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CD-ROM: Dialogue on Town Fiestas
Edited by: Chu Mangoba

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By Fred Natividad

 

Dialogue on Town Fiestas 

Edited by Chu Mangoba 

 

TOWN FIESTAS are religious events but they too are civic and social functions which people use as an opportunity to get together, pray together, or simply spend happy times together. Rural villages or barangays hold fiestas too to entertain people from other villages or towns who invited them as guests in this annual celebration. Some towns in Romblon hold more than one fiesta. Are the people very religious or are they too hard up so they need entertainment and merrymaking?

 

Rinzi F. Fadrilan posted the following message on Jan 11, 2005 about the Feast of the Santo Nino: 

 

“The capital town of Romblon celebrates its town fiesta in January in honor of Sto. Niño de Romblon. Why?

 

“The Catholic directory of the Philippines lists St. Joseph as the patron saint of the cathedral parish. And Sto. Nino de Romblon is listed as secondary patron saint.

 

“The feast day of St. Joseph is March 19. Does the capital town celebrate two town fiestas - one in January and another on March 19?

 

“Long before Romblon became the seat of the diocese, the local parish has been known as Parish of St. Joseph which was established in 1631.”

  

Morgan (Moig) Benedicto responded:

 

“Is somebody in a position to ask for an answer to the query so far posted? Someone close to the bishop or parish priest of Romblon, Romblon?”

 

Julius (JR) Rapada also responded:

 

“Thanks for the info, Rinzi. Celebrating the fiesta in honor of the Sto. Niño, St. Joseph or whoever was not my intention to raise here -- who am I to question that. My issue is, if our church leaders could draw a line/boundary and get involve to stop "politicizing the fiesta" from our local officials? Everybody in town is aware this is happening. I never heard a word from the bishop himself.”

 

Dr. Minnie Festin-Navato commented:

 

“JR, I doubt that you can motivate the politicians to refrain from taking advantage of such a great and virtually free opportunity to do political work. I don't know but the bishop cannot work by telling the politicians to stop politicizing it. The bishop has to convince the people to stop the politicians from doing that. The bishop might find better response by going to the people directly, rather than the politicians. The politicians have everything to gain by using the fiesta for political purposes.

 

“If I were a politician, I would take advantage of the town fiesta as a forum for publicizing my cause. It is not illegal.

 

“To stop it, the people have to show distaste for such a political show. I have a sneaky feeling the poor people of Romblon like the political shenanigans during the town fiesta. It can be entertaining and a way of sharing the politicians' money.”

 

Minnie continued:

 

“The Sto. Niño is brought from one house to another. I don't know the reason for  this custom.

 

“What I observe though is the Filipinos in the US are more religious than the Filipinos in the Philippines.”

 

Rinzi replied:

 

“They cannot afford to totally divorce themselves from politicians. Doing so would mean cutting the fund source for their religious formation programs and church construction projects.

 

“My experiences as a former town fiesta executive taught me to work well with religious, civic and political leaders in planning and organizing a successful fiesta celebration. I know of no better way than making them own the event and not merely part of it.”

 

Rinzi further replied to Minnie’s comment:

 

“This attitude is quite unChristian. Aren't they honoring the same Holy Child Jesus? Why should they be jealous or envious of what other devotees are doing? 

 

“The visit of the Sto.Niño image/icon to homes of devotees would enable the family/household to pray together and meditate on the virtues of the Holy Child. Does the family give any donation (monetary) to the organizer of the home visits?

 

“Why do you think so, Minnie? I thought it is the other way around.

                                                                                                         

“The big contributors to the fiesta kitty are the local politicians - from the Congressman down the Sanggunian members. In appreciation of their hefty monetary donations, they are invited to crown the fiesta queens and made to speak to the townspeople about their "good works" as public servants.

 

“The clergy including the bishop are also indebted to politicians who are regular fund donors to their programs including church construction projects.”

 

Minnie replied:

 

“Rinzi, that's my experience. I thought that Filipinos in the US practice the Catholic traditions more. Maybe, other people have different experiences.

 

“In the US, the Catholic media is quite prominent. I am sure they also have Catholic media in the Philippines, I am sure. The Catholic is the largest group in the US so we seem to hear more news about the Pope than of the Anglican, Baptist, or Presbyterian leaders. Maybe, since I am in a predominantly Catholic Boston, Catholic media is more prominent. Baka naman sa ibang lugar hindi.

 

“When the Sto. Niño came to our house, we did not give any money to the organizer nor was any money solicited from us. I guess, if you want to give money, they would have taken it. But there was no mention of money.

