Santo Niño Fes­ti­vals in the Visayas

The Freeman - - LIFESTYLE - By Alexan­dra Ver­gara, USJR BA Com­mu­ni­ca­tion In­tern

Philip­pine fes­ti­vals are mag­nif­i­cent in­fu­sions of col­ors, rhythms and his­to­ries. These are huge cul­tural cel­e­bra­tions that at­tract both for­eign and lo­cal visi­tors, of­ten an­chored on re­li­gious tra­di­tion. A good ex­am­ple is the fes­ti­vals ex­press­ing de­vo­tion to the Señor Santo Niño or the Holy Child, whose feast month is Jan­uary.

The Santo Niño is the most rec­og­niz­able and widely ven­er­ated re­li­gious im­age. It is the old­est too, said to have been brought to the coun­try in 1521. Many ar­eas in the coun­try cel­e­brate the feast of the Niño, but peo­ple in the Visayas hold the grand­est and big­gest Santo Niño fes­ti­vals.

Sin­u­log of Cebu City.

From the elab­o­rately col­or­ful cos­tumes of fes­ti­val dancers to the rhythms of drum­beats, gongs and trum­pets, the Sin­u­log never ceases to keep the au­di­ence in awe, year af­ter year. The foot­work of the rit­ual dance mim­ics the move­ment of the wa­ter cur­rent, ac­cen­tu­ated by chants of “Pit Señor!” by the dancers.

The Santo Niño im­age of Cebu came as a bap­tismal gift to Queen Juana from Por­tuguese nav­i­ga­tor Fer­di­nand Magellan. The na­tive queen was bap­tized into the Chris­tian faith to­gether with her spouse Ra­jah Hum­abon and 800 of their tribes­men. Queen Juana re­port­edly danced the Sin­u­log with the Santo Niño in her arms to bless peo­ple who were ill.

Ati-Ati­han of Kal­ibo, Ak­lan.

It is an­other col­or­ful fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing the Santo Niño where peo­ple dance to the sound of metal or stones on bot­tles. Par­tic­i­pants paint their faces and bod­ies in black soot and wear brightly col­ored and elab­o­rate cos­tumes.

Ati-Ati­han means “to be like the Atis.” Atis are in­dige­nous in­hab­i­tants of the is­land who have dis­tinctly dark skin and kinky hair. A long time ago, peo­ple from Bor­neo came to set­tle on the is­land. The Atis bartered their lands with goods brought in by the im­mi­grants. To sig­nify long- last­ing friend­ship, the light-skinned Borneans painted them­selves black to be like the Atis. When the Spa­niards came to Chris­tian­ize the is­land, the Santo Niño be­came an im­por­tant el­e­ment of the new faith and has since been the cen­ter of the na­tives’ re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tions.

Di­nagyang of Iloilo City.

It is Iloilo City’s take on the Ati-Ati­han. “Di­nagyang” is Ilonggo for mer­ry­mak­ing or rev­elry. Di­nagyang cel­e­brants paint them­selves black with col­or­ful tat­toos much like in the Ati-Ati­han and street danc­ing is also an im­por­tant part of the fes­tiv­i­ties.

The fes­ti­val started when a replica of the Santo Niño ar­rived at San Jose Par­ish Church. Devo­tees flocked and cel­e­bra­tions be­fore were con­fined in­side the par­ish. To­day, it is the Iloilo’s grand­est fes­ti­val; both a re­li­gious and cul­tural in na­ture, cel­e­brated a week af­ter Cebu’s Sin­u­log and Kal­ibo’s Ati-Ati­han.

In the midst of all the danc­ing, fun and col­or­ful fes­tiv­i­ties, these fes­ti­vals are all about thanks­giv­ing – for the di­vine guid­ance, mercy and love show­ered upon the peo­ple. These cel­e­bra­tions are all beau­ti­ful to watch and, bet­ter yet par­tic­i­pate in – a cel­e­bra­tion of faith ado­ra­tion to the Holy Child.


DI­NAGYANG (www.yu­


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