Santo Nino

A Miracle in Cebu

Not long after arriving in Cebu, I began to hear of Santo Nino. It was explained to me that it was Christ as a child. He looked much different than the Christ I had seen in pictures all my life. For one, he is black! or at least very tan.  I had been here a few months Santo Nino de Cebubefore I even knew this “doll” I had been seeing was a depiction of the Christ Child.

Yesterday I visited the church where this statue is displayed. Its a very significant part of Cebu history as this statue was given to the rulers of Cebu in 1521. Ferdinand Magellan brought this statue from Spain as a gift to Hara Humamay, wife of the Chief in the area now known as the City of Cebu.

Magellan, convinced them to align themselves with Spain and they converted to Catholicism. However, a few weeks later, the Battle of Mactan erupted between Magellan and the native Cebuano resulting in Magellan’s death.

Spaniards returned about 40 years later, defeating the Cebuano and destroying the village in the process. The statue however was discovered in a smoldering hut and was largely intact. It became known as a miracle by  the Cebuano. It is likely this event that greatly influenced the growth of Christianity in the area and the entire Philippines.  At the time, the statue was seen as one of the idols that were worshiped. People of the island worshiped several animal gods.

A church was built, purportedly on the site the statue was found and it became known as Santo Nino. Or the small boy saint. To this day, there is a huge celebration with Santo Nino at the center of that celebration in Cebu City. For many Cebuano, Christmas is not officially over until the Feast of Santo Nino. The festival is known as Sinulog with the grand parade of the event held on the third Sunday of January.  It is referred to the mother of all Festivals of the Philippines.

The Sinulog Festival is an impressive event, with a parade and dance with the Santo Nino prominently displayed by each group.  It is broadcast on television through all of the Philippines and to many places in the world.  The entire island of Cebu comes to a stand still and the buses headed to  Cebu are packed with people.  Schools close even some business close on the Friday before and the Monday after the party in Cebu City.

Amazingly the original Santo Nino is on display at the church in Cebu. Yesterday while I was there the line to view it was long, far too long for me to go through. As people who visit there pray and worship. I’m sure they also give contributions to the Church. Hopefully on another visit the line will not be as long. I had been there once before and I do not recall a line there but I also didn’t realize the history behind this church.

Most Filipino homes have an altar or shrine setup but we’ve been unable to do anything like that. Jessie’s home has an area for prayer with an old family bible there as well as other religious symbols. The same area has pictures of prior family members that have passed on. The old bible was my favorite part of that area. Seeing this was my first introduction to the importance of family and religion to the Filipino. In Cebu, Santo Nino, often abbreviated as Sto. Nino.

I think Jessie has been trying to explain Santo Nino to me for some time. My culture is so different from her she really couldn’t understand that I didn’t have enough knowledge that seems essential to her. Something so common in her land that assumes everyone knows about but I explained there is no Santo Nino in Memphis. 🙂

I will be posting several articles about my trip to Cebu this week.  I’ve got to get my pictures downloaded first though.  This story will just not be complete until I can include them.   We are having some technical issues getting that accomplished.

So please watch for more on our most recent trip to Cebu City.  It promises to be packed with much on the culture of the Cebuano.

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Filed under: Cebuanos and Religion

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