Published March 1, 2007
Fifteen years ago, a group of Filipino-Americans in Georgia, the Santo Niño group from the city of Cebu in the Philippines, held the first “Sinulog” celebration, a traditional festival from their homeland. In Cebu, the 500-year-old festival is held in honor of Senyor Santo Niño (the Infant Jesus) and is a spectacular event, marked with a colorful procession and grand festivities that last for days.
Sinulog is a Filipino word that means to be carried away by the flow of the current. The Sinulog dance was originated by Queen Juana of Spain when she came to the islands and was given a gift (the Santo Niño statue) by famed explorer Ferdinand Magellan who came to the island some 500 years ago. She was so happy to receive the image that she danced with joy in the streets of Cebu. When the villagers saw her dance, they followed her and danced around the streets of the city, and the image is now kept there in the Basilica del Santo Niño.
The 15th annual Sinulog celebration was held on Jan. 21 at Corpus Christi Church in Stone Mountain. In spite of heavy rain, some 400 Filipino-Americans gathered for the celebration. A novena and rosary started at 2 p.m., led by Lilia Manangan and Babes Medina, and Mass followed, celebrated by Father Chito Palang, parochial vicar at St. Monica Church in Duluth.
The Mass was highlighted by the Sinulog dance just before the offertory. The dancers, wearing traditional kimona, swayed like colorful flowers as they bounced back and forth to the beat of the drums. The dance prayer progressed from the entrance of the church to the decorated platform of the Santo Niño next to the altar.
Many who came brought their own Santo Niño images for blessing and placed them by the altar during Mass. A procession is traditionally held after the Mass, but due to the rainstorm those celebrating carried the statues and images directly to the reception hall. They were met by the dancers, and all joined in the devotional dance. Then the celebration continued with abundant food, including two roasted pigs, along with delicacies and desserts of the Philippines.
The after-dinner program included songs by performers Raul Magpoc, Ramon Ceniza and Charlie Chong and dances performed by Jam, Vangie Dye and Horace Marchman, along with some surprise numbers by some of the children. The Filipino American Association Choir provided music with an original composition by its conductor Vic Romero. The Family Dance Ministry of Stone Mountain, with the Fil-Am officers of Atlanta, danced the dramatic yet elegant “Paso Doble.” Both the Sinulog and the Paso Doble dances were choreographed by Edgar Alejado.
For 15 years, in fair or inclement weather, the Santo Niño fiesta in North Georgia has always attracted throngs of devotees, a testimony to this profound, time-tested devotion and a sign of the reverence given to the holy Infant Jesus.