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One Unfortunate Sto. Niño Festival

Cebu-Sinulog

The pictures of the Sinulog and Ati-atihan festival which graced the pages of the recent issues of newspapers reminded me of how the festival is being held in some remote towns in my province.  My people also celebrate it, but in a different manner. It may not be as wild, as merry, and as celebrated as the Ati-atihan of Aklan and the Sinulog of Cebu, but I think it is unique in its own way. We do not call it Ati-atihan or Sinulog. We call it Embajada.

Not all of the participants in the Embajada are covered in soot. There are actually three groups: the Agta (covered in soot), the Kristianos (dressed in white costume and act as soldiers), and the Moros (dressed in black and red and also act as soldiers).

The highlight of the celebration is the reenactment of the Christianization of the Agtas and the mock fight where the Kristianos and Moros engage in a combat  using swords made of bamboo. It is a fight that’s fun to watch, especially when the participants start reciting funny rhymes about how superior their group is or how the Kristianos (or the Moros) should concede. It is like watching a balagtasan.

One fine early morning, before all the revelries began, everyone gathered for the procession and lined up peacefully. With me was my father who was carrying my younger sister. Before the procession could start, two men ran toward us shouting, in stern voices, “Paagi-a! Paagi-a!” (Let us pass! Let us pass!).

The two men drew their gun and shot a man who was just few steps away from us. I heard three gunshots. I saw the man fell.

Everyone scampered looking for a safe place. My father whisked my sister and I to a nearby house. From the slits on the bamboo walls of the house, before my father could order me not to peek, I saw three other men carried the bloodied victim into a pedicab and rushed him to the hospital. I felt my knees weakened and I started crying.

Later that day, we learned that the man who was gunned down was an off duty policeman. He didn’t make it. The suspects were allegedly members of a rebel group.

I was six years old when this happened. Growing up content and happy in one of the remote towns in my province where there was no electricity, no TV, it was the first violent scene I have ever seen. And it was the first event in my life that challenged my childhood certainties.

_____________________

The Sinulog photo I used above was taken from here.

Posted 8 years, 9 months ago at 11:49 pm.

24 comments

24 Replies

  1. my second fist!
    aww, tragic naman experience mo, but these kind of experience made us who we are today. I’m sure, you are one whale of a strong person 🙂 .

  2. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Hi Roni!
    For being the first to comment, you’ve earned a trip to Timbuktu via Philippine Rabbit hahaha! Kidding 🙂

    Yep, tama ka, kasinlaki na ako ngayon ng whale heehee

  3. {goosebumps all over my body as i read this}

    that was indeed one very unfortunate sto. niño festival.

    now talk about ironies and contradictions…

    – sacred vs. profane
    – real vs. reenacment
    – celebration vs. violence

    thanks for sharing!

  4. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Hi Rev,
    Salamat sa pag-analyze sa post ko. Ako, hindi ko napansin ang mga ‘yun hehehe

  5. ganyan naman talaga kapag naka witness ka ng isang krimen lalo na at bata ka pa noon e di mo talaga malimutan..alala ko tuloy yung bata na nadaganan ng santo sa parada dito ata sa manila yun, di ko matandaan kung saan pero ibinalita sa tv yun..patay yung bata, kaya lang santo naman ang dumagan doon di tulad ng na-witness mo..

  6. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Yes, Payatot,
    Nakakalungkot ‘yung nangyari na ‘yun sa bata. It happened in Tondo, during the Santo Niño festival just few days ago.

  7. Hanggang ngayon, nakatatak pa rin sa aking imahinasyon yung bibong batang babae na nadaganan na malaking imahen ng Birhen Maria sa Tondo. That was during the procession on this Feast of Sto. Nino. It’s absolutely bewildering! Ang tanong ng ina: bakit hindi man lang gumawa ng munting milagro gaya ng pag-ilag para ma-save ang isang buhay! I was silenced! As revsiopao muses – your early experience of violence was riddled with both extreme ironies!

  8. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Isang trahedya nga ang nangyari na ‘yun sa bata, Dfish. At mahirap ngang bumuo ng argumento sa sinabi na iyon ng ina.

    Unang experience ko lang ng violence ‘yun, Dfish. Medyo marami pa ang sumunod when my family transferred to a rebel-infested town. Perhaps I will write someday about my being a child of war.

