History of the Philippine Santo Nino

8 Jan

The History of  Sto. Niño

The world is not flat! This discovery of the Spain’s expedition commanded by the Portuguese navigator Hernando de Magallanes or Ferdinand Magellan, that set the record as the first expedition to circumnavigate the world (and confirm that the world is round) is the same expedition that brought the image of  Sto. Nino and the Catholic faith to the Philippine islands. On September 1519, a fleet of galleons under the flag of Spain set sailed in search for the Spice Islands. Instead they landed in a group of islands in the central part of the Philippines and in Limasawa island where Magellan declared possession of the part of the Maharlika Kingdom of Asia, the Philippine archipelago and named it after King Philip of Spain.

Without spices and in search of needed supplies, they continued their journey and found the village of Zubu, now the City of Cebu, planted a mission Cross, befriended and converted into the Catholic faith the local chieftain Raja Humabon and his wife Hara Juana and the members of their tribe. As a gift on their baptism, Magellan gave the image of the Holy Infant Jesus, the Sto. Nino. A Sandugo, a blood compact was made between the two leaders and a promise to fight  together against the neighboring tribe of the island of Matan, now Mactan.  Magellan was killed in the battle of Mactan and the remnants of his forces returned to Spain using a different route, thus making the historic first voyage around the world.

Forty four  years later, a new group of Spanish explorers led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and an Augustinian priest, Fr. Andres Urdaneta, a cosmographer from the Augustinian monastery in Mexico arrived in Cebu and find out that the new chieftain, Raja Tupaz was unfriendly to the newcomers. Skirmishes between the two groups left the village of Cebu in ruins. When a party was dispatched to check the village, a soldier, his name, Juan Camus found the image of the Child Jesus in one of the burning huts, the same image given to the former village chieftain’s wife, Juana 44 years earlier. The natives went back to their pagan ways and may have kept the image as an anito, or one of the native gods, as it was found with floral offerings.

Legazpi was said to have included this event in his report, “Relation of Voyage to the Philippine Islands”, to the king of Spain:

“Your Excellency should know that on that day when we entered this village (Cebu City), one of the soldiers went into a large and well-built house of an indio where he found an image of the Child Jesus (whose most holy name I pray may be universally worshipped). This was kept in its cradle, all gilded, just as if it were brought from Spain: and only the little cross, which is generally placed upon the globe in his hands, was lacking. The image was well kept in that house, and many flowers were found before it, and no one knows for what object or purpose. The soldier bowed down before it with all reverence and wonder, and brought the image to the place where the other soldiers were. I pray to the Holy Name of his image, which we found here, to help us and to grant us victory, in order that these lost people who are ignorant of the precious and rich treasure, which was in their possession, may come to knowledge of Him.”

Since then, devotion to the Santo Niño has grown and has taken root in Filipinos’ popular piety, particularly in the Visayas, the central part of the Philippines group of islands. Pilgrims from different parts of the country make their yearly journey to the church, the Basilica Menore del Santo Nino or the Minor Basilica of the Santo Nino, in Cebu, to take part in the procession and festival. Different parts of the Philippines called this celebration differently: in Cebu, they call it Sinulog, Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan and in Tondo, Manila, Dinagyang in Iloilo and Binirayan in the province of Antique, to name a few. But all of them, all of these festivals, are centered on one and only purpose: the devotion to the Holy Infant Jesus, the Sto. Nino and His role in all of the Philippines’ embrace of the Catholic faith.

The Celebration in Iloilo City

Iloilo Province celebrate the Feast of Sto. Niño with a week-long festival, the Dinagyang Festival. Here are some pictures of the 2010 celebration courtesy of RRGenciana Photography of Iloilo City.

Article sources: http://www.santoninogodevotion.org/,  http://en.wikipedia.org, http://tubagbohol.mikeligalig.com

Pictures courtesy of RRGenciana Photography, Iloilo City

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