Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Stone Mountain

Filipino-Americans Celebrate Santo Niño Fiesta

By This article was provided by the committee organizing the Santo Niño celebration. | Published February 10, 2005

About 400 Filipino-Americans from across Georgia celebrated the Santo Niño fiesta on Saturday, Jan. 15, at Corpus Christi Church, taking part in a Catholic devotion from their homeland that is over 475 years old.

A warm and sunny day with clouds floating across blue skies was perfect for the celebration of the 13th annual Santo Niño Mass, procession and festival.

The rosary was started at 2:30 p.m., followed by Mass celebrated in Tagalog, the official Filipino language, by Father Diosmar Natad of Holy Trinity Church in Peachtree City. The choir directed by Vic Romero sang hymns in Tagalog.

Father Greg Kenny, CMF, pastor of Corpus Christi, agreed to donate the entire offertory collection to tsunami victims. The community was profoundly grateful to Father Kenny as this gave them the opportunity to show how much they care for the less fortunate. Normally this offering goes directly to the parish.

Before the offertory, young boys and girls wearing native costumes walked down the aisle carrying pictures and statues of the Santo Niño, followed by beautiful dancers wearing colorful costumes and dancing the traditional “Sinulog” choreographed by Edgar Alejado.

After Mass, everyone followed a procession of three different statues of Santo Niño carried in “carros” (small platforms) from the church, around the parking lot and into the gym. Each “carro” was a sight to behold as it was abundantly decorated with colorful, fresh flowers.

At the festival in the gym, there was plenty of food followed by dancing and socializing. A live Rondalla and Dance Troop from the Kayumanggi Alliance for the Performing Arts with their authentic Filipino dances added a festive ambience to the occasion. The Down South Pinoy Boys and various other individuals added the modern and Western touch.

The fiesta of Sr. Santo Niño, also known as the Sinulog, is celebrated anywhere in the world where Filipinos live. In Cebu City, the Philippines, where the original statue is kept inside the Basilica of Santo Niño, a very colorful procession or “sinulog” is participated in by thousands of people from all over the Philippines. This is the biggest event of the year in Cebu City where people of every walk of life participate.

Ferdinand Magellan brought the original statue of the Santo Niño from Spain, and gave it to Queen Juana when he discovered the Philippines in 1521. Queen Juana was so happy to receive the gift that she danced with joy along the streets of Cebu. Natives seeing their queen dancing followed her and thereafter called the celebration a “sinulog,” which in translation means a graceful flow or current of water. Since that time, people have celebrated the fiesta every year. In the last 25 years it has become an even more elaborate celebration.

In Atlanta, the celebration started as a small devotion among family and friends in 1989. The statue of Santo Niño would be brought to stay with a host family for nine days during which they would pray the novena every night. Requests from friends and relatives for the visit of Santo Niño increased rapidly. On Jan. 17, 1993, the first fiesta in honor of the Sr. Santo Niño was celebrated in Atlanta at St. John the Evangelist Church in Hapeville. Subsequent Masses were celebrated at St. John the Evangelist through 1999 and then at St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro from 2000-2002. Due to the increasing number of people attending the Mass and fiesta every year, it was moved to the larger and more centrally located Corpus Christi Church, where it continues to be celebrated.

This yearly celebration is eagerly anticipated by Filipino-Americans all over Georgia and attracts an increasing number of attendees. Hopefully, with God’s continued blessing, this tradition will encourage the younger generation of Filipino-Americans in Georgia to continue this celebration to instill faith, closeness and fellowship in their new home in the United States of America and, at the same time, keep alive time-honored traditions from the Philippines.