With three days to go before dawn Masses start for Simbang Gabi, the animal replicas have to be ready “or else the Three Kings will have to find another way to get to the Cathedral,” Baraca joked.
Barangay Tinago is reviving its procession of the Three Kings, a community tradition that originated in the 1960s. Locals fondly call it “camel-camel sa kadlawon sa Barangay Tinago.”
Barangay captain Doming Lopez said that his uncle, former barangay captain Angel Lopez, started the practice.
His uncle would lead musicians, mainly tuba and guitar players, in a procession to the Cebu Cathedral every dawn of the Misa de Gallo, which starts tomorrow.
The “Three Kings” are mounted on the camels, which are placed on wheeled platforms and pulled along at the head of the procession.
“We would call out to everybody in the barangay to attend dawn Masses. We would sing Christmas songs while dragging our camels to church,” Lopez said.
Baraca Baraca, who grew up with the tradition, has been volunteering in fixing the three camels for five years now.
The event is something he looks forward to every year.
“After Mass, my father would help drag the camels back to the barangay hall. Then we would visit our neighbors for painit,” he said.
Painit refers to a hot snack usually of a chocolate drink and puto or rice cakes.
Usually, one family would sponsor the early-morning snacks for Mass-goers, to which everyone is invited.
“It’s my annual vow to do this. For all the graces I have received, I volunteer here to show my thanks,” said Baraca.
Lopez said they have to keep the tradition alive because it unites the barangay.
“The tradition honors the Three Kings. Based on the Bible, the Three Kings riding a camel searched for the Child Jesus and discovered Him. They started Christmas,” Lopez said.
A similar procession of Three Kings on camels takes place in nearby Parian led by choreographer Val Sandiego, who revived it seven years ago at the request or Cardinal Vidal.
During the Spanish era, barangays Tinago and Pari-an were one, so they decided to name the revival of the tradition as Pasko sa Karaang Pari-an (Christmas in old Parian).
The “camels” in Tinago were the same ones used by Sandiego, who also had his dance troupe perform on the street 30 minutes before the start of Mass in the Cathedral.
The outdoor procession and dancing would take place outside the Yap-Sandiego ancestral house.
But this year, the Sandiegos will have to use their own props since Tinago decided to revive its own tradition.
Although the decision for Tinago to pursue its own presentation came just a few days ago, Sandiego said he respects the barangay’s desire to restore its own tradition.
With two barangays reviving local Christmas traditions, he said the celebration this year will be more exciting for Cebuanos. /By Carine M. Asutilla, Correspondent