Filipino Community and Seminarians Celebrate
by Br. Peter Tynan, OSB
It looked as if it was going to be another rainy, winter day at Mount Angel Seminary. Instead it was a day filled with faith, song, and color. On January 15th over 500 people from the Filipino community in Oregon and beyond gathered at Mount Angel Seminary to celebrate one of their most beloved feasts, Santo Niño.
Preparations for the celebration began over a week earlier when Filipino seminarians held novena prayers in the Mount Angel Seminary chapel during the days leading up to the Feast of Santo Niño. When the festive day came, Fr. Ysrael Bien celebrated the Santo Niño Mass in a packed Abbey Church. The Filipino seminarians and community members who made up the choir all wore colorful Barong Tagulog shirts, the national formal wear of the Philippines.
When Fr. Bien was still a seminarian five years ago, he helped organize the first Santo Niño celebration at Mount Angel Seminary, recalled the seminarian Manolito Jaldon. Since the other national feast day of the Philippines, San Lorenzo Ruiz, celebrated on September 27th, is so early in the school calendar, Fr. Bien thought it would be good for the Filipino seminarians and community to make a special effort to celebrate Santo Niño. Since the feast occurs in the middle of the school year the seminarians would have plenty of time to plan.
After Mass, the people formed a procession and danced carrying candles, banners, and statues of the Santo Niño from the Abbey Church to Damien Center. At the Damien Center, Fr. Paperini blessed the Santo Niño statuettes brought by people. It is customary for Filipino Catholics to keep a Santo Niño in their homes. Then all enjoyed a potluck dinner comprised of native Filipino food.
While the people were feasting they were entertained with songs and dances performed on stage. One of the dances was the popular Tinikling Dance. It involved two people widening and narrowing two poles while two others danced between the poles trying not to get caught. After a young couple flawlessly performed the dance, there was a call volunteers. The volunteer dancers varied in their efforts to avoid being trapped by the poles, but they all enjoyed themselves.
According the MAS Filipinos Community blog (mas-filipinos.blogspot.com), the Feast of Santo Niño marks the arrival of the Christian faith into the Philippines. Nearly 500 years ago the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu, the leading city of the southern Philippine Islands. He shortly formed an alliance with its royal family. This alliance led to the royal family’s conversion to Christianity and their acceptance of Christian names, King Carlos and Queen Juana. As a symbol of this alliance, Magellan gave Queen Juana a statue of the Santo Niño, the holy child Jesus.
The Santo Niño statue given to Queen Juana was nearly destroyed in a later conflict between the Spanish and the Cebu people. When the Santo Niño was found untouched in the ruins, the people, Spanish and Filipino alike, saw it as a sign from God. Together they built the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. This feast is in commemoration of these events and a time of thanksgiving by the Filipino people for the Christian faith.
Seminarian E. J. Resinto tells of how in his Hawaiian-Filipino community the celebration of Santo Niño begins with a 9-day novena involving special prayers at local parishes. On the 9th day of the novena the community gathers for a Mass of celebration. After Mass the people form a procession called Sinulog. It reenacts Queen Juana’s procession of the Santo Niño statue into Cebu. The Sinulog procession ends at a place where the people hold a festival of thanksgiving.
Minda Kaskinen ready for the Sinulog procession.
Queen Juana carries the Santo Nino in he Sinulog.