In Cebu, the holiday season doesn’t end with celebrating the beginning of a new year. It stretches throughout the whole month of January for the annual Sinulog Festival, a celebration in honor of Cebu’s patron saint, Señor Santo Niño. It’s known for the colorfully-themed dancing and street parade, and is something that’s inherently Cebuano. But, did you know that in other parts of the Visayas, Sinulog is also widely celebrated?
Aside from Cebu, there are two places that celebrate Sinulog with their own touch of culture. These festivals are Aklan’s Ati-atihan Festival and Ilo-ilo City’s Dinagyang Festival. Let’s take a look at how these two celebrate the Sinulog in their own ways.
Ati-atihan Festival of Aklan, Panay Island
Although Cebu is widely known for its grander take of Sinulog, Kalibo-Aklan’s Ati-atihan Festival is said to be have inspired the Sinulog, and is dubbed as the “Mother of All Philippine Festivities”.
A version of its legend tells the story of an unnamed fisherman of Barangay Naile in the western part of the province who went to fish at the river, but he caught a piece of wood instead of fish. He tried to throw the piece of wood away, but it returned repeatedly to his net. He decided to bring the wood and used it as fuel to cook his meals. As the fisherman and his wife slept, they heard a beating sound nearby. When they looked where the sound came from, they found the wood with a carving of a child.
Seeing this, the fishermen decided to put it at their altar. The family received blessings from there, including bountiful catches. A few weeks went by and the fisherman decided to ask a priest for advice, and the priest told him to place the wood at the Ibajay Parish. Several days later, the residents wondered why the piece of wood always disappear and repeatedly found on top of the fisherman’s house. The residents of Ibajay interpreted this incident as a call for them to seek forgiveness of their sins, and part of their penance is to blacken their faces and body with coal and to dress in rags. After doing this, the wood no longer left the parish.
In June 11, 1871, a Kalibo priest signed a testament with businessmen in town to institutionalize the holding of the annual Kalibo Santo Nino Ati-atihan Festival. During those times, the tradition of its revelry was held every noon as a sign of penance while dancing in the streets. The National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) named the Kalibo Santo Niño Ati-atihan Festival as “The Mother of Philippine Festivals.”
Now, the phrase “Hala Bira! Pwera Pasma!” is associated with the Sto. Nino Ati-Atihan Festival as the revelers and devotees of some painted in coal, dancing to the beat of the drums while carrying their variations of baby Jesus statues. Festivities happen all over the town from morning to the wee hours of the next morning, rain or shine.
Dinagyang Festival of Ilo-ilo City
The word “dinagyang” was coined by Ilonggo writer and broadcaster Pacifico Sudario in 1977, and means “merry making”. It’s Ilo-ilo’s version of the Ati-atihan Festival. Started in 1968, a replica of the original image of the Santo Nino from Cebu was brought to Ilo-ilo by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez of Cebu as a gift to the Parish of San Jose, accompanied with several Cebuano devotees and received by the Ilonggos at the Mandurriao Airport.
The festival had 4 participating tribes then, but as the celebrations improved through the years, the number of groups and tribes participating increased as well. Like the Aklan celebration, the audience are encouraged to dance with the parade and join the participants, giving them room to forget their frustrations and bind faith with the Santo Nino.
It was also in 1977 where the government ordered the various regions of the Philippines to come up with festivals that could boost the tourism and development. Ilo-ilo CIty readily adapted Ati-atihan as its project as its festival reflects the Illonggo’s artistry, craftsmanship and creativity through their dances and costumes.
Since the 16th century, the great devotion to the Santo Niño in the Philippines had spread through the Visayas. Many people make their yearly journey to churches to join the procession and festivals, and this signifies the rejection of former animist beliefs. It transcends generation and it has improved the socio-cultural aspect of the region. There’s no topping the grandest festival called Sinulog.
The Uncommon Traditions that Mexicans and Filipinos share when celebrating the Day of the Dead.
Dia de los Muertos
By Allain Dumon Fonte
The 2nd of November is All Soul’s Day, a holiday that is very important to many Filipinos to remember our loved ones who passed on. This is also widely celebrated in Mexico as “Dia De los Muertos” or in English, “The Day of the Dead”. And Mexicans celebrate the 2nd of November grander than they celebrate Christmas. Well, you can witness it from the Disney movie, “Coco”.
As All Soul’s Day or Dia de los Muertos is about to end, here are some interesting traditions and superstitions that Filipinos and Mexicans share:
1. IT IS NOT ON THE 31st OF OCTOBER
Dia de los Muertos or All Soul’s Day is not practiced on October 31st or on the Hallow’s Eve as many other western cultures practice; but we celebrate it on the 2nd of November. We celebrate November 1st as All Saint’s Day or the Day of the Holy, while in Mexico they call it Dia de los Innocentes or Dia de los Angelitos to commemorate the children who died too early in life.
