Monday, July 31, 2017

Kinabayo Festival 2017 : A Showcase of Dapitan's Deep Devotion and Religiosity

If one wants to witness the piety of the people of Dapitan, he just have to visit this city during their annual celebration of Kinabayo Festival. I did just that this year and marveled at the different activities I witnessed, many of which is in honor of St. James the Greater, also known as Senyor Santiago - the city's patron saint.

A street dancer from Tangub City.
Senyor Santiago is always depicted as a horse-mounted knight ready to strike down adversaries of the Christian faith. During the annual Kinabayo Festival, he is being relived as the one who guided the Spanish Christians to victory against the Moors in the Battle of Covadonga. He is said to have appeared before the Spanish Christian soldiers during the battle and inspired them to continue the fight, and win. This same battle is the one being reenacted yearly as part of the festival. 

Senyor Santiago astride his horse. Street dance contingent of Dapitan.

The religiosity of the people of Dapitan is very evident through the way they celebrate this festival. The religious ceremony starts with a novena, leading to the feast day (July 25). Then on July 24, just one day before the feast day, the "Halok sa Reliquias" is conducted. From 8:00 am-11:59 am, devotees fall in line for four hours for a chance to pay homage to the image of Senyor Santiago. At exactly 12nn, the "Sinug" starts where the image of St James will be paraded from the church interior into the town plaza outside the church. During this ceremony, one can hear the defeaning "Viva, Sr. Santiago, Viva!" of all the devotees while waving their San Francisco leaves. It was a very hair-raising moment for first time attendees as one can definitely feel the religious fervor of the people around him.

San Francisco leaves. Used by the Dapitanons as "palaspas" during "Sinug".

All of these I witnessed and I was very entranced by how much devotion the Dapitanons show towards Senyor Santiago! It reminded me of the famed Traslacion of Quiapo's Black Nazarene. I now understand what Dapitan Tourism Officer Apple Marie Agolong was saying during her interview wherein she said that Dapitan is "as Catholic as the Vatican City" when it comes to their deep devotion to the Senyor. She added that she wasn't able to attend Sinug for so long when she was younger that when she finally witnessed it, she experienced "paninindig ng balahibo" and quipped, "I thought then I missed half of my life".

People wave their San Francisco leaves while animatedly chanting "Viva, Senyor Santiago, Viva!". 
Left: Outside the courtyard , Right; Inside the Church

During the day of the feast, one of the most long-awaited event is the street dance competition of the contingents from different neighboring cities, towns and provinces. Each contingent renders their own reenactment of the Battle of Covadonga then add some more street dancing of their own while wearing multi-coloured beautiful costumes. They continue their lively presentation paying homage to Senyor Santiago from the street to the event venue, tirelessly dancing and chanting "Viva, Senyor Santiago, Viva!" to the tunes of lyre and drums. The chant and the sounds echo throughout the town proper of Dapitan during this festive event.

A street dancer from Dipolog

This year's Kinabayo Festival was celebrated from July 16-25 with many activities conducted aside from the religious ones. One of the highlights was the Miss Dapitan beauty pageant which happened on the night of July 23, 2017. A slew of other activities included motocross, bowling tournament, music festival, hiphop competition, tattoo congress, bike race, song writing competition, football tournament, horses on parade, and many others.

Witnessing Kinabayo Festival 2017 is a very unforgettable experience for the first timers (like me!) and will definitely make visitors feel the urge to come back and visit Dapitan for more.


For other Dapitan articles in San Josenyong Gala, you may visit:

Dakak : Food, Beach, Adventures and Many More!
Rizal and Dapitan (coming soon!)
Gloria's Fantasyland : Dapitan's Very Own Fantastic Theme Park (coming soon!)

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About the Author

I am ROMEL RAFOR JAIME, the man behind San Josenyong Gala. My travel blogger name came about because I am a proud resident of the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. In real life, I am a licensed librarian who works in a college in Gapan, Nueva Ecija as a librarian and teaches general education subjects from time to time. My goal is to visit all the 81 provinces of the Philippines before visiting other countries. As of 2017, I have already visited 73... :)

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