Rains fail to dampen feasts in honor of Sto. Niño in Visayas

01/16/2011 - CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines -- Thousands of devotees of the Señor Sto. Nino and revelers poured into the streets of Cebu City and Kalibo in Aklan for the 31st Sinulog Festival and the 799th Ati-Atihan Festival, both held Sunday.

It has been raining for two straight days in Cebu, but it did not dampen the fervor of thousands of devotees who flocked to the Basilica del Sto. Nino and lined up for hours just for a chance to touch and kiss the Holy Child’s image.

Throngs of revelers packed the sidewalks and streamed into the streets of Cebu City, unmindful of the rain, as they watched dancers in colorful costumes (with each contingent numbering between 50 and over a hundred), floats and higantes (giants made of paper maché) snaked through the parade route.

At least two million people poured into the streets of Cebu to watch and take part in the Sinulog Festival and about 200,000 joined the Ati-atihan in Aklan, according to crowd estimates by local police forces.

According to newly installed Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, millions of Catholics are Sto. Niño devotees because the Holy Child is the epitome of someone who needs and seeks help from other people.

“When we look at the Sto. Niño, we are reminded that as a little child, he needs the love of Joseph, Mary and the love of other people. He emphasizes he needs others. (In the same breadth), the province needs the city, the city needs the province just as provinces need each other,” said Palma.

Quoting a song, he said, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

The heavy downpour in Cebu that began at dawn drenched the dancing contingents but they still continued to perform their dance routines on the street, to the delight of the equally wet spectators.

Senior supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, the Cebu City Police Office director, estimated the crowd along the whole route at 2 million.

Buenafe said 2,000 policemen were deployed at the parade route, excluding soldiers from the different units of the military who helped in securing the event.

A 15-day gun ban was imposed in Cebu since last week. A liquor ban was also implemented along the parade route.

Movie and television personalities from rivals GMA and ABS CBN networks lent their star power to the Sinulog Festival and boarded their respective floats that took part in the parade.

In Kalibo, drum beats and the melodic sounds of lyres echoed until past midnight on Sunday as residents and tourists joined the street dancing popularly known as “sadsad,” especially around the Pastrana Park, the town''s
public plaza.

Thousands of devotees also visited the Kalibo Cathedral to pray before the child Jesus Sto. Niño and to take part in the traditional “Pahilot or Paepak,” where those seeking cure for diseases joined a healing rite of the Sto. Niño of Kalibo.

Supt. Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of the Aklan Provincial Police Office, said on Sunday that the crowd in the town’s main streets reached around 200,000. The revelers included foreign tourists, including those visiting Boracay Island and Filipinos residing in other countries.

On Saturday evening, the Magsaysay Park was the center of festivities capped by the traditional fireworks display at 11 p.m. Thousands also joined the famous “snake-dance” inside the park, which lasted until past midnight.

The festival ended on Sunday with the traditional Mass held early in the morning and the religious procession and street-dancing in the afternoon.

Western Visayas tourism regional director Edwin Trompeta said on Sunday that more groups joined the festival this year and the groups and tribes had also more members.

The Ati-Atihan Festival, considered the merriest and most fascinating of festivals held every second weekend of January, is among those held in honor of the child Jesus Senor Sto. Niño.

The festival traces its roots to a pagan ritual of Aetas in the 13th century, which was later transformed into a Christian tradition in the 18th century after a Spanish priest baptized 1,000 inhabitants of Kalibo. The name of the town is said to have been derived from “Isa ka Libo” (One Thousand), referring to the first baptized.

The festivities will shift to Iloilo City this week for the Dinagyang Festival on January 17-23, also in honor of the Sto. Niño.

Thousands of policemen, reservists and barangay peacekeeping volunteers will be deployed in Iloilo City during the festival, according to Chief Superintendent Cipriano Querol Jr., Western Visayas police director.

The Philippines National Police has also imposed a gun ban from January 17 to 23 in Iloilo City with the suspension of all permits to carry firearms outside of residence. (Inquirer.net)

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