CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Honouring the Sto. Niño at Choi Hung

HONG KONG (SE): At a Sinulog Festival held at Holy Family parish in Choi Hung on January 15, people said they felt blessed to have the opportunity to pay their respects to the Sto. Niño.

The annual festival organised by the Sto. Niño Crusaders Group is now in its fourth year and attracted entries from 10 groups in the parish that began the day with a parade from the basketball court in the parish compound to the general purpose hall.

Some, dressed as Queen Juana, held images of the Sto. Niño aloft as they danced to the haunting rhythm of the drums.

Others took the part of the ancient people of The Philippines, bearing cardboard placards and honouring the Sto. Niño with flowers, as a sign of welcome for the coming of Christianity to the shores of their land.

The parade was followed by a Sto. Niño Novena. An opening prayer was led by Sister Daisy Superable and a welcoming address was given by Arlene Villanueva, the coordinator of the Sto. Niño Crusaders.

The 10 contesting groups brought the day to a climax with their own presentations of the Sinulog, a dance depicting the history of the arrival of the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, and his Spanish ships, as well as the legends that have grown up around it.

Mary Rose Sotomayor played the part of the Queen Juana on behalf of the Disciples for Christ Group. She said she felt grateful and excited to offer the day to the Sto. Niño as a way of giving thanks.

Coming from Cebu, she said she had celebrated the festival in her hometown before, but it was the first time she had played the role of the queen.

Decked out in corn leaves, her community danced the Sto. Niño blessing bestowed upon the people of Cebu with the bringing of a terrible famine to an end with an abundant harvest.

The Love of God Prayer Group told a different story in which the local people rejected an image of Sto. Niño that was offered to them by a beggar with the message to repent, but the queen finally resorted to begging help from the Sto. Niño after a tornado and earthquake struck the region.

Jemalyn Sto. Niño played the role of the beggar, who was beaten-up and dragged across the hard floor. However, she said she did not mind the minor scratching she received, as long as she could show her love for the Sto. Niño.

Christ Our Hope and Life Group came out as the big winner of the day bagging first prize for its presentation of the Sinulog, best in choreography and best queen.

Eunice Catalan, who played Queen Juana in its presentation, said she felt good and happy holding the image of Sto. Niño, and felt the presence of Jesus while she was dancing.

She added that she felt peace and love in her heart and hopes that she can inspire the same feeling in people around her.

The Disciples for Christ was the runner up, while a group formed by the Our Lady of the Sky and Queen of Angels Praesidums shared third prize and also the best costume award. 

They were followed in fourth place by the Hong Kong Filipino Catholic Biblical Pastoral Ministry.

Sister Felicitas Nisperos, the spiritual adviser to the Sto. Niño Crusaders Group, said she found the presentations beautiful, but challenged the contesting groups to not only pay attention to dance movements, but also pay respect to the Sto. Niño and the meaning of the feast.

The festival commemorates the acceptance of Christianity by the Filipino people when Magellan presented the image of the child Jesus as a baptismal gift to the wife of Amihan, the rajah of Mactan.

She later took on the name of Juana. It is said that the queen danced with joy at the moment she received the gift from the Portuguese explorer.

This moment is regarded as the first Sinulog, a word that comes from the Cebuano adverb, sulog, which roughly translates as like the movement of a water current.

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