Drums echoed through St. Cecilia Cathedral on Sunday as part of the 33rd Santo Nino de Cebu Celebration.
Dancers waved brightly colored ribbons to the music as part of a traditional Filipino dance, the sinulog, at the end of Mass.
“We dance in thanksgiving. It's prayer in the form of dance,” said Janet Lepaopao, co-president of the Cofradia del Santo Nino de Cebu Chapter of Omaha.
The celebration has roots in Cebu City, Philippines, and honors the Santo Nino, or child Jesus. Held on the third Sunday in January, it coincides with the celebration in Cebu.
A fiesta with food and activities followed Mass.
The event started small. This year, Lepaopao said, organizers expected about 600 attendees.
The large crowd wasn't exclusively Omahans. Visitors came from other states, including Kansas, Texas and Illinois.
The fiesta started with the singing of the national anthems of the United States and the Philippines and continued with food, cultural songs and dancing, and other activities.
Doris Tembelmeyer came with a group from Lincoln to perform a dance. Preparing the dance and costumes took months, Tembelmeyer said.
The Mass and festival are about more than elaborate costumes and dances. They create awareness of Filipino culture and tradition in regards to faith, said Cynthia Ulanday.
Ulanday has been a part of the Cofradia del Santo Nino de Cebu for 25 years. The festival helps Filipino-American children understand their culture, Ulanday said.
“We are also helping in spiritual upbringing of our children,” Ulanday said. “We wish our children will continue the tradition.”
Francisco Quevedo said he likes that the festival gets more people involved in Omaha and shows that there is a large Filipino community.
“It's a good way to share our culture, because it's open to anyone, Filipino or American, Catholic or not,” Quevedo said.
Rain, shine or snow, the festival goes on, Lepaopao said, but not without help from volunteers and support from local businesses.
“It's really a blessing,” Lepaopao said.
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