Romblon Biniray Festival

Romblon Biniray Festival
A festival parade in the sea followed by a celebration in Romblon January 9

Fiestas celebrating the Santo Nino, the image of the Holy Child Jesus, are popular in many parts of the Philippines. While Cebu City's week-long Sinulog Festival is perhaps the best known of these celebrations, the province of Romblon annually hosts its own unique festivities in honor of the Santo Nino in the capital town of Romblon. Filled with dancing, music, and a carnival atmosphere, the 2002 Biniray Festival will be held today till the 13th of the month.

The origins of the Biniray Festival date back well over 400 years to the earliest days of European colonialism in the islands. It has its roots in the adoration of the Santo Nino statue of Cebu which, along with Magellan's Cross, is the oldest and most celebrated Christian relic in the Philippines. Crafted by Flemish artisans, the statue was brought to Cebu by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

According to tradition, an Augustinian Friar had commissioned an exact replica of the Cebuano Santo Nino and the galleon carrying the statue stopped over in Romblon on its way to Madrid. But time the ship attempted to leave Romblon Bay for Spain, typhoon winds forced the vessel to turn back. The icon was then taken off the boat and brought to Romblon's Catholic Church, where a Mass was offered. At the conclusion of the Mass, when the priest and congregation attempted to return the statue to the boat, the statue miraculously could not be moved.

The Santo Nino resided in St. Joseph Cathedral for over four centuries, but was stolen from the cathedral in 1991 and has not yet been recovered. For the past decade, a replica of the statue has been venerated by thousands of festival-goers who participate in the celebration, which is held the second weekend of

The fiesta is highlighted by a flotilla of vessels that circle Romblon Bay seven times, marking the Spanish galleon's fruitless attempts to remove the Santo Nino from the province. This is followed by a colorful parade of marchers adorned with flowers and brightly painted costumes and faces. They accompany the Santo Nino as it is carried through the streets of the capital aboard a palanquin, a litter held aloft on bamboo poles.

The Biniray Festival is another marvelous opportunity for Filipinos and other travelers to experience the rich history, pageantry, and hospitality of the Philippines. For more information or to plan a trip to attend the upcoming festival, please contact Vernie Velarde-Morales, Tourism Director, Philippine Tourism Office, Chicago, at 312-782-2475, or by e-mail For complete details on accommodations and special airfares to Romblon, please contact Delia Saluba Famatigan at Romblon Foundation 630-375-9318, or by e-mail