Sto. Nino finds home among Fil-Ams
Words and pictures By Dionesio C. Grava
Typical of devotees transplanted to a foreign land, the Perez family brought with them their fervor for the Santo Nino when they resettled in the southwestern region of Los Angeles County. Torrance is next door to the city of Carson, home of a large concentration of Filipinos overseas. With a commonality in faith, culture, food and cherished memories of the homeland, the Filipino community in that part is cohesive and vibrant indeed. And just as it is elsewhere in the U.S. where Pinoy expatriates congregate, manifestations of religious affiliations are most evident in January. It is Sinulog month in veneration of the Child Jesus.
It’s more than a decade since I last saw the Perezes. That was the anniversary observance of the death of the family’s patriarch, a former colleague of mine in what was then known as the Cebu City Police Department. The Perez kids I knew then have since grown up, most of them with own families. In connection with this article, I was able to reconnect to Beverly, now Mrs. Kyle Hendrikson and a practicing attorney in the Washington, D.C. area. Her sisters Marrisa and Liezl also live and work nearby. That leaves the other sister, Girlie, and brother Arnold, together with their respective families, still with their mom in Torrance.
“Mommy still tries to host a small dinner every Jan 8th (mom & dad’s wedding anniversary) in honor of Sto. Nino, but it gets smaller and smaller every year as the work that goes into it is becoming too much for her to handle as she gets older,” Beverly responded to my email inquiry. She was referring to the family’s tradition of hosting a yearly observance in honor of the Holy Child with close friends.
This practice of family-centered Santo Nino celebrations may be more prevalent than I know of. My wife and I used to be invited by the Gica couple — Boy and Chiquita — to their Anaheim residence together with some fellow Cebuanos. The yearly gathering to celebrate the Holy Infant later moved to the huge Saint Pius V Church on 7691 Orangethorpe Ave., Buena Park.
I presume that small group was the start of what now is known simply as the Sinulog sa Buena Park. It has tremendously grown in size in terms of attendance yet loosely organized with volunteers tending to the yearly event. The food, the presentations, decor and other expenses are all donated, according to Tessie Siongco, formerly of Hilongos, Leyte, and main spark of the group. “There are no leaders,” she added. The Gica couple had since returned to Cebu, some people said.
The group will hold its fiesta in the same church starting 9:30 a.m. on January 21. It is the same date that another group called the Culver City Association of Southern California has also scheduled theirs starting an hour later in the St. Augustine Church, 3850 Jasmine Ave., Culver City. An invitation to the latter event was emailed by Jane/Jinky Labrador.
For the year 2012, however, and at least in Southern California, the Santo Nino de Cebu Association-Southern California, Inc. (SNCASC) heralded the Sinulog season with a full-capacity attendance in the Los Angeles County Arboretum, city of Arcadia, last January 7. Its current president, Willow Lim, considered their group the biggest of its kind. SNCASC used to celebrate their fiesta in the St. Cornelius Church in Long Beach.
Local Sinulog festivities usually include prayer sessions (novenas), a Holy Mass and the traditional Sinulog dance. There are also cultural presentations and as usual with Filipino events, an abundance of food. Images of various types and sizes of the Holy Child are prominent during these celebrations. In addition to reasons of faith, occasions like this also enhance camaraderie and provide glimpses of the Filipino culture that even non-Filipinos and foreign-born Filipino children appreciate.
There are many other organizations in this part that usually celebrate the Santo Nino feast day at this time of year. The 19th Annual Santo Nino Fiesta was held January 14 in the St. Christopher Catholic Church, West Covina. The Feast of the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague was on the same day in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels.
Los Angeles. Renee Estella O’neal, coordinator of the Inland Empire Sinulog Dance Troupe that performed during the SNCASC event, showed this writer a list of other Sinulog events that had already engaged their group in the following venues: the St. Linus Catholic Church, Norwalk City, on January 8; Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Rancho Cucamonga, January 14; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Ontario, January 14; and the Saint Pius V Church on January 21 mentioned above. Two other Sinulog events on that same day in the Holy Name of Jesus Church in Redlands and the Our Lady of the Assumption Church in San Bernardino could no longer be accommodated because of time conflicts.
Other organizations known to be celebrating the Sinulog fiesta nearby: the Cruzada de Santo Niño-USA in Glendale, the LA-based Society of Santo Nino of America and the Taclobanon Santo Nino devotees, the Santo Nino group in Tujunga, the Philippine Independent Catholic Church in Van Nuys, Santo Nino celebration in the St. Philomena Catholic Church in Carson, the Filipino Ministry of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Long Beach and the Infant Jesus of Prague in Canoga Park.
From Houston, lawyer Lope Lindio forwarded the invitation to the Annual Fiesta of Senor Santo Nino de Cebu on January 28 in the Notre Dame Catholic Church, 7720 Boone Rd. This reminded me of a 2002 email from Rosario Javelosa, former department head of Cebu’s University of San Carlos where my wife also used to teach. Mrs. Javelosa wrote about her group’s plan to hold a Santo Nino celebration in their NW Houston area. It would be a first, she said then even as she also asked for as much information about the Santo Nino history and how the celebration would proceed. I passed on his letter-request to members of my Santo Nino email network and subsequently received her thanks. I wonder if her efforts then had any bearing to the coming Houston event.
Other celebrations farther away from the Los Angeles area: the feast of the Holy Child in the Saint Anne Catholic Church in Union City, the Santo Niño de Cebu in Hayward, the Señor Santo Niño 9-day novena and fiesta in Oxnard, the Santo Nino fiesta in the St. Michael’s Abbey in Lake Forest, the Santo Nino celebration of the Bullecir clan of Oxnard, the Santo Nino de Cebu Association International in San Francisco, the one in the St. Joseph Cathedral/Basilica in San Jose, the Santo Nino and Ati-Atihan Festival in Chesapeake, Virginia, the feast of the Child Jesus in Minnesota and the Santo Nino Sinulog Association of South Florida, Inc. in Ft. Lauderdale.
They say that Filipinos in the U.S.A. are a fractious, disunited lot. Among the faithful, however, an identical reverence for the Holy Child exists. Pit Senyor kanatong tanan!