year's Grand Tribal Competition.

Witnessed by both local and foreign visitors at the jam-packed public plaza, the dancers showcased the rich history and culture of Kabankalan City.

Tribu Gurang of Barangay Tapi won as champion. Tribu Atiklan of Barangay Binicuil was first runner-up followed by Tribu Lasang of Barangay Magballo and Tribu Tumandok of Barangay Tagukon as second and third runners-up, respectively.

One's Sinulog sa Kabankalan Festival experience will not be complete without having "buling" on the face. It gives every reveler the excitement and the sense of belongingness to the festivity.

Kabankalons attribute this practice to a group of farm workers from Aklan, which festivity is known as Ati-Atihan Festival also in honor of Senior Sto. Niño. 

The black marks on the face depict an image of brave "ati" warriors whom like the people of the city, strong enough to overcome the challenges and fight for the glory of Kabankalan. Their chanting of "Viva Senior Sto. Niño" is a reflection of their living devotion to child Jesus.

(Photos courtesy of Kabankalan City Tourism Office)