 

“I feel sorry for priests. They seem to be blamed for every failure in the Philippines since most politicians are Catholics. If the town fiesta has become politicized, it is the bishop's problem. If people spend too much money on town fiestas, how come the bishop is keeping quiet? Mabuti na lang hindi ako naging pare.

 

“One thing, though, I find the Americans of whatever belief to be open-minded when it comes to my Blessed Leon mission. Protestants and Jews have asked names to be put in the Blessed Leon registry. I make it clear that I am not there to spread the Catholic religion. I am there to help the needy, the seriously ill and dying of whatever faith.

 

“I could have just stayed home and did nothing, especially since I don't like to give public talks. I am just doing what I think God wants me to do. Isn't it perfect timing that as soon as I got off the military, Blessed Leon came to my life?”

 

Julius commented:

 

“There was a study conducted in the Philippines Minnie. They've found out that the devotion to the Sto. Niño is the most popular among Filipinos. If that is true in Boston - true here in LA.”

 

Minnie responded:

 

“Sto. Niño must be very popular. In Boston alone where there aren't too many Filipinos, there are three Sto. Niño groups, celebrating His feast on the first Sunday of January separately. Sometimes, nag-iinggitan sila.

 

Julius continued:

 

Because of the above they are untouchables? Utang na loob? As I know, no matter what - it is the moral obligation of the church leaders to protect the moral issues of the Church and its flock. Bishop/clergy has all the right to do that.

 

He also replied to Rinzi’s comments: 

 

“This is sad Rinzi but TRUE! I could not think of any other way on this regard but through our church leaders, otherwise, this habit will go on - and it's not right.”

 

Minnie argued:

 

“I don't think that practice of the politicians can be stopped. Even in Boston, they do that. You should see those politicians joining the St. Patrick's parade. Remember the Rose Bowl parade in CA when Gov. Davis tried to stop Arnold Schwarzenneger from participating in the parade. It is free publicity for them.”

 

She further argued:

 

“It is bigger than the Bishop and clergy's power. It is a sociological tradition. Besides, I don't see anything wrong with that practice. The only possible wrong with it is that people spend too much during fiestas, even going to the extent of borrowing money.

 

“But people need to celebrate, whether it is the town fiesta or independence day or Christmas.”

 

Moigs responded:

 

“This has been discussed already before kasi nga sa Romblon, pagkatapos ng fiesta ay broke na ang mga tao...biro mo a fiesta that lasts for nine days! Kahit na siguro yung mga mayaman na mga ciudad like Batangas or Cavite cannot afford this extended fiesta. And now due to hard time financially, why not the fiests from Friday (tonton ) to Sunday coronation?”

 

Rinzi posted the following response:

 

“On Sunday, January 16 the parishioners of the Cathedral Parish in Romblon capital town and the Sto. Niño Parish in Danao, Cajidiocan are celebrating their parish fiesta. Happy fiesta to all!

 

“I find a very good message in the Romblomanon's devotion to the Sto. Niño- that of working together as brothers/sisters and friends. God calls us to give attention to the "little ones" in our midst.

 

“Here in RDL we have our own local version of working together and caring for the "little ones" in our communities. This we aptly call "sanrokan".”

 

Rinzi responded to JR’s comment:

 

“Also true in the Diocese of Romblon. Two parishes have devotions to the Santo Niño as their patron saint - the Cathedral Parish in Romblon capital town and the Sto, Niño Parish in Danao, Cajidiocan.

 

“The fiesta in Romblon ends tomorrow, January 16. Up to now, I do not understand why the Cathedral Parish is celebrating its fiesta on the feast of its secondary patron, Sto. Niño de Romblon (third Sunday of January) instead of March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, its primary patron.

 

“Does the parish also celebrate another fiesta in March on the occasion of the feast of St. Joseph?

 

“Can anybody from the capital town please enlighten RDListers on why the two patron saints?”

 

Virgie Tan-Cabagnot of San Agustin responded:

 

“I know some of us have different religions but at least all of us have our own faith. I remembered the fiesta of Señor Sto. Niño since it was celebrated on January. Even mabaskog ang humbak we cross the mighty Romblon channel to attend the fiesta and it was our choice because we have faith we believed in His Blessings and His Miracles.

 

“It should not be questioned why we celebrate fiesta January or March for Sto. Niño or for St. Joseph. Who are the community, it is the people. Why we should deny the majority of the fiestas when only few/liberals are not for it. In San Agustin we observed fiesta in August and October , but not lavishly. St. Augustine was born in October and died in August. Even before we were born that was the celebration of our folks. Did people complain? No. The community wanted it - kalipayan ng tawo. It was their faith to St. Augustine to honor and praise Him. To give thanks to the Lord for His many blessings.

