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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

“Sinulog Festival” in Malangas town: A time of faith, unity, joy

By Emmanuel D. Taghoy

Before the procession began, the townsfolk set up tables in front of their houses laden with sumptuous snacks prepared for the street dancers and spectators, who were all smiles awaiting the start of the festival.

Everyone looked eager and excited while the performers in costumes and body paints lined themselves preparing to showcase their month-long street dancing practice.

And as the sound of trumpets and drum filed the air, the whole of Malangas town proceeded to the morning parade for the 59th Parish Fiesta in honor of their Patron Saint Señor Sto. Niño.

One in faith

Hundreds of devotees and believers coming from the different barangays and neighboring towns flocked to the town streets to witness the street dancing and beauties in their colorful gowns.

The occasion may not be at par with the grand Cebu City Sinulog Festival, but the dedication and commitment shown by the faithful proved to be of the same level.

According to Rev. Fr. Julito A. Cabatuan, parish priest, the festivity represents the steadfast conviction of the Malangueños toward their patron saint, Señor Sto. Niño or the child Jesus Christ, for whom the patron symbolizes.

“Señor Sto. Niño unites the people of Malangas as one in faith and belief,” said the priest.

The theme of the occasion was anchored on “Aktibong Pagsalmot sa mga Kabos sa Ebanghelisasyon ug Katilingbanong Kausbawan” (active participation of the marginalized sector in evangelization and community development).

Christianity and the early beginnings of Malangas town

Most places in the Philippines are named uniquely. It is not unusual for our ancestors to name a place after an animal, tree, or anything they find easy to remember. The early Filipinos were simple, adopting a name they could easily remember.

For one, the town of Malangas got its name from a small “noisy” waterfall.
Way back in the 1900s or even earlier, Malangas town was inhabited by Subanen people whose women - with alluring beauties - were housed in towers.

The town then was not called Malangas, but “Kulaka,” a Subanen term for paddling which signifies the location of the place.

On the other hand, Malangas, which means “noisy brook,” is the name of a small waterfall about two kilometers away from the town proper.

As the years had passed, the name Kulaka turned into Malangas, and was changed again to Malangas Gamay.

It was believed that after the town got its name “Malangas Gamay,” the place became popular to merchants. Thus, when Shariff Mohammad Kabungsuan arrived in Kulaka, the first Muslims in the area were baptized.

Christianity came to the Malangueños when the Chavacanos from Zamboanga City set foot in Malangas Gamay. They were attracted to migrate to the place because of the fertile lands in the Sibuguey Valley, the rich fishing ground of Dumanquillas Bay and the vast coal deposits that promised good wealth.

News of Malangas spread wide and reached as far as Visayas and Luzon.

Around 1950s “Malangas” officially got its name. It was made to avoid confusion and since the name was more popular and preferred by most residents.

Believers in all walks of life

Tribal and cultural dances regale the spectators with the Sinulog Festival. In various performances, the diverse culture and ethnic origin of the Filipinos are depicted.

It is ubiquitous in every dance presentation the icon of the Señor Sto. Niño carried by the lead dancer, swaying to the rhythm of the drums.

But what made the Malangas Sinulog Festival different from the others are the many outfits worn by the Señor Sto. Niño icon. From a fireman suit, fisherman, soldier, police, farmer, to a common folk clothes are worn by the Sto. Niño image.

“This variety of costumes symbolizes the devotees of various professions,” said Fr. Cabatuan.

The priest explained that Sto. Niño is not just a patron and religious figure to the Malangas folks but a replica of compassion, contentment and devotion to Christ Jesus.

Prayers of abundance and peace

“This year, we celebrate not only the anniversary of our parish and the fiesta of our Patron Señor Sto. Niño. We are looking at how far our faith had brought us, and our municipality had developed over the years,” said Malangas Mayor Alfredo A. Atilano in his message.

The mayor reminded everyone that the occasion is an opportunity of renewal and change for all believers toward the better good and a healthy spiritual life.
“We are all followers of Christ, and it is a challenge to us to improve our ways of life and be better citizens of our community,” he furthered.

Atilano said the recent visit of Pope Francis is a good example of humility, a virtue every Christian should live up to.

“My prayers are of abundance in grace and peace to all of us. I hope that we be strong in our faith, humble at all times, and spirited in our participation in church and the community,” the mayor concluded.