Sunday, 21 January 2018

Iloilo City's Dinagyang Festival: The Religious Sadsad @ San Jose de Placér Parish Church

It's the feast day of the Santo Niño, the Child Jesus, whom the Catholics in the Philippines worship and celebrate every January.

The Sto. Niño is at the center of the most popular festivals of Cebu, Kalibo and Iloilo Cities in the Philippines, where the locals organize and hold extravagant parades in His honor.
     (The San Jose de Placer Parish Church at dawn)



A year ago, I was lucky to have attended the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, and the night before the main festival competition, a religious sadsad was  held after the Holy Mass celebrated in the honor of the Sto. Niño at the San Jose de Placer Parish Church. This church is located right in front of the Plaza Libertad of the city, and the religious sadsad was held in front of the church to accommodate the thousands of devotees.

(Parish priests welcoming parishioners to the church)
(Those chandeliers bring 'light of a million mornings')

'Sadsad' is a Visayan word that means dancing, and a religious 'sadsad' is a religious activity, where devotees dance and sing to express their gratitude and devotion to the Sto. Niño. This activity is both a religious and a cultural tradition practiced by devotees of all ages.

The San Jose de Placér Church has seen history for more than 400 years. The site of the church was put up in 1607. Its belfries were built in the 1890s with the help of Ilonggo laborers.



The interiors of the San Jose de Placér Parish Church were impressive! With all the illumination inside the church during the festival day, the grandeur and beauty of the church would overwhelm any new visitor like me. 

The giant chandeliers lining up the ceilings along the nave reminded me of the song 'Light of a Million Mornings' because the hundred light bulbs from these chandeliers spread so much brightness that it literally felt grand and heavenly inside this place of worship.


        (A welcome banner at the Plaza Libertad 
                    in Iloilo City, Philippines)


But it was the religious sadsad in front of the church that fascinated and enthralled me. Even before the Holy Mass for that Saturday night finished, thousands of people carrying their Santo Nino's of all sizes - from baby Sto. Ninos to child-sized ones - all in different fancy costumes and colors, were already gathering outside the church.

With prayers and chants, the devotees danced, sang and raised their Sto. Niños to the tune played by loudspeakers next to a small stage on the right side of the church, where a big Sto. Niño was also standing and being regularly wiped by handkerchiefs brought by the devotees. 

              (A video of the religious sadsad)

         (The huge crowd of devotees in front of 
                the San Jose de Placer church)


The devotion to the Sto. Nino dates back to the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippines, almost 500 years ago, when only a handful of natives were converted to Christianity. 

Today, the devotion and veneration of the Child Jesus have grown even more, with religious festivals and processions being held all over the Philippines just to celebrate the feast of the Child Jesus.


          (Another video of the religious sadsad)

Those who attend the religious sadsad, not only ask for graces and pray to the Sto. Niño for their wishes to come true; they also dance to express gratitude for the blessings they receive all year-round.

I won't be able to join this year's sadsad in Iloilo City, but just let me include my prayers for the Sto. Niño - prayers of gratitude, continued blessings, peace and safety for me, my family, my friends, and for those who need them.

       (Hands raised in devotion and supplication)

Viva Señor Sto. Niño!

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