 

“The politicians have their faith also so they donate money to the church, some in kind and some in deeds. The church is part of the community and the people are part of the community. If you are in different party/ kontra they dont get involved walang pakialam dahil sa politics. The whole community should get involve for the success of the town fiesta. The celebration has 3 categories, Biniray Fluvial celebration for our patron, 2nd day for all schools intramurals, 3rd day civic/socio celebration so all are being celebrated. The tradition that my parents practiced that we children are proud of was we let our friends from barrio /bukid come and serve them with our best foods. Because the less fortunate people are very appreciative of the little things you can do for them. The rich and famous people expect you to serve them. The barrio folks are better friends; they are your friends for life.

 

“Hala bira! VIVA kay SEÑOR STO. NIÑO.”

 

Virgie continued:

 

“We built a big and beautiful church in San Agustin through the efforts of Fr. Merencilla, the former pastor of San Agustin. He raised funds by soliciting to people and his rich friends from former parish as donors. He sent letters to us for solicitations but most of all the poor people of our town tried their best to build our church. What we give to the Lord is not enough to the many blessings that He gives us. He died and suffered for us and gave his life for all mankind.”

 

Rinzi replied to Virgie’s comment:

 

“Virgie, isn't it that all that we have comes from and belongs to God? When we contribute money to build a church, we are only giving back a small portion of what He gave us.”

 

Rinzi continued:

 

“Thanks Virgie for the vivid memories of Romblon fiestas. Your account on how you shared your bounties with the poor during fiestas then reminds me of the message in today's Gospel on the feast of the Sto. Niño.

 

“God orders us to ‘do a favor’ to the poor and the weak members of the community. As you said they can be better friends - friends for life. They should be helped to become able and contribute to the common task - building community.

 

“Here in RDL, we are promoting the tribal virtue of ‘sanrokan’ in sharing our gifts and talents for the common good. And with preferential attention to the ‘little ones’ who must be helped and empowered.

 

“The ‘little ones’ are not the children or those of minor age but those who are insignificant, marginalized and most vulnerable members of the community.”

 

Rinzi posted the following message:

 

“A week before the last town fiesta in Romblon (second Sunday of January), I asked the help of Romblomanon listers to explain why the town fiesta of Romblon is in January (Sto. Niño de Romblon) and not March 19, feast of St. Joseph, the parish/diocese patron saint.

 

“I got two replies- one by SMS from a former teacher in high school, Mrs. Chit

Fondevilla and another one by email from Mr. Mon Reandelar, President of the

diocesan laity group in Romblon.

 

“The following is a clarification from Mon:

 

"Kag St. Joseph kag patron it Romblon, Romblon, and the titular (o patron) of

the Diocese of Romblon. The Sto. Niño de Romblon is celebrated in reverence to the historical and "miraculous" stay of the Sto. Niño here in Romblon."

 

"Unfortunately, as in Aklan or Cebu which have also their own patron saints, the Feast of the Sto. Niño has overshadowed the fiesta celebration of St. Joseph here in Romblon. Of course, nobody bothers to reklamo. The Niño Jesus' feast is really worth celebrating pompously because he deserves the first honor. Happy Fiesta of Sto. Niño de Romblon."

 

The dialogue on Romblon town fiesta did not end in January because in July the subject of fiestas was mentioned again in reference to tourism issue.

 

Nonong Navarrete posted the following message on July 10:

 

“One effective way of hyping up tourism in Romblon is to host TV or showbiz oriented events specially during summer. This will somehow "steal" from Boracay some of the beach crazy urbanites who frequent that place during summer months.  Who knows these spillovers will eventually come in hordes.” 

 

Rinzi quickly responded:

 

“Nonong, this is a nice idea. Romblon tourism council, are you reading us?

 

“When you did this during one of the fiestas at the capital town a few years back, did it make a dent in Romblon tourist arrivals?

 

“Don't you think that we have to reinvent our town fiestas making them festive events in addition to their religious themes to attract visitors?

 

“With 17 repackaged town fiestas, there will be 17 occasions and reasons for local and foreign tourists to come to Romblon throughout the year.

 

“Romblon beacons! Come and savor the richness of her traditions, culture and history.”

