To conclude the series on the celebration of the feast of Santo Niño this month, the National Museum PH introduces another festival, the Pasalamat Festival – a festivity commemorating the arrival of the Santo Niño image in the Philippines and in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur in Western Mindanao.
Like the Kahimunan Festival of Butuan City and the Sakay-Sakay Festival of Maasin City, Pasalamat Festival is held during the 3rd week of January. From the word “pasalamat”, the festival is held to give thanks for the blessings they have received throughout the year. The 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Santo Niño image in the Philippines was celebrated in 2021, making it the oldest Catholic icon in the country.
The festival’s highlight is a fluvial parade (regatta), along with trade exhibitions, as well as Mutya ng Pagadian City. However, the majority of the festival’s activities were canceled from 2020 to 2021 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A motorcade was held in place of a procession and the number of people allowed to hear novena masses was also set to a minimum in 2021. The same activity was held on January 6, 2022 wherein an image of the Sto. Niño was paraded from the city center to the Sto. Niño Cathedral Parish Church.
Last January 15, 2022, the vibrant ritual dance showdown featuring street performers and festival queens holding the image of the Santo Niño in different garbs was held. With the ongoing pandemic, only fully vaccinated participants and guests were allowed to participate. Physical distancing was observed and the performers could only remove their masks during their presentation.
Ever wondered why the majority of the Sto. Niño festivals are held in January when the image supposedly arrived first in Cebu on April 1521. One of the known reasons for this is that Rome granted the Philippines special permission to celebrate the feast of Sto. Niño every 3rd Sunday of January.
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