Honoring the image of Jesus Christ as a child, the Bellarmine community celebrated El Santo Niño, or the Sinulog Festival, this past Sunday. Organized by the Filipino Student Association (FSA) and the Bellarmine Mother’s Guild, many students, parents, and friends gathered to partake in Filipino festivities, ranging from folk music to traditional dances.

The celebration commenced with a mass facilitated by Father Shinney in Leontyne Chapel with a homily offered by Mr. Romero, religious studies teacher and FSA moderator. Featuring numerous songs in Tagalog, the mass itself kicked off Santo Niño with a very vibrant showcase of Filipino culture. Shortly afterwards, lunch was served in the Liccardo Center, featuring many traditional Filipino foods, such as pancit, lumpia, adobo, and chicken afritada.

When the guests finished eating, members of the FSA, with help from parents and students of Notre Dame and Presentation High Schools, displayed their love of Filipino culture in their two-hour performance. The entertainers paid homage to the customs of the Philippines in their Sinulog Festival dance and in their tinikling dance, a folk dance featuring two people maneuvering their way over two bamboo poles. However, the dancers also exhibited their own definitions of Filipino culture, integrating modern dances and songs.

The amount of effort and work put into this event embodies the very resilient and hard-working nature of the Philippines. Mr. Romero, who spent a year in the Philippines as a part of his Jesuit training, recalled the same sentiments. “I saw the Child Jesus reflected in the people there. They love one another and refuse to give up hope, even as they face immense struggle,” he said. “I thought it was extremely genuine.”

The student performers began practicing in July and have practiced every Sunday leading up to the big celebration. However, for many members in the FSA, planning a seemingly daunting two-hour performance was filled with many moments of joy. “I loved every single second of the preparation stage. More specifically, I loved all the people I got to know and work with. They’re a part of my “kapamilya” now,” said Jacob Noble ’18. “Kapamilya” is a Tagalog term that refers to a member of a family.

After many months of hard work, these students have truly developed a connected kapamilya. “I’m not actually Filipino; I’m Mexican. Coming into it, I thought it was kind of intimidating, but I saw how welcoming the community was,” said Manuel Perez ’17. “So over the past couple of years, I really developed a bunch of bonds, and everyone in this community is a part of my family, my kapamilya.”

Although Noble and Perez are rather experienced veterans of the Santo Niño celebration, the newer participants still felt the same connection. “Everyone was really helpful and open. I thought it was great that I could celebrate my culture, while meeting new people,” said Ryley Vargas ’20. Regardless of race or age, anyone can partake in the joy that comes from the historic, traditional celebration of El Santo Niño. As Bellarmine seeks to be a community full of many different faces and stories, it is important to acknowledge and honor the customs that our brothers and sisters hold dearly.