Monday, January 21, 2008

the feast of the sto. nino

i decided to spend my weekend at my cousin's place last week. i lieu of the upcoming feast here in tondo and how much he knew of the chaos such an event would cause, my cousin was kind enough to invite me over and have me as company.

the feast of the christ child, or fiesta ng sto. nino, is the official feast of tondo. here in tondo is the shrine of the sto. nino and every third sunday of january, it never fails to draw thousands of devotees into its hallowed hall, all wanting to pay homage to the blessed "little boy". in contrast to the heavily charged zealous atmosphere that surrounds the feast of the black nazarene in quiapo, held just 1 week prior, the feast of the sto. nino carries a more festive, colorful air. i guess since they were giving honor to a kid, might as well throw the biggest kiddie party the world has ever seen!

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for the next two days of the weekend, the feast would render my neighborhood to become almost unrecognizable. tondo is famous for being rather filthy. being the port of entry of produce from all over the country and the world, tondo carries what would be probably the largest open wet market this side of the pasig. the garbage produced by the markets alone is enough to make us visible from google EARTH! the streets are perennially wet, muddy and slimy and the smell, well, it takes getting used to. tondo is also heavily congested with people. the hyperbole "living one on top of the other" is very real here. notorious for it's disorder, tondo "prides" itself for producing top grade crooks and vagabonds that would be the material for probably every carlo j. caparas movie ever made. yet come time of the feast, it seems tondo goes into an overnight metamorphosis. the streets become squeaky clean and everyone are in their best of behavior. for two days in the year, tondo becomes civilized, presentable almost. tondo for a few days bursts out in colorful costumes, pageants, parades, and politicians (including ex-basurero turned boy toy, turned politician, vice mayor isko). as i said, almost unrecognizable. that is, until the procession starts, the beginning of the end, so to speak.

you don't really see the sea of THOUSANDS until the parish brings out the image of the kid. once the shrine on wheels gets a moving, trust that you'll have the throng of people following eagerly behind it. candles in hand, the mass of devotees accompany the shrine on a pre-determined path around tondo, almost like a hypnotized mob following a piped piper. i sometimes wish that the "spell" of the image stays with the masses and tondo stays the way it is forever. yet signs of "spell" of the feast wearing out becomes evident as the day comes to a close. you can tell by the trail of trash the devotees leave behind as they pass with the shrine. the end of the procession herald the start of the after-party and all that piousness is replaced by the rowdy noise of karaoke and drunk men fighting as to whose wives are uglier.

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