Sunday, January 09, 2011

Filipinos celebrate 107th Sto. Niño feast

BASEY, Philippines (January 9, 2011) -- Eucharistic celebrations, street dancing festivals, colorful parades, fluvial processions, and other festive commemorative rites will be held in this municipality and in many parts of the country in celebration of the Feast of the Sto. Niño, every third Sunday of January, the month of the Holy Child.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines sets the Holy Child as “an example of humility and as a celebration of the Incarnation of Christ.” The church has approved special liturgical texts for the Feast of the Child Jesus.

Cities and provinces in the country such as in Cagayan de Oro, Romblon, Bulacan, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Butuan, Antique, Iloilo, Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur, Cebu, Tacloban (in the month of June) and in other parts of the country where every Filipino home keeps an image of the Sto. Niño in their altars will once again hold commemorative rites starting next week.

In the town of Basey, a small fishing town in the southern part of Samar, crowds of devotees traditionally attend the daily novenas and concelebrated holy masses at the St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church starting from January 14 to January 24, this year.

The Hermanos Mayores for this year’s celebration – the brothers Theo Prudencio Juhani, Leo Angelo and Joseph Mari Zeta Capeding – prepared a thanksgiving activity in honor of the Child Jesus.

“Today in this celebration, I and my younger brothers, want to give back what our family has so generously received from Him – we want to share it with God’s favorite - the children,” Theo Juhani said in his invitation distributed to the town folks.

With the theme, “A Celebration of Thanksgiving,” a solemn fluvial procession bearing the image of the Child Jesus, and to be followed by devotees carrying an image of the Sto. Nino will make a round around the seas of this locality.

Other activities prepared in the celebration includes short film showing, musical concert, video presentation, live magical presentations, Sinulog-inspired street dancing and distribution of 107 gift bags symbolizing the 107th Feast of Sto. Niño celebration.

“We pray for everyone’s safety and happiness in their hearts and a continuing devotion to our Señor Sto. Niño, for it was He who prescribed: ‘Honor me and I shall protect you’,” the Hermano said. The people in Basey celebrate the feast in two occasions. The first is every January and the second is on every month of June during the “Balyuan Rites” with Tacloban City, celebrating its patron saint Sto. Nino.

According to a local historian, Balyuan rites is a yearly commemorative re-enactment, done every 29th of June (now every 20th) since it was reintroduced and revived by then First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos in 1975. It serves to remind the people of Tacloban that their city was once only a sitio of barrio Buscada of Basey, Samar, and that the sitio, then known as Kankabatok, borrowed the image of the Sto. Niño, which was in the possession of its owner, a businessman from Luzon who became progressive for working closely with the people of Buscada and for revering the Santo Niño which is the patron saint of Buscada during the barrio fiesta every January.

It is said that “the original icon of Buscada’s Holy Child Jesus Christ was small, and so, to show his gratitude to the Buscadan-ons and his imbibed and adopted faith in their patron saint, he caused the carving of a much bigger icon. Tacloban being a sitio of Buscada, most of whose original natives came from Basey, its inhabitants also adopted their own Santo Niño icon as they assigned Santo Niño as also their patron saint. Because Tacloban became bigger and more progressive than Buscada and Basey in a sense, the Roman catholic brotherhood of Tacloban decided to borrow the bigger icon in Buscada for their celebration of their fiesta.”

The “borrowing” gesture was then entered into the records and in the books as mere exchange (balyuan = bal-yu-an) in 1975 and every year thereafter.