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Filipino devotion on the Coast

Thousands of Filipino Catholics dance and cheer through the streets of Cebu to mark the Feast Day of the Infant Child Jesus, known locally as Santo Nino.

Holy festival: Thousands of Filipino Catholics dance and cheer through the streets of Cebu to mark the Feast Day of the Infant Child Jesus, known locally as Santo Nino. The festivities will take place at a Gold Coast parish for the first time on January 19. Photos: Anthony Eleuto

DRUMS, chants and vibrant dress will fill Gold Coast streets on January 19 in Queensland’s first Sinulog Festival to honour one of the Philippines’ oldest religious devotions.

The devotion to the Santo Nino, the Philippines’ answer to the Holy Infant of Prague statue, is celebrated annually in Cebu.

And while Cebu was one of the worst-affected provinces hit by typhoon Haiyan late last year, the city will press on in faith to venerate the Holy Infant of Cebu.

Spanish Catholic missionaries first gave the original statue of the Infant to the wife of Cebu’s early chieftain Humaymay as a gift for converting to Christianity in 1521.

Because the statue has withstood floods, fires and wars, many Filipinos believe it has a miraculous nature.

It received a papal blessing in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, and was endorsed by Pope John Paul II when he celebrated Mass for families in Cebu on February 19, 1981. Sinulog Festival Cebu streets

Coinciding with the Cebu celebrations, Queensland Filipinos will take to the streets to show their devotion to the Santo Nino for the first time.

Filipino Australians will raise their replicas of the Santo Nino, chanting and dancing in a lead-procession accompanied with rhythmic tribal drumming.

Dancers take two steps forward, one step back, embodying the same motion as waves on an ocean, symbolising the constant ebb and flow of daily life.

Philippine-born Estell Bautista, now living in Brisbane, said Filipinos the world over “love the little Nino”.

Like many Filipinos, Mrs Bautista has a replica of Santo Nino in her home.

She said her devotion to the infant child Jesus was the reason she moved to Brisbane.

“I asked Santo Nino to give me what’s good for my future and then I trusted that good things would happen to me,” Mrs Bautista said.

“I met my husband, then I married him and now I am living happily in Brisbane, so I believe my prayer was answered.

“Santo Nino remains in my heart wherever I go – I respect him and I am a devotee.”

Gold Coast Filipino-Australian Association president Maryanne Boehme said the association was eager to continue the devotion for Australian Filipinos.

“Many of us wish we could be in Cebu for this very popular festival,” Mrs Boehme said.

“We thought we would bring celebrations in the Gold Coast instead.”

The Sinulog Festival runs Sunday, January 19, from 10.30am-4pm at the Sacred Heart Church, Clear Island Waters.

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