The Señor Santo Niño de Cebú is a Catholic title of the Child Jesus associated with a religious image of the Christ Child[1] widely venerated as miraculous by Filipino Catholics.[2][3] It is the oldest Christian artifact in the Philippines,[4] originally a gift from the Conquistador Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon (baptized as Carlos) and his wife and chief consort, Hara Humamay (baptized as Juana) on account of their Christian baptism in 1521. The image is the only canonically crowned image of Jesus Christ in the Philippines.[5]

Santo Niño de Cebú
Original image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebú
LocationCebu City, Philippines
DateApril 14, 1521
April 28, 1565
WitnessFerdinand Magellan
Antonio Pigafetta
Rajah Humabon
TypeWooden statue
ApprovalPope Innocent XIII
Pope Paul VI
Pope John Paul II
Pope Francis
Venerated inCatholic Church
ShrineBasílica Minore del Santo Niño
PatronageCebu, Cebuanos, Filipinos
Attributescrown, sceptre, globus cruciger, dark skin, maroon mantle, gold boots, sash
Feast dayThird Sunday in January

The dark wood statue measures approximately 12 inches (30 cm) tall, and carved in the Flemish style. It depicts the Child Jesus, with a serene countenance, in the attitude and dress of a Spanish monarch.[5][6] The statue bears imperial regalia, including a golden crown, globus cruciger, and various sceptres, wears fine vestments, and possesses jewelry mostly offered by devotees over several centuries.

The image is replicated in various parts of the country with different titles and is one of the most beloved and recognizable Filipino cultural icons.[7] The annual dancing feast of Sinulog is held on the third Sunday of January every year in its honor.[5][8] Today, the original image is permanently encased behind bulletproof glass inside its chapel within the Basilica del Santo Niño.[9]

History edit

The Santo Niño de Cebú was originally produced by Flemish artisans, according to a hagiography, based on a vision of Teresa of Ávila, the 16th century Discalced Carmelite mystic.[10]

In early 1521, a Spanish expedition ordered by King Charles I and led by Ferdinand Magellan was on a voyage from Spain to find a westward route to the Spice Islands. After crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, on April 7, 1521, they landed in Limasawa, Southern Leyte, and met a local ruler named Raja Kulambu, who introduced him to Rajah Humabon, ruler of Cebu Island, and his chief consort, Hara Humamay. On April 14, Magellan presented them with three gifts: a bust of Christ as the Ecce Homo, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Santo Niño as part of their baptism and strategic alliance. As Humabon adopted the Catholic faith, he took the Christian name of "Carlos" (after Charles I), while Humamay was christened "Juana" (after Joanna of Castile, Charles' mother).[11][12] According to Antonio Pigafetta – Magellan's memoir writer, along with the ruler, about 500 males along with the Queen and 40 women were also converted by Father Pedro Valderrama. At the ceremony, Raja Kulambu of Limasawa also converted and was given the name Don "Juan", while his Muslim captain was named Don "Cristobal".[13]

A few days after the mass baptism, Magellan undertook a war expedition on the behalf of the newly named King Carlos,[14] attacking Mactan Island and burning down hamlets which resisted.[13] The residents led by Lapu Lapu defended Magellan's attack with force, and Magellan died on April 27, in the Battle of Mactan, about three weeks after he had arrived in Philippines.[15] After Magellan's death, his Spanish colleagues left.[16]

The next Spanish expedition arrived on April 27, 1565, led by Miguel López de Legazpi, again to gain a foothold for a colony to trade spices. He attempted a peaceful colonization, but these efforts were rejected. As a result, he opened fire on Cebu and burnt the coastal town down destroying 1,500 homes and possibly killing 500 people.[17] In the ruins of this destruction, on April 28, the Spanish mariner Juan Camus found the image of the Santo Niño in a pine box. According to the local legend, the survival of the statue was seen as a sign of miracle by the colonizers, and ever since it has been believed to have miraculous powers.[18]

The image of the Santo Niño is the oldest surviving Catholic relic in the Philippines, along with the Magellan's Cross.[19] A church to house Santo Niño was built on the spot where the image was found by Juan Camus. The church was originally made of bamboo and mangrove palm and claims to be the oldest parish in the Philippines. It was rebuilt later, and Pope Paul VI elevated it to the status of Minor Basilica on its 400th anniversary (Spanish: Basílica Minore del Santo Niño).[20]

The Name edit

The name, "Santo Niño" was taken from the Spanish words, "Santo" which means "Holy" in its masculine form and "Niño" which means "Child" in its masculine form. Thus, it is translated as "Holy Child".

