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Pit Senyor!

Today’s the day. Drumbeats fill the air. Dancing takes over the streets. Exuberance is everywhere. Cebu celebrates Sinulog!

Chants of “Pit Senyor!” are heard, too; quite prominently, in fact. We hear it all the time on ordinary days at the front yard of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, by candle vendors performing the traditional sinulogdance there. But today it seems to resonate all over, with hundreds of Sinulog parade participants exclaiming the words.

The words “Pit Senyor!” can also be seen on commemorative t-shirts, in posters that line both sides of the city streets, in the lavish banners at the shopping malls, and in giant outdoor billboards. The phrase has since become a fiesta greeting. It is used in Cebu during the Sinulog season the way “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” is used at Christmastime.

Unfortunately, only very few understand what “Pit Senyor!” means. The greater majority utter it simply as a meaningless mumbo-jumbo.

“Pit Senyor!” actually means something. It is short for “Panangpit sa Senyor!”meaning a plea to the Lord, the Señor Santo Niño (Holy Child), whose feast it is that Cebu observes on this day. Strictly, it is not supposed to be a greeting for people to say to one another, but rather to be addressed directly to the Santo Niño.

But then again, the present practice is that people say “Pit Senyor!” as a fiesta greeting. In which case, the meaning of the phrase may extend to “Akong panangpit sa Senyor alang kanimo,”one’s plea to the Lord for the other’s wellbeing. And so the greeting makes sense, as well.

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It may look like we’re making a big fuss over petty matter here. You’re probably thinking that a greeting need not mean anything other than people acknowledging each other. Take “Hello”, for instance; what else does the word mean?

“Pit Senyor!” is not a simple greeting or slogan. It has a beautiful back-story. These words are supposed to be an articulation of a people’s goodwill for one another.

A society that cares to know the stories behind its inherited traditions – including the concepts contained in the words of its continually evolving language – is well founded. No cultural trait is petty matter; every tiny element is like a strand that contributes to the overall fabric of the shared culture.

It’s like kitchen salt. Salt is not a petty matter despite its minute amount in the total volume of the prepared dish. Salt is serious matter — it can determine whether the food ends up with the house guests or with the house pets.

Pit Senyor! This time I hope everyone gets what it means, and, thus, mean it when saying the words. Let’s all have a happy fiesta celebration. And may the good Lord hear our pleas.

(E-MAIL: modequillo@gmail.com)

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