  9. kinilabutan ako dun sa iniwang comment ni Dfish.

    sa minsang mga ganyang kapistahan e dyan din minsan lumalabas ang mga kababawan at kabaliwan ng mga tao. kaya ako kapag pumupunta sa mga ganyan at kasama ko ang mga little kengkays, naghahanap talaga ang ako escape plan. may pagkapraning, pero automatic lang talaga e. sa dami ba naman ng tao.

    pero sempre, mag enjoy din dapat 🙂 sorry to hear about your experience.

  10. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Hi Kengkay, welcome dito sa bahay ko. Salamat sa pagparito.

    Totoo ‘yang sinabi mo. At tama ang ginagawa mong on guard palagi. Maganda ang ganun. It is not pagiging praning.

    Naku, it is not the most violent scene that I’ve witnessed. Sabi ko nga sa sagot ko kay Dfish, naging anak din ako ng digma.

  11. I’m sorry that you witnessed something so violent and tragic at a tender age. That experience must have struck deep in your heart.

  12. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Yes, Rachel. It will be forever in my heart but somehow I look at it in a positive way. From that experience I have told myself to always resort to peaceful means of resolution to any conflict that I may encounter in my life.

    The story above isn’t the only violent one I’ve experienced. I’ve had more after that.

  13. grabe namang karanasan yan…

    very traumatic as it may seem…

    hindi ko din kc talaga makita ang essence ng ganyng kaguluhan.. i mean ganyang pananampalataya… i may sound bias kc di ako catholic, nontheless, di pa rin ako kumbinsido sa ganyang paraan ng pagsamba… 😉

  14. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Hi Yhen,
    I respect your point of view and your faith.

    Minsan lang kasi, nagiging panatiko na sa pananampalataya nila. In the process, nawawala na ang real essence of having faith in one’s heart.

  15. that’s very sad:( i don’t know why some people had the nerve to take somebody else’s life as if they were the ones who gave it…just really, really evil:(:(

  16. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Hi Sha,
    Yes, it was a very sad experience. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one I’ve witnessed 🙁

  17. muymuy Jan 21st 2009

    ay nakakapangilabot naman a tnakakatrauma yun N. ano ginawa mo para pansamantalang makalimutan yung ganung tagpo sa buhay mo?

  18. nortehanon Jan 22nd 2009

    Hi Muymuy,

    My parents were very instrumental para maintindihan ko ang mga bagay na ganun. Magaling kasi silang magpaliwanag. That’s why I am proud of them.

  19. aba, Rev and Dfish are talking about one of the oldest philosophical problems ah…

    anyways, i hope that that unfortunate event did have some positive effects on you… for one, it may have subconsciously imprinted in you the love of your father for you and your sisters by the protection and security he gave that time…

    we may not have all the answers to these ironies in our lifetime, but I believe God has the power to spawn good things out of the bad… 🙂

  20. sorry now lang ako nakabisita. curious ako, ba’t “unfortunate”?

    also, saan ang embahada na to? sa Samar? sana me pics ka.

    sa Sorsogon, wala kaming festival. lecheng santacruzan lang. hmpt!

  21. This is very tragic. The same “unfortunate” thing happened to that girl. I also like attending events like this. Pareho kami ni Ate Kengkay. Laging naka-plano kung saan eeskapo kung sakaling magkagulo. Masaya talaga isama ang mga anak sa ganitong festival kaso risk din talaga. Hero na naman yung tatay mo sa inyo Miss N. ^_^

  22. mustah ~! ahah mss ko na talga to ahahaha wooooooooo

    tradisyon nga mga pinoy yan e at trip nila un sagay wala nga namn pakilamanan diba?!?

    hahahah

  23. Hello Nortehanon,

    It happened several years ago, but I always find it tragic when something happens like that especially when we are celebrating something religious.

    Kaya bibihira kaming pumunta sa Ati-Atihan kahit na ang lapit-lapit na namin dahil minsan magulo talaga. Grabe rin kasi ang inuman e. Pero masaya pa rin talagang umattend sa mga ganitong festival. Nag-iingat na lang kami para makaiwas sa gulo.

    Anyway, thanks for visiting my blog. Have a great week!

  24. Jerome Nov 28th 2009

    Hi,

    i would like to ask if my cousin can use one of your photo for her Calendar Photo, is it ok for her to use it with your name as her photo credit?


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