In Spanish Bible we can read in Luke 1:35

"Y el ángel dijo: —El Espíritu Santo vendrá sobre ti y el poder del Altísimo te cubrirá con su sombra. Así que al Santo Niño que va a nacer lo llamarán Hijo de Dios." - [21]

In King James Version, the title "Holy Child" was also applied even if Jesus was already ascended to heaven.

"By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus."(Acts 4:30, King James Version 1611)[22]


Feast edit

Feast of the Santo Niño
 
Devotees flock to the Basílica Menor del Santo Niño during the novena masses.
Observed byPhilippines
Liturgical colorWhite
TypeReligious / Cultural
DateThird Sunday in January
2023 dateJanuary 15  (2023-01-15)
2024 dateJanuary 21  (2024-01-21)
2025 dateJanuary 19  (2025-01-19)
2026 dateJanuary 18  (2026-01-18)
FrequencyAnnual

The feast, locally known as Fiesta Señor, starts on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Each year, the celebration starts with a dawn procession wherein the replica image of Santo Niño de Cebú is brought down to the streets. It is then followed by the novena Masses, which span nine days.

On the last day of the novena, another dawn procession is held wherein the image of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebú is removed from its shrine and brought to the Basílica Menor. After the procession, it will stay for a while in the Basilica. Then, the images of Santo Niño de Cebu and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebú are brought to the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City to be reunited with the icon of the church's namesake, thus forming the Holy Family. This transfer, which is common in fiestas throughout the country, is called Traslación.[23] This practice started on January 19, 1989.[24]

On the morning of the vísperas ("eve", i.e., the day before) of the feast, the images of Santo Niño de Cebu and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebú are brought back to Cebu City in a fluvial procession that concludes with a reenactment of the first Mass and baptism in the islands. A break from tradition, the image of St. Joseph joined the fluvial procession for the first time in 2024.[25] It is then followed by a grand yet solemn foot procession in the afternoon, culminating in a Pontifical Mass concelebrated by bishops and priests. The grand Sinulog Festival is then held on the following Sunday.

The Hubo rite edit

 
The Sinulog procession includes dancing and fiesta in reverence of Santo Nino. Above, a Sinulog participant carrying a copy of the Santo Nino statue.

The festival officially ends on the Friday after the icon's feast day, and it is marked with the traditional Hubo (Cebuano, "undress") rite. During a Mass, the basilica's priests and sacristans ceremoniously and reverently strip the Santo Niño of its festal vestments and regalia.

There is a strict order of divesting the icon: first the crown is removed, followed by the orb and sceptre; then the cape; then the sash and tunic, and finally, the inner garments. The priest recites a short petition before each removal, which is marked with a festive drum roll. The priest then chants Christe exaudi nos (Latin for “Christ, graciously hear us”).

The priest then raises the icon for veneration, carefully dips it in a basin of scented water four times, and wipes it dry. He then dresses it in a plainer set of robes, and replaces the regalia in reverse order of divesture. Upon replacing each item, he intones a prayer and leads the congregation in singing the refrain of the Laudes Regiæ: Christus Vincit; Christus Regnat; Christus, Christus Imperat (“Christ Conquers; Christ Reigns; Christ Commands”). Drum rolls then announce the moment as the insignia are worn.

The rite is explained as highlighting Christ's humility, and on the part of the individual believer, it should inspire an internal, spiritual conversion. It was only in 1990 when the Augustinian priests caring for the icon first made the rite public. The Hubo Mass today is held on the Friday following the feast day at the Pilgrim Center outside the Basilica, and the masses following generally mark the termination of the long celebrations.[26]

Pontifical approbations edit

The original feast date for the image was April 28, but in the 18th century, the following changes were made:

  • Pope Innocent XIII moved the date to avoid conflict with Eastertide. In addition, he approved special liturgical texts for use during the local feast of the Santo Niño in the Philippines, set on the third Sunday of January, followed by the Sinulog festival.
  • Pope Paul VI issued a decree of canonical coronation for the image via the papal bull Cubanula Religionis on February 27, 1964, while the coronation was held on April 28, 1965. Through the papal bull Ut Clarificetur, the same pontiff raised the sanctuary to a Minor Basilica on May 2.[27][20][28][29]
  • Pope John Paul II gave his papal endorsement for the image in his Mass for Families on February 19, 1981.[30]
  • Pope Francis, also endorsed the image and called the Santo Niño "protector" of the Philippines, in his homily at the Rizal Park on January 18, 2015.[31]