 

Moigs also responded:

 

“Ayan! We're getting some good inputs now. Tama si Nonong, as a matter of fact,  any of our guests at Tiamban have just been to Boracay. There is already a connection no matter how thin. It just needs to be amplified and Nonong's suggestion is very logical. Can someone spearhead this endeavor? Do we need the provincial  government to lead? I offer Tiamban as a venue gratis to the TV crew. There are other sites too.”

 

David Kershaw commented:

 

“That would be a great idea, but not just reinvent our Fiesta's, reinvent our towns and reinvent ourselves. I 'm more positve now than I have been for a long time that we can go down this road, and finally turn the corner.”

 

Moigs also commented:

 

“Please correct me if I am wrong... yung mga beauty contests during the Santo Niño fiesta in Romblon (probably same conditions in other town fiestas) ay hindi naman talaga totoong beauty contest. It is mostly money contest. Yung mga may kaya sa bayan na may anak na babae nag-aambition.. kahit na pandak,binubuhosan nila ng pera para manalo. Ay kung ang criterion as per Nonong, beauty, height, intelligence and breeding ang masusunod, siguro eventually the criterion will slowly be met because the aspirants will know that it will not be the usual money talks.”

 

Nonong responded:

 

“Tama. Instead of spending money for the money contest a.k.a. popularity contest, they should spend it na lang for the education of their dalagitas. Educated ladies na may height at beauty, baka pwede na.   

 

Kung walang beauty, mas magastos kasi getting good education na nga is already expensive, cosmetic surgery pa kaya.” 

 

Rinzi also responded:

 

“Ganoon ba, Moigs. Hindi pala totoong beauty contest ito. Tama si Nonong. Hindi nga papasa sa pamantayan ng isang tunay na beauty tilt.

 

“Ganito marahil ang sabi ng mga may kayang contestants: "Sa inyo na ang beauty, sa akin ang contest."

 

Marami palang nagagawa ang pera. Maari kang manalo sa beauty contest kahit wala kang beauty. Maari kang pagandahin (retoke) kung hindi ka pa kagandahan ngayon. Maari mong bilhin ang ibang contestants sa beauty contest para umatras sila at ikaw na lang ang iproklamang nanalo.

 

Ang sabi ng isang istambay sa kanto: "Mabuti pa ang pera may tao (retrato), pero ang mga tao walang pera."

 

The dialogue on fiestas resurfaced in September in connection with the Biniray festival held in Batangas.

 

Rinzi posted this message on Sep 18:

 

“Viva San Nicolas de Tolentino!

 

“We have just returned from another successful Biniray festival in honor of Banton's patron, San Nicolas de Tolentino today, September 18, at Roponggi Beach Garden in Calaca, Batangas.

 

“Congratulations to the festival ExCom headed by Chair Ms. Mahlie Fonte.

 

“The weather was fine the whole day, a common occurrence in every biniray event. There had been no cancellations of the event despite stormy weather for the past 23 years. It rained hard the whole week causing floods in Metro Manila and suburbs.

 

“Romblon bishop, Most Reverend Jose Corazon Talaoc, DD presided over a concelebrated Mass with four other Bantoanon priests.

 

“Cong Lolong Firmalo, his wife and congressional office staff, and Ex VG Peping Fonte again joined this year's biniray celebration. I did not meet the real nor the impostor Ex Gov. Budoy Madrona.

 

“In the afternoon, the Biniray Council of Leaders formally installed Ms. Adel Ferrer, also an engineer like Mahlie, as Chair of Biniray 2006.

 

“The council elected engineer Fred Fabellon as Vice-Chair of Biniray 2006. He will have the singular honor to preside over the Biniray Silver in 2007.

 

“Biniray 2005 made a history of sort in event management when it helped organize two similar celebrations overseas- one in Texas, USA and another one in Canada.

 

“Biniray has started to go global this year. Congratulations!”

 

JR commented:

 

“Fiesta - it is a joyful and special occasion of religious festivities to mark the day of a saint.  However, it is sometimes mixed up of purely communal activity and social actions.”

 

Rinzi replied:

 

“Not anymore in many Philippine towns today.

 

“The biniray festival in honor of Banton's patron, San Nicolas de Tolentino, has been reinvented from a purely religious event to that of a socio-civic and cultural activity.

 

“Management of the event is in the hands of lay people with the parish priest as consultant/adviser.

 

“Town fiestas nowadays are planned and managed by local government units and socio-civic organizations in cooperation with the parish pastoral council.”

 

 

_____________________

Chu Mangoba is a Professional Engineer working for the Illinois Department of Transportation. He also worked in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines before immigrating to the U.S.

 
         
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