Viva Iligan Part 2

September 29, 2007

Today is officially my city’s fiesta. There’d be dancing and ceremonies down town, but as mentioned earlier I’m staying home. Protestants vary in opinions. Some genuinely find the rituals nothing short of offensive whilst some offer pretended or genuine disinterest.
Being curious and somewhat taken aback by the fact that I, a true born Iliganon, know nothing about Iliganon culture, I decided to do a little research on what happens come fiesta time. Please note that I wouldn’t even dare think of jostling with the masses under the noonday sun. Thus there would be no firsthand report here. Everything I report here is hearsay except for radio broadcasts.
Fiesta season starts on what the locals call as “Pagnaog ni San Miguel“, translated as the Descent of San Miguel. People here say, “Munaog na si San Miguel.” San Miguel will descend. So I thought that this was merely spiritual in nature. San Miguel would descend on the city and bestow his blessings upon it. I could never have been more wrong.
What people refer to as his descent is actually a very physical event. On non-fiesta days, his statue is kept above the altar in Saint Michael’s Cathedral beyond the reach of his devotees. On fiesta days, however, his statue is brought down on the altar. Masses would gather at this date and celebrate. Someone would lead the saying of the Vivas, and the people would answer alike.

Leader: Viva Señor! Hail Lord!
People: Viva! Hail!
Leader: Viva Señor! Hail Lord!
People: Viva! Hail!
Leader: Viva Señor San Miguel! Hail Lord San Miguel!

This would be the time that San Miguel would be closest to his people. They could now touch him, kiss him, and wipe their handkerchiefs on him so that his blessings could be spread to whatever these hankies touch. Last year was particularly violent for him. He lost an eye to the ministrations of his devotees.
Now I haven’t seen a Catholic-Protestant debate resulting from this practice, but I’ve heard that it could lead to pretty large volumes, textwise and soundwise. Take for example the case of one Protestant minded teacher. She kept repeating “God is a Jealous God” in relation to the devotion to San Miguel. She also lambasted why the Descent of San Miguel was declared a holiday. Even though I agree with her views, except for the holiday part, her approach was far from ideal. It offended both Catholics and Protestants in her class. They were grumbling about her for hours afterwards.
Then there was this other conversation from a Protestant minded neighbor. “Munaog na si San Miguel karon,” said his coworker. San Miguel is descending today.
Munaog or Ipanaog,” was the neighbor’s reply. Will he descend,or will someone bring him down?
“Cge,” said another guy, “Muuna sa ko.” I’ll be going ahead, guys. Apparently, he knew what was coming next.
Fortunately, the devotee couldn’t get it. He asked, “Unsay kalahian ana?What’s the difference?
To a Protestant it could only mean that San Miguel has to have people bring him down. He doesn’t even have the power to come down himself, how much more could he help those who pray to him. Anyway, it was one debate narrowly averted.
Whether he’s powerful or powerless, suffice it to say the people are genuine in his “veneration” or “idolatry”, depending on your perspective. There was this devotee who said:

Nagapasalamat ko ug dako kay Sr. San Miguel
kay gihatag niya ang tanan sa amoa.
Gikan pa mi sa Ditucalan.
Nangnaog gyud mi para sa iyaa.
Nagapasalamat giyod ko kay San Miguel.

I am greatly thankful to Señor San Miguel
for giving everything to us.
We came all the way from Ditucalan*

We came here just for him.
I am greatly thankful to San Miguel.

So if you’re interested in the sights of Iligan in fiesta. Visit us next year. Enjoy the parades and the dances. Enjoy whatever it is my city celebrates this time. One thing I’m mostly sure of, I won’t be there with you. I’ll be at home savoring the holiday season.

*Ironically, this is near Muslim majority land.

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