ILOILO City – The Señor Santo Niño icon enshrined at the San Jose de Placer Church in Plaza Libertad left for Cebu City for a change of vestments as part of the preparations for the 2019 Dinagyang Festival.
The Santo Niño left after Friday’s (Jan. 11) Dinagyang opening salvo via boat and will be back on Jan. 16 via airplane for the start of the novena masses in his honor, according to Reverend Father Raymund Edsel Alcayaga, parish priest.
The Santo Niño of San Jose de Placer Church is a replica of the oldest Santo Niño image in the Philippines enshrined at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu.
Last year, the San Jose de Placer Church Santo Niño also had a wardrobe change for the 50th anniversary of the Dinagyang Festival, which was also the golden anniversary of the coming of the image to Iloilo.
“Upon his arrival at the Iloilo International Airport on Jan. 16, we will have a caravan with stopovers in the parishes of Cabatuan, Santa Barbara, Pavia, and University of San Agustin – Sambag campus, then off to San Jose de Placer Church,” said Alcayaga.
Dinagyang centers on the Ilonggos’ devotion to the Santo Niño. The festival started in 1968 as a purely religious event.
The celebration grew and in 1976 it was ceded to the city government.
It was also in response to the declaration of that year by then President Ferdinand Marcos as “Tourism Year”; local government units were asked to identify attractions to entice visitors.
Meanwhile, Alcayaga said they have already put in place various religious activities this 2019.
The nine-day novena mass will culminate on Jan. 25 with a fluvial procession at the Iloilo River followed by a procession.
On Jan. 16, couple Judgee and Sara Peña will be installed as hermano y hemana mayor to lead in the various undertakings of the parish.
On Jan. 17 there will be a re-enactment of the baptism of Queen Juana while on Jan. 19 there will be a coronation of the Niño Ambassador.
Thousands of children from 10 barangays surrounding the parish will partake of the feeding program and join parlor games prepared by the parish.
There will also be medical and dental missions for indigent residents of the parish.
On Jan. 24, the parish will re-enact the arrival of the image at the San Jose de Placer Church, as well as the merry-making around Plaza Libertad.
On Jan. 25, pregnant mothers, children and images of the Santo Niño will be blessed.
The Parish of San Jose de Placer wants make sure Dinagyang Festival’s religious aspect won’t be overshadowed by the festivity’s pageantry, said Alcayaga.
The Parish of San Jose de Placer is of the three organizers of the yearly event. The two others are the city government and the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. The three signed a memorandum of agreement on Oct. 8.
“We focus more on how to deepen the devotion to Señor Santo Niño,” said Alcayaga.
The festival started in 1967 when a replica of the image of the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) was brought from Cebu to the San Jose Church in Plaza Libertad.
The image, accompanied by devotees from Cebu, was enthusiastically received by the Ilonggos who danced on the streets of the city to the tune of rumbling drums.
Alcayaga said the parish formed a commission on media affairs to further promote Dinagyang’s religious aspect.
“Among others, we will come up with videos so that those who visit the parish would have a glimpse of really what is really happening during the festival,” he said.
Dinagyang is Iloilo City’s version of the Ati-atihan celebrations widely observed not only in Panay Island but also in other parts of the country. It may not be as ancient as the one in Kalibo, Aklan but it is known more for the participants’ impressive choreography and striking costumes that reflect the ingenuity, craftsmanship and artistry of the Ilonggos.
“Connecting Communities thru Culture and Faith” is the theme of the 2019 Dinagyang Festival.
Dinagyang is the Hiligaynon word for revelry or merrymaking./PN