January in the Philippines means a cavalcade of colorful festivals that mix religious devotion, ethnic pride and just plain fun.
After the explosive celebrations of the New Year, the Quiapo district of Manila takes a solemn respite for the feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9th. A statue depicting Jesus Christ carrying the cross on his way to Mount Calvary is carried on shoulders of devotees in a procession marking the image’s transfer to its present location in Quiapo Church. Celebrants reach out to touch the image, believing they would be blessed with a favor or granted a miracle.
On the third week, many localities all over the country honor the feast of the Santo Niño (Holy Child), a major religious patron. In Aklan, the Ati-atihan was originally a pagan thanksgiving festival celebrating the friendship between the Malay and Ati tribes on Panay Island. When the Spaniards arrived, the missionaries made it a Christian celebration by honoring the Santo Niño. The Sinulog of Cebu and Dinagyang of Iloilo also had similar ethnic beginnings but were converted into Christian festivals to foster strong devotion among the locals.