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Sto. Niño prominent in many PHL festivals

January 15, 2012 9:13pm
The Holy Child Jesus is believed around the world to be a miracle worker, and devotees can be found in many places, including Spain, Mexico and Peru. In the Czech Republic, there is the Infant of Prague, a statue believed to have been brought as a wedding gift to a Spanish woman who married a Czech nobleman. In Mexico, the Holy Child has many titles, the most famous being El Santo Niño de Atocha. In Rome, there is the Santo Bambino di Ara Coeli. 
In the Philippines, the year begins with a month-long tribute to the Holy Child Jesus. All over the country, devotees to the Sto. Niño carry images in processions, offer flowers and dress the statue. The celebration peaks around the third Sunday of the month, which marks the Feast of the Sto. Niño in the Philippines.
"Reverence to Sto. Niño should be put into practice by showing respect and appreciation for life," said Fr. Conegundo Garganta of the Episcopal Commission on Youth in a news release on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines website.
Although Church officials urge devotees to focus on the spiritual aspect of these celebrations, many if not all are not only religious feasts but cultural events as well, including the famous Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, where the vibrant colors and endless sights attract visitors from all over the world.
Held annually on the third Sunday of January, the festival is a must-see dance ritual, which honors the Filipino's pagan past and embraces their Christianity. According to historical accounts, when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521, he presented a wooden Santo Niño to the wife of Rajah Humabon, Cebu's chieftain. This image became the symbol of friendship between the natives and the Spanish conquerors, who converted most of the country to Christianity.
The statue was housed in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño and San Nicholas de Tolentino church, and is brought out in a fluvial parade every year during the Sinulog, which translates to "graceful dance."
Today's activities include a grand parade, fireworks display and street party. Thousands of visitors participate in the festival, but those who can't make it to Cebu can see Sinulog 2012 via livestreaming.
The Department of Tourism lists festivals in January that honor the Sto Niño.
Kalibo, Aklan
3rd Sunday of January
Locals as well as tourists are invited to smear their faces with soot and pretend to be Aetas in this annual festivity, which is known to be a fun-filled and unforgettable experience. Benny Tirazona writes in "Whence Came Kalibo Ati-Atihan" that the history of the Ati-Atihan begins in 1212, when Borneans led by Datu Puti decided to escape from Sultan Makatunaw's tyrannical rule. They crossed the seas on boats called "baeangays," and landed in Panay Island. It was there that they settled peacefully with Ati Chieftain Marikudo. They celebrated the event by smearing themselves with soot to look like their new friends, the Aetas.
Among the Bornean settlers was Datu Bangkaya, who established Madyanos, which is known today as Kalibo, Aklan. When Fray Andres de Aguirre baptized 1,000 inhabitants of the town in 1750, the event coincided with the Ati-Atihan feast. Since then, the festival has become significant not just historically but in a religious context as well. [See: Ati-Atihan experience]
It's a day of music, street dancing and smiles at the annual Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City over the weekend. Paul Mata
Dinagyang Festival
lloilo City
January 20-22
This festival held in honor of the Sto. Niño sets itself apart with excellent folk choreography and a grand display of Ilonggo heritage and culture. According to the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. website, the festival highlights include a fluvial procession along Iloilo river, where devotees bearing images of the Sto. Niño ride on motorized bancas. Another attraction is the theatrical Kasadyahan, a cultural parade held before the next day's Ati-atihan contest. Originally a parish church festivity celebrating the feast of the Sto. Nino, the religious event has evolved to become a tourist destination as well. [See: Dinagyang Festival]
Binanog Festival
Lambunao, Iloilo
January 10-16
This festival is held yearly in honor of the Infant Jesus, but it is also a celebration of Lambunao culture. Named after the Binanog — a courtship dance based on the movements of a bird called "Banog" — the festival features this dance as well as other traditional performances. [See: Binanog Festival]
Sinulog (Kabankalan) Festival
Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental
January 10-16
Every year in Kabankalan, the townspeople commemorate their triumph against the moro pirates, which they believe was achieved through the intercession of the Sto. Niño. According to an article on the Kabankalan City website, Christian Filipinos were often attacked by moro pirates, but in the last battle, the pirates retreated and fled, much to the surprise of the town defenders. It is said that townspeople saw a small child at the top of the church tower, waving a shining sword. [See: Sinulog Festival]
Makato Sto. Niño Festival
Poblacion Makato, Aklan
January 15
A colorful event in honor of the Child Jesus, the Makato Sto. Niño Festival features several masses, a baptism, a procession and various contests, from a beauty pageant to the Ati-Atihan competition. The image of the Sto. Niño is brought around the town in a parade, as dancers perform on the street to the rhythm of live drums. [See: Makato Sto. Niño Festival]
Kahimunan Festival
Libertad, Butuan City
January 16
Not to be outdone, Butuan also has its own version of Cebu's Sinulog. The Lumad term for gathering, "Kahimunan" is an annual festival that pays homage to the city's patron, Sto. Niño. Like other festivals in the country, the celebration combines religious and folk elements. Apart from a grand parade, this year's festival features a dance showdown to be held at the City Sports Complex. [See: Kahimunan Festival]
Kinaradto Festival
Buenavista, Guimaras
January 16
Through a cultural presentation of song, dance and music, the town of Buenavista pays tribute to its past in a celebration in honor of the town's patron saint, Sto Niño.
Altavas Sto Niño Festival
Poblacion Altavas, Aklan
January 21-22
According to information on the Department of Tourism website, the Altavas Sto. Niño Festival is held annually on January 22, which was originally celebrated as Annual Thanksgiving and Armistice Day in commemoration of the end of the Filipino-American war in Altavas.
Ibajay Ati-Ati Municipal Festival
Cadiz City, Negros Occidental
January 24-30
The religious feast is a week-long celebration, where townspeople participate in various activities. Several Masses are held, and the highlight of the festival is a procession where the holy image of the Sto. Niño is transferred 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. Niño to stay. [See: Ibajay Ati-Ati Municipal Festival]
Hinirugyaw Festival
Calinog, Iloilo
January 30- February 6
In this nine-day event, Calinog shows its devotion to the Sto Niño through its nonstop celebration of food and a live Sto Niño contest among boys seven years old and below.
Sto. Niño Festival
Malolos, Bulacan
last Sunday of January
In Malolos, devotees celebrate the Child Jesus with week-long exhibits, and a month-long procession of over 100 Sto. Niño images. The vast assortment of statues of the Holy Child in different manifestations has become a popular tourist attraction. [See: Sto. Niño Festival]
Lakbayaw Festival/ Feast of the Santo Niño
Tondo, Manila
3rd Sunday of January
Originally a grand fluvial procession, the Feast of Sto. Niño de Tondo is celebrated annually in Manila's most congested area. Masses are held round the clock, and the Grand Procession parades the image of the Child Jesus through the streets filled with devotees and merrymakers celebrating the parish's Lakbayaw Festival. This year's Mass was officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle. At least 600 police personnel have been deployed to secure the festival, as past fiestas in Tondo have been marred with violence.
Dinagsa Ati-Atihan Festival
Cadiz City, Negros Occidental
January 24-30
Soot-covered revelers perform rituals from sunrise to sunset, while drummers pound out a ceaseless beat on native instruments. The Infant Jesus is carried aboard a fishing boat around the river in a fluvial parade in celebration of "Dinagsa," which suggests a sudden surge of blessings washed ashore. The festival features Cadiz produce, live bands, dancing, cultural shows and contests. This festival is best enjoyed by willing participants, as one of its traditions is the Lamhitanay, where people smear each other with brightly colored paint. - KBK, GMA News

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