One of the items I have in my bucket list is to attend the Sinulog Festival in Cebu. As we know, Sinulog is an “annual cultural and religious festival held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, and is the centre of the Santo Niño Catholic celebrations in the Philippines.” It’s colorful, fun and really one of the most popular celebrations in the country.
And because I am young, dumb and broke – not a highschool kid, I have no budget (and no leave credits too!) to fly to Cebu to be part of that celebration. LOL! Though I have already visited the Basílica Menor del Santo Niño de Cebú when I went there in April of 2017, surely, this festival is a different experience.
Luckily for me, my dad’s relative is the owner of an image of the Santo Niño which happens to celebrate its centennial year this year! Imagine, that’s 100 years of faith and devotion.
The said image is owned by our grandmother, Lola Rosario “Charing” Paelmo-Lantican who lives in the US. This year though, their family decided to bring the image back to the Philippines to celebrate, what we call in Paete, is the “SALIBANDA FESTIVAL”. The essence is very much similar to Sinulog, but celebrated in a fun, wet way!
From this line on, if you’re here only to question my faith because you know what church I attend to, or what the *religion* I claim I am a part of is, I would suggest you stop reading because I DO NOT CARE. I know why I joined the festival, and I know in my heart what I did, and I stand firm on my faith. It’s called respect and I believe that we all must practice it.
So going back, Salibanda is a festival we celebrate in Paete during the first, second, third or fourth Sunday of January, depending on the schedule. It involves lots and lots of water! That is how the devotees of the Santo Niño does it.
From the church, the parade goes to Wawa Park where one can get access to Laguna Lake and then a fluvial parade happens there. After that, men carry the sculpture of the Santo Niño on a wooden platform and roams it around the town, while people splash water to everyone on the streets! That’s how fun it is. Devotees, and those who believe in the Santo Niño also claim to do it because they have “wishes” and “prayers” which they presume to happen once they join the parade. It’s a proof of their Aglipayan faith, a strong illustration of their devotion.
Salibanda is a word formed from two words, Saliw sa Banda which means to “dance with the band”. It was coined from the way the image of the Santo Niño was told to have been found, in the waters of Laguna Lake circa 1918. Other neighboring towns now also celebrate the same festival but as far as I can remember, I heard from our town mayor that it is in Paete where this kind of merry-making originated. And I kid you not, Paete’s Salibanda for me is the safest, happiest Salibanda you can ever join!
If you are interested to experience it, there is another one I think on the last Sunday of January this year, it is a different Santo Niño image though because our family members are going back to the US with the 100-year old image on the third week of the month, but I believe you’ll get the same experience.
Get those water guns ready, and don’t forget to wear your brightest red! People from Paete are nice and friendly, you should definitely experience the Salibanda Festival this year!