By Marivir R. Montebon
I can hear the frenzied beating of the drums of the Sinulog dance. And I can see the animated foot dances of devotees and plain merry makers of one of the the biggest religious festival of my country which happens to take place in Cebu.
Here I go again, waxing sentimental.
Every third Sunday of January, the feast of the Child Jesus, whom we call Sto. Nino de Cebu, is celebrated by Cebuanos in hometown Cebu and by Filipino immigrant groups in many parts of the world.
Dubbed as the Sinulog, the festival is named after a dance prayer, “sinulog” which is being offered by devotees to the Child Jesus, as a form of thanksgiving and petition seeking. On the social realm, it is hugely religious and yes, hugely commercial. Cebu attracts so many tourists, including natives who are living and working abroad, to come home in time for this festivity.
As a matter of profession, I have covered the Sinulog celebrations since my heydays at The Freeman Newspaper, the oldest running community paper in the Philippines. Although it is the same old process of the fluvial parade, Catholic procession, and mardi gras for an entire weekend, each year is distinctively beautiful, hence, an event to look forward to.
Now on my 5th year here in the US, I long to be able to cover these events again. And dance to the Sinulog beat.
The Sinulog tradition in Cebu as well as the heavily celebrated home town fiestas in the Philippines is a heritage from the Spain when it imposed Catholicism for more than 300 years.
I would say it would not have been embraced fully by the natives if not for their inherent flamboyant and carefree nature. Being animistic and paganistic, the practice of the Catholic faith had seeped and blended right into the psyche of the natives. Whether the Catholic friars wanted it or not, the flourishing of a Catholic tradition rests on a subconscious psyche of animism.
Such is uniquely Filipino.
This explains further why we are naturally faithful and merry, despite the enormous social ills. As a people, our mindset is not anchored merely on the material. Our common strength is in the faith of an unseen power of a God. Or gods.
Tons of articles written by academicians, church doctors, and social behaviorists, describe the Filipinos as backward, pagan, blind, gullible. There is some grain of truth in that.
But what has this faith created? It has created resilience and perseverance, individually and collectively. It is a kind of subconscious strength of a people that must be harnessed, in an educational and ethical manner, for the personal and common good. That is how I see, otherwise we are lost.