By Alfred Espedido
An early rain didn’t dampen the spirit of Santo Niño festivities revellers at St Peter the Apostle in Hoppers Crossing. Last 27 January, Filipinos crowded the popular but small St Peter Parish tucked away a few blocks from the main Heaths Road, to participate in their version of the noisy, folksy and colourful homage to the Sto Niño at this side of Melbourne.
A local drum squad, Hoppers Tribal, provided the pulsing beat to lend the rhythmic swaying of the SINULOG dancers and the shouts of “Viva Señor Sto Niño”. This to the delight of Filipino parishioners and local residents attracted by the drum beats as the parade weaved through the open lanes of the parish car park. The image of the Sto. Niño, carried on a float, led the parade. Devotees, families, young and old, raised and waved their Santo Niño images to shouts of “Viva Señor Sto Niño” and “Pit Señor”.
Three Sinulog dance groups – Best West Sinulog, Hoppers Tribal, and Halad Dancers (of Deer Park) vied for the attention of the crowd with their own choreography of the Sinulog, providing cultural delight. Their costumes ranged from the traditional Sinulog style (Southern Philippine tribal wear), Spanish era dress, to modernist Sinulog Lycra and wrap, their dress colours catching the brightness of the mild noon-day sun with every sway.
The procession led to a grand Mass, officiated by greater Victoria Congregation head Fr. Loi Viovicente assisted by Fr. Alfred Yap of St. Francis, Melbourne and the Harmonico Filipino Choir.
Festival goers were later rewarded with a sumptuous buffet of Filipino dishes, including lechon. The sago table was the favourite drink station. The festivities ended with a musical and cultural program.
The Sto Niño festival is a mainstay of the Filipino community calendar in Hoppers Crossing and has been held for the past 10 years. Filipinos are one of the largest ethnic groups in the parish of St Peters the Apostle in Guinane Ave, Hoppers Crossing and the Wyndham area, a few kilometres west of Melbourne. The event also attracts Filipinos from nearby Point Cook, Laverton, Tarniet, Truganina and Altona, as well as from as far out as Geelong.
The 2013 Sto Niño festival in Hoppers Crossing was organised by Two Hearts (of Hoppers Crossing) and the Filipino Association of Wyndham Inc. (FAWI). They were supported by local groups – the St Peters Welcoming Committee, Katawan ni Kristo (KNK), Himig Pinoy, FFC Handmaids, and the Adriano and Delos Santos families. Major sponsorships were kindly provided by the Friendship (group), Families for Christ (FFC), Lulu Lorenzo, Liz Honey Promotions, Talyer, Drs. Teng, Fuertes and Bermudes, and the Pampagueño (association).
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