The fiesta goes on
The Sunday after the Fiesta Señor Sunday shows how visceral the adoration of the Christ as child and king is to the life of the Cebuano.
All roads lead to Cebu City on Fiesta Señor, the third Sunday of January, but the fiesta does not quite end with the fading of the last fireworks of that day. The following Sunday, the fiesta goes to neighborhood chapels and household altars.
No, celebrating in the basilica and in the city center is not enough. The God-man is clearly welcome there, but a place is prepared for Him where we live, too, and our homely fiestas are as a prayer that states, “Stay with us, Lord.”
Take a second look at road trips slated on the fourth Sunday of January. Your plans might change, depending on whether you want to join a celebration or wish to avoid road delays.
Go northward on Cebu’s mainland and you encounter the Sinulog dancers of Carmen and Medellin towns. Go south and you meet the Christ-child’s dancing supplicants in Naga City and in the towns of Dumanjug, San Fernando, Alegria and Santander.
I do not have an exhaustive list of Cebu locales where residents celebrate the Santo Niño Jesus on this day. Coming up with an inventory is a task best left to an expert in indigenous culture or heritage. But the sight of Sinulog parades after the big celebration is a big part of our lives as islanders.
For some time in my boyhood, the family lived in coastal Barangay Mambaling in Cebu City’s south district. One Sunday post Fiesta Señor, our housekeeper took me and my sister to the wet market that was bisected by a narrow road. That day, the smell of fish was absent, the road was lined with spectators, and over and behind their heads I saw artfully made fans being twirled like majorettes’ batons and felt the excitement that drumbeats elicit in most children below 10.
The 28th of January this year was the first time we visited the Baguia hometown, Alegria in southwestern Cebu for our clan’s Fiesta Señor. According to family tradition, my father’s paternal grandfather carved our Santo Niño many years ago. Details of its creation are sketchy. In his time, great-grandfather’s household was upset when he stayed in his room and never left for several days. When he ended his do-it-yourself retreat, they found that he had finished carving a statue of the Holy Child.
I saw this statue when we arrived at the ancestral house last Saturday following a nearly four-hour ride. Cousin Glicerio had enshrined the image in the living room, in front of an old, framed poster of the Holy Infant of Prague that had its own wooden case. Cousin had decorated the little shrine with anthuriums that with their red and white hues matched the Niño’s vestments.
At about eleven o’clock in the morning, dozens of relatives and neighbors stepped inside the house for the feast day prayers. It started with the recitation of the Holy Rosary. This was followed by the singing of the “Gozos of the Santo Niño.” I was surprised by the version sung in the house. It ran three or four strophes longer than the version known and sung in the city. One stanza spoke of the power of the Holy Child in the face of drought. When townsfolk needed rain, they successfully implored heaven to send it by taking an image of the Holy Child and dipping it in the sea.
At the end of the prayers, cousin played a set of songs about the Fiesta Señor including Dandin Ranillo’s “Sinulog, isyagit og kusog” and Mike Hanopol’s “Pit Señor” to which everyone danced, but not before leaping to pick bags of crisps, sweets and other goodies that cousin had fixed to the ceiling.
Lunch followed featuring sumptuous fiesta fare including pata, caldereta, paklay, bola-bola and many other dishes.
It was a good celebration and many who came took home holy cards of the Child Jesus on which this prayer was written by a Carmelite, Father Cyril of the Mother of God upon its revelation to him long ago by the the Blessed Virgin herself:
O Infant Jesus, I have recourse to You and ask You through the intercession of Your Holy Mother to help me in my need, (state petition here), for I firmly believe that Your Divinity can help me.
I hope, in complete trust, to obtain Your holy grace. I love You with all my heart and with all the strength of my soul. I am truly sorry for all my sins, and beg You, O good Jesus, to give me strength to conquer them. I shall never offend You and I am ready to suffer rather than to cause You pain.
From now on I want to serve with complete faithfulness and for love of You, O Divine Child, I will love my neighbour as well as myself. Omnipotent Child, Lord Jesus, again I implore You, help me in this need of mine (state petition here).
Grant me the grace of possessing You eternally, with Mary and Joseph and of adoring You with the holy angels in Your heavenly court. Amen.
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