Published: 23 January 2019
Standing room only was the situation once again when the Filipino community of St Thomas of Villanova Parish celebrated its thirty-fourth Sto. Nino Festival on 21 January 2019 in Mareeba, Queensland, Australia.
Santo Santo Niño de Cebu, is a celebration of prayer, thanksgiving, intercession and adoration in honour of the beloved Senor Santo Niño, the King and Saviour.” The Festival traditionally commences with a nine-day Novena and cumulates with festive celebrations on the third Sunday of January.
Devotion to the Santo Niño (the Holy Infant, Jesus) in the Philippines traces back to the year 1521 with the introduction of Christianity to the Philippine nation by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.
Each province in the Philippines has developed its own way of celebrating the feast of the child Jesus, the Santo Niño. Street dancing and merrymaking mark this event. One particular regional glimpse of a Filipino festival can be seen in the central Philippines, this time in Iloilo City. The festival is called Didagyang, meaning revelry or merry-making.
The Dinagyang Festival began in 1968 when the model image of Senior Sto Nino was brought from Cebu City. Dinagyang is celebrated every fourth weekend of January to honour the Christianisation of the natives and to respect the Holy Child Jesus. On this day, streets of Iloilo City will once again come alive as the Ilonggos celebrate the annual festivity. It is a very colourful parade coupled with a dramatization in honour of the patron Saint Senor Sto. Niño as the devotees perform offerings and prayers amidst the cracking of drums and shouts of “Viva Señor Santo Niño.” The thundering of “HalaBira” by the tribe members makes the celebration a lively one. It is also a very popular tagline used by Ilonggos to express their warm participation during the “Dinagyang” celebration. This is all a tribute in honour of Señor Sto. Niño whom Ilonggos believe was miraculous in times of famine and drought.
At the annual Mass in honour of the Santo Nino at Mareeba, Australia (as mentioned in the first paragraph above), people are invited to have their family statuettes of Señor Sto. Niño blessed in the church before the congregation then joins in a procession around the church and school grounds to the grassed area where the celebrations end with a shared meal. The priest invited to lead the Señor Sto. Niño religious celebrations of 2019 was Fr Perrcival Sevare O.S.A. The Festival in January 2010 will be the thirty-fifty such annual Santo Niño celebration in Mareeba.