Monday, September 1, 2014

My First Almost Hala Bira!

It has been discussed a hundred times in school and more during family dinners even the news features it during January but I never get to experienced it until this year - 2014.  In the Philippines, January holds one of the most prestigious festival in the country.  This festival is in honor of the child Jesus or commonly known as the Sto. Nino.  Most provinces in Visayas celebrate this feast on a Sunday of January.

The festival's highlight is when the Sto. Nino is brought out from the convent into the Main Church and the tribal dance parade.  Plenty of the locals flock the church to witness the Sto. Nino and to have the chance to touch the statue for healing powers.  It was believed that if you touched the statue you will be healed with any illnesses.

Luckily, I have relatives to take us to the church and take part in the ceremony.  After a short ride from Boracay pier, we were fetched by my cousin to go straight to Ibajay.  That is my father's hometown and where the Ati-Atihan will take place.  Before you get confuse, Ati-Atihan in Aklan is celebrated on different Sundays depending on the town.  It is common knowledge that Ati-Atihan is on January 15 but this is only in the city of Kalibo Aklan.  For Ibajay, it is on the 3rd Sunday of January.  We were there on the day before the festival so just in time that the Sto. Nino will be brought out of the convent.

We arrived at the church around 11 am.  This is usually the time the Sto. Nino will be carried to the Church from the Convent.  The church ground was teeming with locals and tourists who are all dancing in the drum beats of the bands who are basically circling the church.  It was loud, hot and sticky but the atmosphere is just amazing.  Everybody was dancing and smiling.  Some people were already smeared with "uling." It is a ground charcoal wet with water and is used as make-up during the festival.  While me and my husband were looking too clean, a lot of passers-by smeared us with "uling."  My husband got more uling on his face than I did.  To think he was taller than most average Filipinos there, people reached out to put some uling on his face.  Well, good for him. 

When the Sto. Nino was carried out, people followed it inside the church, my cousin told me we should get inside and hopefully touch the statue.  The throng of people inside the church was just too overwhelming.  We were pushed in every direction.  Good thing no stampede happened and I was not trampled over (which I was already thinking might happen during the entire course of being pushed inside the church).  We were able to go near the Nino.  I whispered a simple prayer when I received the shirt my husband threw to touch the statue.  I haven't done this before but it won't hurt if I believe.

 Unfortunately we were not able to stay longer as our flight going back to Manila was on the same day.  Perhaps another year to witness the tribal dance and yes get to know my relatives in Ibajay more.  Maybe the next time I come back my wish will already be granted and I'll get the chance to do the "sad-sad" and sing "hala bira!" 


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