Sinulog Festival: Of families and their practices paying homage to Sto. Niño

Cebuano families share things they do as a tradition during the Fiesta Señor and Sinulog season

By: Emmariel Ares - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | January 17,2024 - 09:00 AM

Sinulog Festival: Of families and their practices paying homage to Sto. Niño. In phot is a little girl taking a picture of her parents at the Basilica.

A little girl cheerfully takes a picture of her parents during their visit to the Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño in Cebu City. | Emmariel Ares

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Through the toughest of times, faith becomes an anchor for people to remain hopeful for better days.

In the Philippines where religion plays a big role in most people’s everyday lives, it serves as the pathway for a life that is abundant and content.

Filipinos are known to be people who widely celebrate various fiestas that have turned into a mix of both religious and secular tradition over time.

READ: LOOK: Schedule of Novena Masses of Fiesta Señor 2024

Devotees, gatherings and Sinulog Festival

One of the most notable of these gatherings is the Sinulog Festival held in the country’s Queen City of the South every January.

Churchgoers from different parts of the country arrive at Cebu City to convey an attitude of devotion towards the miraculous image of Señor Sto. Niño.

Every year, thousands of devotees take the time to attend various activities like the novena masses, solemn procession, fluvial parade, and a dance showdown.

Among the crowd are families of all ages and origins hoping to celebrate the Sto. Niño’s goodness together.

READ: Devotees urged to buy Santo Niño clothed in red, not green

Buntilao Family, their Fiesta Señor and Sinulog practices

One of these groups is the Buntilao family from Talisay City, Cebu.

Sinulog Festival: Of families and their practices paying homage to Sto. Niño. In photo are the members of the Buntilao family holding their images of the Holy Child.

The Buntilao family come all way from Talisay City to attend the mass at the Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño and bringing with them images of the child Jesus. | Emmariel Ares

The matron of the family, 63-year-old Bibing, leads the family’s tradition of celebrating the festival every year.

Their preparation for the most-awaited fiesta begins months before January.

READ: Pit Senyor! Interesting facts about the Señor Sto. Niño

Sto. Ninos for Fiesta Señor, Sinulog Festival

The family owns not one but three statues of Sto. Niño, which has been in their possession for years and are kept in their own containers for safekeeping.

As the festival draws nearer, Buntilao and her children exert more effort in caring for their statues and get their clothes changed before the start of the solemn activities.

In addition to this, they get together every night to offer their prayers.

And when the time comes for the events to start, they travel around 11 kilometers to downtown Cebu City to take part in the festivities.

READ: Walk with Jesus Live Updates: Fiesta Señor 2024 Kickoff

Walk with Jesus, Sinulog Festival season

With the Sto. Niño statues dressed in crisp new clothings on their arms, Buntilao and her children attend novena masses at the Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño.

Every year, they also march along with other devotees at the crack of dawn for the Penitential Walk with Jesus.

And in the following days, the family makes sure not to miss the Solemn Foot Procession of the Venerable Image of Señor Sto. Niño.

In photo is Bibing Buntilao, who has been a devotee for many years, bringing with her a big image of the Sto. Niño.

Bibing Buntilao, who’s been a devotee for many years, is set on continuing their family’s tradition of celebrating Sinulog together in the future. | Emmariel Ares

For Buntilao, she has made it a point to enable her three children to follow this tradition of celebrating the religious aspect of the festival.

“Basta January gani, sa Sinulog, amo na gud na no gituman pirmi. Pirmi gud na namo tumanon taga tuig. Moapil mig misa, moapil mig Sinulog. Sa procession, sa Sinulog, sa novena masses, moapil mi. Kay mao nay importante kaayo namo,” she said.

(When it is already January, at the Sinulog, we have fulfilled that always. We always fulfill that every year. We join the mass, we join the Sinulog. In the procession, in the Sinulog, in the novena masses, we joined them. (This is) Because that is the one that is very important to us.)

READ: A miracle from Santo Niño: A devotee’s story

Practices and Sinulog season

Now that her children have grown up, their practices for Sinulog still remain strong.

Her two daughters, 38-year-old Anna Marie and 37-year-old Jingay, happily accompany their mother during her visits at the Basilica.

As a devotee, Buntilao considers the celebration important because there is a need for them to be thankful for the gifts of good health and fortune.

She also believes that they are guided in facing every struggles that come their way because of Señor Sto. Niño.

READ: Reminders from Basilica for the 459th Fiesta Señor

Procession and being grateful to the Holy Child

After the COVID-19 pandemic and the typhoons that hit Cebu in the previous years, Buntilao is grateful that her family is safe and complete.

Just like many of the faithful during Sinulog Festival season and the Fiesta Señor, Buntilao pays no mind to the tiredness from the long walk and burden, carrying a heavy statue during the procession.

Her excitement is unwavering every year as she is believes that enduring the exhaustion will be worth it in the end.

“Sige lang, agwanta lang na namong lakaw. Way problema kay mawala ra ang kakapoy,” she said.

(It is okay, we will just endure the walk. It is no problem to us because the tiredness will go away.)

READ: Walk with Jesus signals start of Fiesta Señor 2024: All roads lead to Basilica

Act of devotion to Sto. Nino

This year, she is looking forward to following their tradition once again as an act of devotion for Sto. Niño.

