Spanish missionaries started the Pastores tradition in Naga to Christianize the Indio communities south of Cebu in the late 1600s and early 1700s.
The “Los Pastores” is a poetic morality play and dance portraying the story of the shepherds’ search for the baby Jesus. The 16th century Spanish missionaries used this in teaching Catholicism in new Spanish colonies.
Because there were not enough missionaries and priests, families of lay people soon took over and carried on the traditions often by word of mouth. One of the original families was the Requinto clan who passed on the “Pastores” tradition from one generation to another until today.
Historians noted that there was no Naga town yet when the missionaries arrived but Indio settlers from neighboring villages and islands congregated around the bustling communities of Tuyan and Tinaan.
Naga town was born after Spanish authorities decided to group the settlers into one organizational unit headed by a cabeza de barangay for easy management. The reduccion policy also made it easier for a single Spanish Catholic friar to ‘train’ Filipinos in the basic principles of Christianity. The parish and the town were created in 1829 and became a regular Municipality in 1843. Fr. Santos Maranon designed the 17th century church, made of coral stone and hard wood, and built by Fr. Simeon Aguirre, with the parishioners providing for the free labor.
By this time, various Pastores groups already existed and performed during the Christmas season. But because of the need for huge resources however, the elaborate nativity performances soon gave way to the house-to-house song-dance-poetry daygon routine as centuries passed.
While the Pastores tradition in Naga faded into the background as the community grew into an industrial center of Metropolitan Cebu, Bicolanos and others in Luzon got inspired and turned the Christmas custom into festivals that still exist until today.
The famous national artist Ramon Obusan, who organized the annual Christmas play at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) traced the origin of the Pastores tradition in Luzon to Naga, Cebu.
Today, three Pastores groups exist in Naga that performed before parish pastoral council during Christmas season last year.
The two Pastores groups in the lowland barangays of Tangke and Naalad are more “modern.” The Requinto clan tradition had been verbally handed down since the Spanish period in the mountain barangay of Tagjaguimit. Narcisa Requinto, who trained pre-teen clan members the dance steps that went with a handwritten script handed down from her elders, said she was a Pastores herself way back in the 1960s.
After they performed during the Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbo, an ecstatic Gov. Gwen Garcia said Naga City under Mayor Valdemar Chiong should transform the The Pastores tradition into an annual festival.
Being part of Mayor Chiong’s Vision and Leadership (VAL) 2020, Mayor Chiong lost no time in organizing the First Pastores de Naga Christmas Festival 2007.