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From Fiestas to Faith

Fiestas & Faith

Community * Connections * Contribution Bayanihan * Kapwa

The colonization of the Philippines began with the arrival of Catholic missionaries whose work made the Philippines the third largest population of Catholics. Religious identity was ingrained in the culture giving Filipinos strong faith and family values and the importance of God. Even religious devotions have been adopted in the diaspora.

Introduction to Catholicism

The colonization of the Philippines began when Ferdinand Magellan claimed the islands in the name of King Philip of Spain. Missionary friars and priests began their conversion of the natives to Christianity and in 1521, the first Mass was celebrated. With over 300 years of Spanish rule and connection to the Spanish Galleon, the Philippines became a predominantly Catholic nation under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Mexico.

As Filipinos began to migrate to other parts of the world, they brought their religiosity which was ingrained into the culture. Their faith gave them the strong family values and the importance of Church and the religious devotions which molded their Filipino identity.

Santo Niño Fiesta

Third Sunday of January

The Santo Niño Fiesta is a cultural devotion to the Holy Infant of Prague, from Leyte Province. It was first celebrated January,1972 at the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Chula Vista. They recently celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the devotion. A grotto of Santo Nino was built at Precious Blood Church and dedicated on January 15, 2017.


Last Sunday in May

Every Memorial Day Weekend the Salinas Fiesta has been held in the South Bay since 1961. It has been held at Roca Park, Swiss Park, St. Charles Church in Imperial Beach and Southwestern College and Tooma Park.

The devotion is to the image of the the Madonna with the child Jesus which stories have said was found floating in the water. Although put away each evening, the next day the image was found again in the water. Because of this Salinas (named after the salt making town) the name was changed to Rosario in the mid 1800’s.

The Filipino American Community

The Penafrancia Fiesta is celebrated in Naga City, Bikol Province. Thousands flock to the river and the City as the image of the blessed mother enters the city from the Naga River.

The Peñafrancia Fiesta was first celebrated at St. Judes Church in 1976 drawing Bikolanos from all over California. This image of the blessed mother has been enshrined at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Paradise Hills since September, 2019.

Simbang Gabi or Misa De Gallo

December 15-23

Simbang Gabi is a Philippine Christian devotional novena, and held nine days before Christmas. Farmers and fishermen would attend mass at 4:00 AM before work, where the mass was also called Misa de Gallo, mass of the rooster.

The first Simbang Gabi held in the region was in 1985 at St. Rita Church in Encanto. It was led by the first Filipino Associate Pastor Dennis Macalantinal who became the first Filipino Pastor in the Diocese at St. Mary Church, National City in 1988.

Today, Simbang Gabi is a family tradition celebrated throughout the Diocese and other Christian denominations. Eight South Bay Parishes host the Simbang Gabi and for some have become part of the community preparation for Christmas.

First Simbang Gabi Decembr, 1985 at St. Rita Parish celebrated by Fr. Dennis Macalintal who became the first Filipino pastor in the Diocese of San Diego.

Southern Cross

By the 1980’s many Filipinos integrated into the Catholic parishes and becoming active ministers in music and liturgy. The Catholic Newspaper Southern Cross wrote an extensive article which references to Fr. Dennis Macalintal, first Filipino pastor in the Diocese of San Diego, and lay leaders from St. Charles Church, Imperial Beach.

Want to Learn More About This Exhibit?

Check out our presentation slide show to get an in-depth look at the history of Filipinos in the military.

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