The Santo Niño Devotion: Dinagyang Festival History


Belle Piccio
Belle Piccio | Jan 19, 2016
The Santo Niño Devotion: Dinagyang Festival History

Dinagyang Festival is Iloilo City's version of the Ati-atihan festival which is celebrated in different parts of the Philippines. The word “dinagyang” was coined by an Ilonggo writer and broadcaster Pacifico Sudario in 1977. It is an Ilonggo term which means merrymaking or revelry.

The Iloilo Dinagyang Festival 2016 is set on January 23 and 24, 2016 with the theme: "Beyond Fun. Beyond Fame. Beyond Borders." 

SCHEDULE 2016: Dinagyang: The Grandest Festival in the City of Love

Dinagyang Festival 2014; photo by Rob Pinzon

READ: Dinagyang Festival: How This Dazzling Event Started

The festival is Iloilo City's widest and grandest religious and cultural celebration in honor of the Santo Niño held every January.

Dinagyang Festival 2014; photo by Rob Pinzon

The Iloilo Dinagyang Festival 2016 also focuses on the Señor Santo Niño: Hope of the People.

So how did the devotion of Santo Niño through our religious festival started most especially in the Visayas Region?

The devotion to the Santo Niño may have originated at the start of 16th century in Spain and have spread all over Europe. The Santo Niño de Cebu image is said to come from the Flanders of Belgium. Then from Europe, it has spread throughout the world.

Santo Niño de Cebu via osacebu.org.ph

In the Philippines, it started when the ship of Ferdinand Magellan reached Samar on March 16, 1521. The Visayan natives approached and were friendly of them that they provided supplies which the Spaniards bought. Magellan then sailed going to Limasawa and was welcomed by the island's chief, Rajah Awi, and, with the help of an interpreter, he made his intentions known.

On March 31, 1521, the first mass in the Philippines was celebrated in Limasawa island. The Spaniards, accompanied by Rajah Awi, then sailed going to Cebu after the mass. The Rajah of Cebu, who was already used to foreign traders from Asia, was prepared to deal and meet with the Spanish traders. The involvement of Rajah Awi and the warnings of other traders made Rajah Humabon make peace with the visitors. Magellan, with the help of an interpreter, gave a short duration catechesis of Christian faith. Rajah Humabon was the first to be baptized a week after. In the afternoon of that same day, the Queen and the ladies were also baptized. 

But before the Queen was baptized, she was shown 3 objects:

  • an image of the cross
  • the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Santo Niño

The Queen asked for the Santo Niño image after she was baptized and it was given to her. The Queen was named Doña Juana.

Magellan became the champion of Rajah Humabon that he required all the chiefs to yield and to conform with the king. But, the chief of Mactan, Lapu-lapu, did not agree. Magellan wanted to impress Rajah Humabon and to teach Lapu-Lapu a lesson sailed to Mactan.

The overconfident Magellan didn't expect that Lapu-lapu was waiting and ready for battle. Magellan was hit and ordered his men to retreat. Only a few of his soldiers remained to fight but could no longer save the wounded Magellan. The body of Magellan was brought to Lapu-lapu. 

Battle of Mactan Re-enactment 2013 - Kadaugan sa Mactan; photo from Lapu Lapu City FB page

On board the ship, Rajah Humabon and the Spanish soldiers mourned the death of Magellan while sailing away from Mactan.

READ: Kadaugan sa Mactan: Relive the Ancient Battle?

After 44 years, the Spaniards now headed by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi returned to Cebu. The Spaniards had to resort to force when they were once again met with resistance. A sailor from Bermio, Vizcaya named Juan de Camuz found a box in one of the native houses. He opened it and saw an image of the Santo Niño.

It was shown to Legaspi and the finding of the image became a sensational event among the Spaniards. They built a camp and temporary chapel where the Santo Niño image was enthroned by Augustinian priest, Fr. Andres de Urdaneta, with solemn ceremonies. The Cebuano natives slowly emerged from hiding and joined the ceremonies because of their strong curiousity and was also attracted by the rites. The Spaniards organized the Confraternity of the Holy Child in honor of the Santo Niño after the natives talked of peace. Rajah Tupas was informed of Legaspi's intentions to speak of peace and the Spaniards' demand for a tribute. A church was constructed in honor of the Santo Niño which became the first house of worship in the Philippines.

The home and center of devotion of the Holy Child in the Philippines is the Basilica Minore de Santo Niño de Cebu.

READ: History and Origin: Basilica Minore Del Sto. Niño

The church was later ruined due to fire and another one was built. The church was made of timer and was more solid but was burned down again. The present Church and monastery where the Santo Niño is kept and venerated was started about the year 1730. On January 16, 1740, the image of Santo Niño was finally mounted.

San Jose de Placer Church, an Agustinian Catholic Church, is the home of the replica image of Senor Santo Niño de Cebu during Dinagyang Festival; photo from dinagyangsailoilo.com

The Augustinian friars made it a point then to spread the devotion to Santo Niño wherever they went. The image was brought to San Jose Parish in 1968 and was enshrined at that place while a cofradia was organized by the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Ambrosio Galindez, OSA.

Dinagyang Festival 2014; photo by Rob Pinzon

The Dinagyang Festival which was first known as the Iloilo Ati-Atihan was born because of the devotion to Santo Niño.  The festival is an annual religious and socio-cultural gathering held every 4th Sunday of January, is Iloilo City's widest and grandest celebration in honor of Santo Niño.

How to Get There

From Manila, you can fly to Iloilo (estimated cost of PhP3,000++, round trip, one hour). You can also opt for a bus trip (estimated cost of PhP875++ per head, air-conditioned bus and boat fare, 17 hours plus).

For inquiries, contact the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation, Inc. (IDFI) at (033) 336-3439 or visit them at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, J.M. Basa Street, 5000, Iloilo City, Iloilo.

VIEW: See what to bring home from Iloilo with the Choose Philippines Pasalubong Guide: 

More of Dinagyang Festival:
1) Dinagyang Festival: How This Dazzling Event Started
Dinagyang Festival 2014; photo by Rob Pinzon
2) Your Dinagyang Festival Itinerary: An Easy Guide to Exploring Iloilo City

3) Bring Home This Proudly Philippine Made & Adorable Festival Doll!

4) Dagyang sa Dinagyang!

5) Meet “Dagoy" the Dinagyang Warrior

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