2. THE RITUAL
Both in Mexico and in the Philippines, we visit the grave of our loved ones and we clean it well. This is a ritual to honour their resting places and to let them know that they are never forgotten.
3. FLOWERS INVITE SPIRITS
In Mexico, they believe that the scent of flowers attract spirits. So the flower offerings are invitation to their dead loved ones to visit the living families. While in the Philippines, we believe that flowers offered to the dead exalt the souls and somehow fill in the sadness that we feel when missing our dead loved ones.
Most of the time, Filipinos choose all-white flowers to offer because white is the absence of colour, which means the absence of Joy and happiness. White also symbolises purity of soul which we hope our dead loved ones will attain as they journey to heaven. While in Mexico, they have the yellow Mexican marigolds as the official flowers of the dead that will guide them in their journey to the afterlife.
4. THE LEGEND OF THE MONARCH BUTTERFLIES
Both cultures believe that monarch butterflies are dead loved ones who visit us and show their appreciation that we have not forgotten them. A presence of monarch butterflies also means that our dead loved ones are always there guiding us and looking after us.
5. A PICNIC IN THE GRAVEYARD
Spending a night at the graveyard and picnicking with the rest of the family may sound very creepy to many; but to both Filipino and Mexican cultures, picnicking and spending a night at the cemetery is a must to show our love to our dearly departed. It is the only time in the year that families gather and tell stories of the dead loved ones and how colourful or how great their lives were.
6. FOOD FOR THE DEAD
In Mexico, they have what they call “ofrendas” or an altar where the pictures of their dead loved ones are displayed and offered with flowers, candles, and their favourite food. Very similar to the Filipino culture of cooking the favourite food of our dead loved ones and everyone in the family enjoys the food for dinner.
My family tradition involves me driving all the way to Colon street and buy that famous Snow Sheen’s “pancit canton”. This is my granddad’s favourite snack. Sadly, the old Visayan Restaurant is no longer there. My late uncle and my late grandpa love their sweet ad and sour fish. We also set up an “ofrenda” on their graveyard and eat their favourite food while picnicking in the cemetery. We do not spend a night in the cemetery; but while we are picnicking there, we usually play the songs of Pilita Corrales and Susan Fuentes that my late grandpa used to listen every afternoon while enjoying his coffee, pan de sal, and pancit canton.
What about your family traditions? Share your thoughts by commenting to this article.
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PANDEMIC DIARIES: Twelve Months Later
Photos taken by Pablo Quiza around Cebu City during the months of March, April and May 202
AS WE APPROACH ONE YEAR under pandemic times, we look back at March 2020 with fascination. And awe. We had 12 months of lockdown and survived the so called new normal. We lived with masks and alcohol even today. Carless roads and dark malls. Those were the early days of March, April and May.
It stretched to October and past Christmas. No Sinulog. Virtual parties on Zoom and virtual mass on You Tube and FB Live. We debated on the best meds to take if we get sick and whether to wear masks (please do!). We scampered for face shields and anti-viral sprays. Vitamins C and D and zinc. Later, we survived being swabbed and we learned the difference between a PCR and an anti-gene test. The latter cost less.
We dreaded the declarations of IATF mandated from Manila. And we got mad at the police chief who had a birthday party while his people were busy locking up everyone violating the lockdown. Most horrifying of all, we needed to produce IDs! Are you a resident of Barangay Lahug or Banilad? Are you employed and why are you still working? Everyone suffered thru endless checkpoints. Most sad of all are those using motorbikes, they seem to get the raw end of the deal since those with cars are not as scrutinized. We managed to trick the system by putting a big handwritten note in front of the car: COMPANY CAR, and zipped tru the police desks in the middle of the road. Don’t even think of travelling, by plane, boat or bus. The collection of the required documents is enough for one to get exposed to Covid.
We learned to shop online, order groceries and necessities thru delivery. We slowly moved towards cashless payments. Gcash and banks like Union Bank and China Bank with friendly apps are heroes for making life easy for most of us to spend what little cash we have to spend on Lazada or pay the VECO bill. Oh and we binged on K dramas on Netflix and You Tube, kamsaminada.
As 2021 enters, there are some good news. For those obsessed with news, you already know that 7,000 vaccines arrived last March 2 in Cebu, with more expected in the next few weeks. The death rate is not as high among those who caught this pesky virus, which tells us that doctors in the hospitals have some proven expertise in dealing with Covid. More cures should be in the horizon.
Meanwhile, lets continue dreaming of the day when we can cross borders again, even if its just Bohol or Boracay, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ready those luggages and bags bought during the 3/3 sale in Shopee in preparation for the day when we can take the ferry or the plane for new adventures.