No matter my sickness required me of bed-rest and sleep, my family asked me to join them on their activity just days after I was diagnosed with upper respiratory disease, of which I willingly accepted because of two (2) reasons: 1. It is Fiesta of Sto. Nino and 2. it is in Tondo.
May I say that Filipinos always found a way to give thanks to the blessings that they receive. We are familiar with these thanksgivings in a form of a “Pista” (or fiesta in Filipino) where the community will perform rituals or dances, and relate these to either the product or an animal, eminent in their locality. Communities would have also relate their qualities they are adhering to to the characteristics of the saints as objectives of many Pista are. Thanksgivings would also go together with the wishes of the people, or also by its visitors, given that they will allot their devotion to them. We call this, “namamanata” (or devotion), which may come in a form of a sacrifice or a daily, if not, an annual ritual which usually being passed on to generations. I remember the discussions in my History classes that in order for the Spaniards to assimilate to Christianity, they will relate the image of the Child Jesus, as well as images of saints, to the anito (an image symbolizing the a Higher Being, for most religions now, is referred to as God). It was slowly accepted in various parts of the nation: usually giving thanks to its common experience – a fruitful harvest.
Tondo, Manila is one example. The Santo Nino of Tondo, originally made in ivory and steel, and adorned with jewels, was handed during the Spanish occupation in the Philippines and has been said to have brought miracles to its host. This time, it is Tondo which celebrates its thanksgiving during January, similar to the Sinulog, Ati-atihan, and Dinagyang Festival of the Visayas, and the Black Nazarene of Quiapo as well. It does give thanks as a community because it had a common experience, however quite a different one. Tondo, like in many places in Manila, is often being flooded especially during the rainy season because it is located between cross-cutting bodies of water. Often as it is, it has been terribly-flooded before where it kept raining for more than a month and the rest is submerged in water but the Church on a plateau, in the center of the community. This happened because the image of the Santo Nino was stolen. For weeks, the residents stayed on the Church and prayed not only for their safety but for the return of the image as well. For that long, the community was submerged in flood and continued to rain. But it was a great miracle to all when the image was finally returned. The moment it had entered the Church, the rain stopped and the flood slowly lowered until it was gone. Came a glorious celebration in the community and from then on, they have showed their veneration more to Sto. Nino and gave thanks to all the blessings that have come.
I had the chance to see their veneration last January (again) in their Pista. Each home has an image of the Sto. Nino – in different clothing, sizes, and even hairstyles. And by meaning of each, it really is each. During the parade, the Sto. Nino is held with respect and importance similar to a child. They would bring them along some food while dancing with them throughout the parade as if enjoying the tunes in the street.
Tondo gives so much importance to the Sto. Nino as if as a the member of the household. An example is during cases of calamities. And Tondo, being one of the most crowded areas in Manila, is not also exempted from man-made disasters like fire. So when a row of houses would be struck of the calamity, one would see the residents giving priority, if not rescuing only, the image of the Sto. Nino. They would rather have the rest of their belongings burned but the image.
During the “parada” (parade), at least one household member will carry the image around Tondo and dance the image as if it really is a child. The Sto. Nino de Bumbero (fireman), Sto. Nino de Panadero (baker), or Sto. Nino de Mangingisda (fisherman), would be seen dancing in the streets. But the locals have found a way of maximizing quite a limited space in the streets, the services of the pedicab (bicycle cabs) drivers, or their family vehicles, and the number of images that has to join the parade. They would secure the images on these vehicles which will then drive them around Tondo. It was like a parade of children, all heading for a birthday party. I was able to take a few shots of this wonderful event. With this experience, I share the gratitude of Tondo for a life of blessings and miracles.
(With my parents – residents of Tondo.)