One dance, one story

READER’S VIEW - Bernard Inocentes S. Garcia - The Freeman

Cebu is on fiesta mode. Go out at night and you see people partying in clubs and in bars, and friends drinking at the sidewalks. Or go to Colon Street and enjoy the sight of humanity walking and waiting for a ride, or go to the nearby Basilica del Sto. Niño. Pray, but watch for your cellphones and your wallets. The guy in a white shirt who looks like a saint is a pickpocket.

I've never been fond of crowds. I like looking at them from afar, but I don't like being imprisoned in a cell of bodies. Like everyone, I want freedom of movement. I want space. That is why whenever I decide to join a crowd, I see it as an act of sacrifice. It is in this light that I admire the Sinulog crowd.

It's been said that long before the Spaniards came to our shores, Sinulog, a dance ritual, had been practiced by our ancestors in honor of their anitos or gods. In April 1521, Ferdinand Magellan presented the first Sto. Niño as a gift to Rajah Humabon's wife, Raha Amihan, who after baptism danced the first Sinulog with about 800 early converts in honor of the Sto. Niño.

Today, the Sinulog festival is celebrated every third Sunday of January. It has become a spectacle of street-dancing, giant mascots, colorful floats, and TV stars. Amidst all the pageantry and bonanza, it is and should be a celebration in honor of the Holy Child and a recollection of our story.

Regardless of religious beliefs, it is good for us to remember what happened in 1521. Magellan not only planted a wooden cross on our island and gifted us with an image; he also gave us our first freedom fighter in Lapu-Lapu, who killed him.

In 1565, or 44 years after Magellan's death, the Spaniards led by explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi returned and colonized our island. They burned our villages, and in one of the burnt  houses, a soldier named Juan Camus found a wooden box containing the image of the Sto. Niño lying among other native statues.

Historians said that between 1521 and 1565, our ancestors continued to dance the Sinulog in honor of the Holy Child. It was for this image that Legazpi's companions, the Augustinian friars, built a church on the site it had been found. The church is now known as the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

Today and every day of the year at the Basilica, we see candle vendors perpetuating our ancient tradition.

Let us buy candles from these grey-haired gentle women; a few pesos would not dent our pockets. Besides, they would dance the Sinulog and pray for us with the lighted candles on their calloused hands. And maybe God would hear their pleas and their prayers more than ours because theirs are God's simple ways.

In every Sinulog, my wish is for us not only to enjoy the colorful floats and the festivities but also and more importantly to go back to the past and remember the story of our faith and our ancestors.

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