A homecoming festival for Sto. Niño in Romblon | Inquirer News

A homecoming festival for Sto. Niño in Romblon

/ 09:37 PM January 08, 2014

Ati-Atihan during the Biniray Festival in 2013. Revelers don colorful, tribal costumes for the rhythmic dance during fiestas in Romblon, Romblon. KATI BURG/CONTRIBUTOR

What else could highlight this year’s Biniray Festival in Romblon than the return of the 400-year-old image of the Nuestra Señor Sto. Niño? After 22 years, the statue, stolen from the St. Joseph Cathedral, has come home for its feast.

“We are really happy and thankful that we have the original one back,” said Msgr. Ernie Fetalino of the Diocese of Romblon.


The 12-inch tall, wooden statue is a replica of the Sto. Niño of Cebu. It was stolen in December 1991 when the cathedral in Romblon town in Romblon was undergoing renovation.


To push through with the festival that happens every second week of January, the diocese replaced the image with a replica.

“Many devotees used to come (during the Biniray) but we noticed they’ve become fewer since (the original) went missing,” Fetalino recalled.

The Biniray Festival includes a fluvial procession of the image on a flotilla making rounds seven times at sea. It is believed that back then, a Spanish galleon that was supposed to bring the statue to Madrid tried to leave the island seven times but was prevented by strong waves until it was forced to leave the statue behind.

As if to confirm a belief that the Sto. Niño is never to leave Romblon, the stolen image seemed to have found its way home through an antique collector from Aklan last year. The collector contacted local priests and Romblon officials to pave the way for the statue’s enthronement on Feb. 9, but not before last year’s Biniray.

“This year’s Biniray is a thanksgiving. People believe the Sto Niño protects the province,” Gov. Eduardo Firmalo said in a phone interview on Monday.

One glaring instance, he said, was how Romblon, initially placed on the path of killer Supertyphoon “Yolanda” last November, was spared. The storm seemed to have deviated from its original path, Firmalo said, damaging homes and crops but failing to claim lives.


“People believe we have not had worse typhoons since the image was returned,” he added.


New bishop

The fiesta on Jan. 9-11 coincides with the installation of Fr. Narciso Abellana as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Romblon since it was established in 1974. Abellana, 60, is also the first Filipino bishop ordained by Pope Francis.

On Jan. 10, the province would hold its fourth Marble Festival, featuring a competition among local marble artisans. Provincial Economic Investments officer Roberto Madera said at least 10,000 tourists were expected to show up at the event aimed at promoting one of Romblon’s main products.

Romblon is a third-class province (annual income: P27 million-P360 million) with 30 percent of the families living in poverty, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. More than 75 percent of its population are Catholics.

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Firmalo said the festival would help boost the local economy through marble tourism, but its religious facet “will help renew and strengthen the faith.”

TAGS: News, Regions

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