Every third Sunday of January, the Sto. Niño Festival is celebrated in Tondo, Pandacan, Aklan, Cebu, and other shrines where the cult of the Holy Child is intense.
In San Mateo Rizal, the people from each barangay show their devotion to the Sto. Niño through a grand procession consisting mainly of devotees, revelers, tribal bands, and privately-owned images of Holy Child, all dressed lavishly on their respective carrozas.
The programme for the 34th Sto. Niño Festival of the Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu indicated fifty one images of the Holy Child to participate in the grand procession. But this count did not include the hundreds of Sto. Niño images held on pedicabs, tricycles, and those individually hand-carried by devotees.
The image of the Sto. Niño that arrived in the Philippines with Ferdinand Magellan, that was recovered, and re-enthroned by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi is the oldest Christian image in the country. The Sto. Niño de Cebu is believed to have been carved in Flanders in the 15th of century and was presented by Pigafetta to the converted Queen Juana.
Since then, the devotion to the Holy Child has been fervent in the Visayas, where the cult ranges in the form Sinulog Dance in Cebu and the Ati-atihan Festival in Aklan. In Manila, the famous Sto. Niño de Tondo is the oldest. The highlight of the fiesta in Tondo is when the 400 year-old image of the Holy Child embarks on a pagoda for a fluvial procession, escorted by decorated fishing boats.
Equally popular among devotees is the Sto. Niño de Pandacan. This image of the Holy Child is believed to be of Mexican origin, being as darkly Aztec in feature as the Quiapo Nazareno and the Virgin of Antipolo. And like those in Cebu, Aklan, and Tondo, it’s fiesta is also known for its street-dancing crowd.
In San Mateo Rizal, like its counterparts across the country, the Sto. Niño Festival has the element of that mardi gras-type street dancing to the beat of tribal drums. But the highlight of this religious event is the grand procession of various Sto. Niño images. The different Sto. Niño images were dressed and held symbols appropriate to the title they represent.
Each carroza carrying the image are accompanied by a merry crowd, mostly youth groups and fraternities organized by the barangay. Each barangay are identified by a estandartes or banners. Uniforms are given away to procession participants, usually t-shirt donated by benefactors, printed with the name of the barangay or fraternity and with words Viva Sto. Niño! and the image of the Holy Child.
From the sidelines of the procession route, numerous privately-owned images of the Sto. Niño were held up reverently from crowd. It was an awesome and overwhelming sight to see images of the Holy Child in different sizes, colors, and costumes.
Feast of the Sto. Niño
16 January 2011
Click the link below to view TOF photos of the Sto. Nino Festival in San Mateo selected for GMA News 24Oras: