Here an Asian fan. There a statue of the Virgin Mary. Here a barong. There a cross.
Ah– the blend of religion and culture.
Ah– the blend of the Catholic religion and the Philippine culture.
Tampa Bay Filipinos gathered to celebrate the Sinulog (aka Feast of the Santo Nino) at St. Paul’s Catholic Church by performing in the pews, running around the statues of saints, dancing in the halls and eating over any flat surface.
Sinulog comes from the Cebuano word “sulog” indicating a river-like movement. After the Spaniards taught the pagan Filipino-Cebuano natives about the Santo Nino (aka baby Jesus), the Filipinos took such a devotion to Him they transformed their pagan dance moves to one that would honor the Santo Nino instead. Dancing in waves while waving flowers and personal statues of the Santo Nino, the crowd moves like a river… hence “sinulog.”
To this day, commemorating the past where the Philippines gave up its pagan ways to embrace Christianity is still a big deal. Perhaps the Sinulog hasn’t reached Superbowl status such as in the home country– but the Filipinos in Tampa still gather.
A packed mass began the celebration. Besides readings in various Philippine dialects, a quick reenactment of the Cebuanos honoring the Santo Nino took place (elaborately costumed participants wove through the aisles towards the “princess” at the front who displayed a statue of the Santo Nino) Images of the Santo Nino and His honored mother led the way for a prayerful procession around the church grounds before a free lunch is enjoyed. The church hall then invited all to dance the Sinulog before organizations also performed choreographed dances.
As a bit of a Catholic snob I did cringe a bit at the sight of my fellow Pinoys who treated the day like a free Philfest. Forget the rosary procession! Once mass ended there’s a rush of (duh who else?) teens like zombies towards the food. And don’t forget those who didn’t appear dressed to impress… impress God that is. And what’s with all the stands trying to make a personal profit? (I’ll understand if some of the profits were for donation)Plus something about performances during mass… I’ll have to look that one up.
I was disappointed the only Philippine representative of this year’s lunch was an empanada. The sticky rice, lumpia, and pancit were replaced by cookies(?) chips(?) and a turkey sandwich(?!?). At least the lack of food culture was substituted by the culture in the Sinulog dances. Besides costumes ranging from simple wraps to traditional Philippine dresses, each performance followed the accepted music and gave honor to the Santo Nino through their movements.
Despite some lack of homage-paying by some fellow Filipinos, this feast of the Santo Nino still stirred Philippine pride within me… and Catholic pride as well.