Similar to the Buntilao family’s plans, a little family from Mandaue City will also be spending their time at the Basilica with other pilgrims.

This year, Labuya and Monares will be praying to the Señor Sto. Niño for their little family to spend more joyful days together. | Emmariel Ares

This year, Labuya and Monares will be praying to the Señor Sto. Niño for their little family to spend more joyful days together. | Emmariel Ares

READ: ‘Walk with Jesus’: A photo play of event signaling start of Fiesta Senor activities

Monares, Labuya and their devotion to Sto. Niño

26-year-old Kharen Labuya and 29-year-old Ariel Monares are common law partners of five years.

Monares, a native of Leyte, took his family for a visit at the Basilica days before the start of Sinulog activities and the Sinulog Festival season.

The couple is enthusiastic for this year’s celebration as it will be the first time that their 3-year-old daughter Ayesha will be with them during the events.

Despite his busy schedule working as a pump attendant, Monares still finds a way to spend the meaningful time with his family in hopes that blessings will be coming their way.

Their plans include attending masses at the Basilica in days that they are available and to witness the Sinulog Grand Parade during the culmination of the festival on January 21.

READ: Weather during 2024 Sinulog, Fiesta Señor will be pleasant, says Pagasa

Presence of Sto. Niño

The family plans to witness both religious and cultural events that the Sinulog fiesta is famously known for around the world.

They take joy in participating in these activities because it allows them to feel the presence of the Sto. Niño through simple ways.

“Kami as a family, it’s a sort of blessing sa amo nga niduaw mi sa mahal na patron. Mogive siya sa amo og presence, enlightenment, rejoice sa among pamilya,” said Monares.

(We as a family, it’s a sort of blessing to use that we visit the beloved patron. He gives us his presence, entlightenment, and our family rejoices.)

READ: FACES OF CEBU: Danica Caballes, original voice behind ‘Daghang Salamat, O Santo Niño’

Special wish for Monares

While his girlfriend will be praying for good health and an abundance of blessings, Monares has a special wish for this year.

He previously took the engineering board examinations but was not lucky enough to pass.

Despite the disappointment he has felt, Monares is determined to try again and again until his dreams become a reality.

With the goal of providing a comfortable life to his daughter, he will be taking the exam again.

During their visit to the Basilica, the couple wished for Jesus to guide them in their journey of taking the test and nurturing their little family.

READ: Updated foot procession routes for Fiesta Señor 2024 bared

Celebrating at home

While some families enthusiastically join the gathering of other pilgrims during Sinulog, there are also those who conduct their celebrations at home.

Catherine Iwayan and her family will opt to avoid the crowd and spend their Sinulog celebration at home this year. | Emmariel Ares

Catherine Iwayan and her family will opt to avoid the crowd and spend their Sinulog celebration at home this year. | Emmariel Ares

27-year-old Catherine Iwayan, a resident of Cebu City, usually spends the joyous occasion with her partner and their two daughters at home.

To ensure the safety of her young kids, she has always decided to stay in the comforts of their home instead of going out.

As a young woman, Iwayan used to join the celebrations on the lively streets with acquaintances.

READ: Sinulog 2024: Road closures and traffic schemes

Importance of spiritual link to Sto. Niño

After becoming a mother, she now uses this time to bond with her family and teach her kids the importance of having a spiritual connection with Señor Sto. Niño.

To help them experience this, she took her mother, daughter, and nephew to visit the Basilica.

Their plans may be simple but the Iwayan family is looking forward to enjoying a small feast at home and praying together for Sinulog.

As a mother, Iwayan believes that it is critical for the youth to learn to exercise their faith especially during the widely-celebrated festival in their hometown.

With a wish of prosperity, Iwayan is excited for their own version of Sinulog celebration this year as well.

Apart from the rhythmic dances and delicious foods, Sinulog in Cebu is celebrated by locals and visitors alike by lighting candles and worshipping the child image of Jesus, Señor Sto. Niño. | Khryss Melchor Gabuya

Apart from the rhythmic dances and delicious foods, Sinulog in Cebu is celebrated by locals and visitors alike by lighting candles and worshipping the child image of Jesus, Señor Sto. Niño. | Khryss Melchor Gabuya

READ: Rama to car owners: ‘Don’t use own cars, take public transport’ during Sinulog

READ: Cebu’s Sinulog among top 3 festivals in Asia

Sinulog is popular to tourists and locals as a time for colorful presentations and a jubilant atmosphere that everyone gets to enjoy.

But beyond the glamorous costumes and grand dance showdown, it is celebrated to honor a religious devotion to Señor Sto. Niño.

Nevertheless, no matter how individuals  choose to celebrate this joyous occasion, the festival remains to be a meaningful event that brings together people from all walks of life.

Just like in previous years, thousands of pilgrims will be standing together with unified cries of “Viva Pit Señor” and “Viva Señor Santo Niño.”

Families, like the Buntilao and Iwayan, will once again be spending precious time together and embodying the devotion that is celebrated during the highly-anticipated Sinulog festival.

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TAGS: families, Fiesta Señor, practices, Sinulog Festival, Sto. Niño, tradition

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