Pit Senyor! That is what everyone greets you with during the Sinulog. This celebration is in honour of the Infant Jesus and takes place during the third Sunday of January each year. People dance on the streets with a rhythm that is two steps forward and one step back, a dance believed to have been danced by the pagans even before the country was colonised by Spain.
Image of the Santo Nino
The Philippines is predominantly Catholic. We therefore have a lot of celebrations (fiestas) that honour different saints and the members of the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph). When the Spaniards discovered the Philippines, they came to a land of pagans. The first Spaniards were led by Portuguese explorer and navigator Ferdinand Magellan. They landed in Cebu on April 7, 1521 and brought with them among others an image of the Infant Jesus. A cross was also planted and to this day can still be seen. Aptly called Magellan’s cross, it stands right across the Sto Nino Church in Cebu. The image was given as gift to the Hara Amihan, the wife of the ruler of Cebu, Rajah Humabon. It was their duty to then King Felipe of Spain to spread Catholicism. About 800 persons were baptised that day in Cebu. The country was said to be named after King Felipe of Spain, Islas Filipinas.
Lapu-lapu Monument on the Island of Mactan, Philippines
27 days later, Magellan and his men had a bloody encounter with muslim ruler of neighbouring island Mactan, Rahah Lapu-lapu. Ferdinand Magellan died, but some of his men were able to get back to Spain to report what had happened. It took Spain 44 years before they sent back another explorer, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. His men rampaged through the island and burned and destroyed the villages which were then headed by Rajah Tupas.
Basilica del Santo Nino
After the destruction, the men of Legazpi went around to check any survivors and militants. In of the huts, the saw an unscathed statue of the Infant Jesus. Like all other Spanish expeditions, there were always friars, and this one were accompanied by Augustinian friars who claimed the statue holy and called it the Santo Nino. A church was then built on the site were the image was found. Being Augustinians, the church was named San Augustin. Later, it was renamed to Basilica Minore del Santo Nino.
Throughout the years the followed, the Santo Nino was revered not only by the people of the Island of Cebu, but also by the rest of the Philippines. Every Friday, there are several masses held with novenas to the Santo Nino. There is such a huge crowd during Fridays and it doesn’t stop the followers to visit. I have been to this church countless times and whenever I am there, I can feel the energy of thousands of devotees.
Grand Mardi Gras of Sinulog
In 1980, the first ever Sinulog parade was organised by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development, headed at that time by David S Odilao Jr. It has since grown through the years attracting millions of devotees from the Philippines, Asia, and the rest of the world. This is the country’s Mardi Gras which is in honour of the Santo Nino. Like any other Mardi Gras, the event is colourful and the costumes very bright. Common thing is that each group who joins the parade has an image of the Santo Nino with them.
Cebu has a lot of beaches
After a full day of dancing and inching your way through the crowds, it is good to know that the beaches are not far. And there are plenty of them. So just cool down and head back to one of the many beaches of Cebu.
Pit Senyor! Viva Santo Nino.
Are you based in Norway and would like to have a group tour to the Sinulog next time? Please feel free to request for a quote.