Military honors edit

 
Child's Faith to Santo Niño

During the Spanish colonial era, the Santo Niño was given the high military rank of Captain-General, with the full title of "Celentísimo Capitán General de las Esfuerzas Españolas en Filipinas" (The Most Esteemed Captain-General of the Spanish Forces in the Philippines).[32] For this reason, the statue is vested in a red cape and sash, symbolising the rank of a general, and military boots.[33]

Presently, the rank is called Celentisimo Capitan General de las Esfuerzas en Filipinas, with the "Españolas" dropped, thusly translating to Most Esteemed Captain-General of the Forces in the Philippines.[34] Further, the image was later honoured by the Philippine Navy with the title "Lord Admiral of the Sea" (Spanish: Señor Almirante de la Mar) during the 446th anniversary of the image's Kaplag ("finding" or "rediscovery") in 2011.[35][36] This was done in acknowledgment of Christ's "lordship over seafarers, mariners and the marine ecology." The image was taken aboard the naval ship BRP General Emilio Aguinaldo (PG-140) for a fluvial parade, marking the first time its own naval ensign bearing its coat-of-arms was flown by a Philippine naval vessel. The honour was a joint effort of the Naval Forces Central, Philippine Coast Guard-Cebu District, Cebu Ports Authority, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, among others.[37]

Patronage edit

While the Santo Niño (left) was considered the patron of Cebu, the Archdiocese of Cebu declared Our Lady of Guadalupe of Cebú (right) as the principal patroness of Cebu in 2002, sparking controversy among locals and officials alike.[38]

The Santo Niño was popularly considered the official patron of Cebu, but the Church in the Philippines suppressed the notion and clarified that it is not the representation of a saint that intercedes to God but rather God in the person of Jesus. Instead, the Archbishop of Cebu, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, controversially declared Our Lady of Guadalupe of Cebú as the principal patroness of Cebu in 2002. While the declaration was met with negative reactions from the Cebuano people, a priest from the Colegio del Santo Niño defended the Archbishop's declaration.[38]

