The feast is one of the most important traditions for the Filipino community, according to Wally Buhay, a member of the Charismatic group — one of four groups in the church’s Filipino Ministry, which includes about 500 families.
“This is the highlight, the big celebration,” Buhay said. “In the Philippines, this is the biggest celebration.”
It’s made even bigger this year, Buhay said, as it is the first time the Filipino Ministry will celebrate with its own Santo Niño. In the past, a parish family has loaned the ministry a statue.
The 3-foot-tall Santo Niño, draped in a traditional red velvet cape with one hand on a golden globe and one hand giving a peace sign, will be at the head of the procession ending the festival.
The statue was carved from wood in the Philippines and delivered to Tracy.
“A lot of people come knowing we have our own Niño — they know he is home,” Buhay said.
The nine-day event celebrates Jesus as an infant and remembers his childhood.
The local feast began Jan. 3 with nine days of “novena” prayer services at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, 163 E. Eaton Ave. Families also offer up devotional prayers and actions as part of the week’s worship, Buhay said.
The novenas lead up to the high Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday that will be led by the Rev. Rock Joseph Enriquez, who is visiting from the Philippines for the event.
Following Mass, a procession through the church courtyard will take the statue of the infant Jesus to Father Fleming Hall, where a free lunch of traditional Filipino food will be offered to the public.
The feast will include traditional offerings such as “lechon” — roasted pig — and lumpia, Filipino-style noodles called “pancit” and desserts of rice and coconut.
Music and entertainment will round out the day, including a group of Filipino Ati-Atihan dancers that will accompany the procession.
Buhay said all are welcome to attend the events and lunch.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4231 or email@example.com.