The devotion to the Santo Niño is common with worldwide veneration of the Infant Jesus of Prague. The image is found in many houses, business establishments, and public transportation. Traditionally, the image is often dressed in one of two colors: red is common for domestic images, while green – symbolizing luck – is worn by those enshrined in businesses. However, the church declared that red is the prescribed color of the image, not green.[39] It is also often dressed in miniature costumes that often reflect the profession of its devotee such as physicians, nurses, policemen, or teachers. Another popular variation is the Santo Niño de Atocha which in the country is uniquely in a standing pose rather than seated as with the Spanish version.[citation needed]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Bautista, Julius (2006). "The Rebellion and the Icon: Holy Revolutions in the Philippines". Asian Journal of Social Science. 34 (2). Brill Academic Publishers: 291–310. doi:10.1163/156853106777371166.
  2. ^ Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 71–73. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2.
  3. ^ Damiana L. Eugenio (2007). Philippine Folk Literature: An Anthology. The University of the Philippines Press. pp. xxvii, 226–228. ISBN 978-971-542-536-0.
  4. ^ Jan van Harssel; Richard H Jackson; Lloyd E. Hudman (2014). National Geographic Learning's Visual Geography of Travel and Tourism. Cengage. p. 504. ISBN 978-1-133-95126-1.
  5. ^ a b c Jonathan H. X. Lee; Kathleen M. Nadeau (2011). Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife. ABC-CLIO. pp. 405–406. ISBN 978-0-313-35066-5.
  6. ^ Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2.
  7. ^ sparksph (March 16, 2022). "Look: Glorious Sto. Niño statue in Cebu City". Suroy.ph. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  8. ^ Geoffrey Wainwright (2006). The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press. p. 674. ISBN 978-0-19-513886-3.
  9. ^ Bryan Christy (2012), Ivory worship Archived September 26, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, National Geographic; Quote:"Some Filipinos believe the Santo Niño de Cebu is Christ himself. Sixteenth-century Spaniards declared the icon to be miraculous and used it to convert the nation, making this single wooden statue, housed today behind bulletproof glass in Cebu’s Basílica Minore del Santo Niño, the root from which all Filipino Catholicism has grown. Earlier this year a local priest was asked to resign after allegedly advising his parishioners that the Santo Niño and images of the Virgin Mary and other saints were merely statues made of wood and cement."
  10. ^ Birgit Mersmann; Alexandra Schneider (2009). Transmission Image: Visual Translation and Cultural Agency. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4438-0471-4., Quote: "The Santo Niño statue, the beloved new image, which found its place among its indigenous relatives in the Raja's home, was a product of Flemish artisans..."
  11. ^ Birgit Mersmann; Alexandra Schneider (2009). Transmission Image: Visual Translation and Cultural Agency. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 12–14. ISBN 978-1-4438-0471-4.
  12. ^ Sally Ann Ness (1992). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 61–63. ISBN 0-8122-3110-4.
  13. ^ a b Samuel Eliot Morison (1986). The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America. Oxford University Press. p. 639. ISBN 978-0-19-504222-1.
  14. ^ Mark A. Stevens (2000). Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia. Merriam-Webster. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-87779-017-4.
  15. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison (1986). The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America. Oxford University Press. pp. 641–644. ISBN 978-0-19-504222-1.
  16. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison (1986). The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America. Oxford University Press. pp. 645–653. ISBN 978-0-19-504222-1.
  17. ^ Nicholas Tarling (1999). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-0-521-66370-0.
  18. ^ Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2.
  19. ^ Norbert C. Brockman (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 494–495. ISBN 978-1-59884-655-3.
  20. ^ a b Birgit Mersmann; Alexandra Schneider (2009). Transmission Image: Visual Translation and Cultural Agency. Cambridge Scholars. pp. 15–17. ISBN 978-1-4438-0471-4.
  21. ^ "Lucas 1:35".
  22. ^ "King James Version 1611".
  23. ^ Saavedra, John Rey (January 20, 2024). "Devotees bring Sto. Niño to Mandaue in traditional Traslacion". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  24. ^ Piquero, Pia (January 18, 2024). "Traslacion: A 35-year devotion continues in Mandaue City". Cebu Daily News. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  25. ^ Osmeña, Rico (January 20, 2024). "204 vessels join Sto. Nino Fluvial Procession". Daily Tribune. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  26. ^ Cebu Daily News, Cebu Daily News (January 21, 2012). "'Hubo shows Sto. Niño's humility'". Inquirer.net. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  27. ^ "Ut clarificetur, Litterae Apostlicae, Titulus ac privilegia Basilicae Minoris ecclesiae Sanctissimo Nomini Iesu Caebuae dicatae conferuntur, d. 1 m. Aprilis a. 1965, Paulus PP. VI". www.vatican.va. Retrieved March 30, 2022.
  28. ^ Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 63–67. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2.
  29. ^ Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2., Quote: "As a gesture of reverence, the pilgrims would approach the image to give the foot of the idol's votive stand a kiss or a loving touch, satisfying the ultimate aim of their journey: to draw ever nearer to the Santo Nino de Cebu".
  30. ^ "Apostolic Journey to the Far East, Homily for families of John Paul II, 19 February 1981".
  31. ^ "'Sto. Niño reminds us we are God's children'". January 19, 2015.
  32. ^ "'Lucky to find Sto. Niño'". April 29, 2012.
  33. ^ "Sto. Niño de Cebu: El Capitan General". The Philippine STAR.
  34. ^ "At the Malacañan sa Sugbu, a patrol craft, the RPS Heneral Emilio Aguinaldo which is the first Philippine-made navy ship was waiting Upon arrival, naval honors called “side boys” were given as El Capitan General boarded the naval vessel. The flag of the Santo Niño was then hoisted. This was the first time that the coat-of-arms of the Celentisimo Capitan General de las Esfuerzas en Filipinas was flown by a Philippine Navy ship. A Coast Guard ship and a civilian yacht were also parked alongside the navy ship as part of the convoy. The Coast Guard closed the Mactan Channel for the occasion." - Señor Santo Niño as El Capitan General: Lord Admiral of the Sea
  35. ^ "PIA daily news in English, Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Waray, Pangalatok from around the Philippines".
  36. ^ "Sto. Niño de Cebu: El Capitan General". The Philippine STAR.
  37. ^ "Navy honors Sto. Niño as captain - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos". Archived from the original on October 6, 2014.
  38. ^ a b "Santo Niño no longer Cebu's patron — Vidal". Philstar. July 20, 2002. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  39. ^ Oliverio, Niña Mae C. (January 10, 2024). "Devotees urged to buy Santo Niño clothed in red, not green". Cebu Daily News. Retrieved January 20, 2024.