Praying with the Image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu

Today, we commemorate the 455th Anniversary of the Kaplag or the Finding of the Image of the Santo Niño. This commemoration is important especially for us today because it reminds us of God’s abiding presence even in the midst of the difficulties that we face. The image of the Santo Niño de Cebu as the oldest symbol of Christianity in our country continues to manifest God’s concrete presence with us for the past five centuries. In fact, next year 2021 will be a big celebration for all of us because we will be celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Image of the Santo Niño in our country and our 500th Anniversary of Christianization.

In this article, I would like to share with you how to pray with the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu using the ancient Christian practice of Lectio Divina. I adapted this approach from Dr. Jem Sullivan who wrote the book The Beauty of Faith. In this book, she pointed out that applying Lectio Divina to sacred and religious images can foster in us a prayerful way of seeing that can be integrated into our daily prayer, faith and life. This prayerful way of seeing is important for us especially at this time when our senses are constantly bombarded with images, sounds and information that it becomes a challenge for us to listen attentively, see meditatively and read prayerfully.

I have divided this article into two parts. The first part is the theological foundation behind our prayer with sacred images like the Santo Niño de Cebu. And the second part will be about the process on praying with the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu using the practice of Lectio Divina.

This article is aimed to foster a greater appreciation of this great gift of the image of Santo Niño de Cebu and more importantly deepen our relationship with God even in this difficult time of our lives.  Let us now proceed to our first part.

Why can we pray with the image of the Santo Nino?

Catholic Doctrine on Sacred Images

We can pray with the image of the Santo Niño because of the Incarnation of God in human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. One of the important figures in Church history who defended the icons is the Syrian monk named St. John of Damascus. He argued that just as the invisible God made an image, a picture, an icon of Himself in the person of Jesus through His incarnation, we can also participate in His incarnation by depicting the invisible God with the visible image such as the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu. It is because of the incarnation of God that we have many ways of praying with the image of the Santo Niño. We can dance our prayer through the Sinulog dance. We can also pray through the kissing and wiping of the image of Santo Niño. We also pray by lighting a candle in churches. And we even pray through singing and the waving of our hands when we sing the Gozos of the Santo Niño entitled Bato-balani sa Gugma or the Magnet of Love. It should be noted that we do not pray to the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu. Rather, we pray to God with the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu because the image assists us in our prayer to our God.          

Now, that we have presented the first part on the basis of our prayer with the Santo Niño, let us now proceed to talk about the process of lectio divina with the image of the Santo Niño.

Praying with the Image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu Using the Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is a spiritual reading of Scripture that attunes the “spiritual senses” to listening to God silently, to reading God’s word meditatively, and to resting in His presence. We adapt this practice on the image of the Santo Niño so that we can acquire a deeper capacity to appreciate the mysteries in the life of Christ as depicted in the image of the Santo Niño. This practice helps to purify our senses as it leads us the viewer to see Christ through the image with the “eyes of faith” and the “ears of our heart.”

This practice of Lectio Divina has four “stages” or “steps.” These steps are lectio or reading, meditatio or meditation, oratio or prayer and contemplatio or contemplation. It is to be noted that these stages of lectio divina should not be taken purely in a linear way but as a series of unfolding circles of prayer and deeper union with God.          

Let us now proceed on the process of praying with the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu guided by the practice of lectio divina.

Lectio (Reading)

The first step of Lectio Divina is lectio. This is a slow, reverential reading and listening. In this step, we still our mind, eyes and ears in silence to predispose ourselves to read the image as one would read the pages of the Scriptures. Silence enables us to create space for the Santo Niño to speak to us rather than just us speaking to the Santo Niño. Our silence prepares us to approach the Santo Niño not only as another image that we see, but as an image that represents our God.          

In this stage, we ask ourselves, “What do we see in the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu?” “Who is it that we see in the image of the Santo Niño?” “What grabs your attention as you look at this image?” As you look at the image, you might immediately be focused on the image of the Child Jesus. Your eyes might also marvel at the sight of a child clothed with kingly vestments. The image has a red cape, a golden crown and a golden scepter. On his left hand, we can see a globe and a cross on top. You might also notice that the image has also a white inner garment. His right hand is raised in the form of a blessing with two upraised fingers. As you look at the face of the Santo Niño, his smiling childlike fare might strike you or his brown complexion. When you look close enough on his face, your attention might be captured by the scar on the right cheek of the Santo Niño. What do we see as we sit silently in front of the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu? What strikes us in the image?

Meditatio (Meditation)

The next step of the lectio divina is meditatio. In this step, we move from the features that we see in the image to the meaning behind the features that struck us. What could be the meaning of the depiction of God as a child? What is the spiritual and theological meaning of the colors of the vestments? What could be the meaning of the features and postures of the Santo Niño? In this step, we see with the “eyes of faith” the mysteries in the life of our Lord Jesus visually expressed before us in the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu.

The Image of the Child Jesus and the Mystery of the Incarnation

The image of God as a child brings us to the meaning of God who became like us in the Incarnation. The Gospel of John articulates this mystery in these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God… and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:1; 14, NAB).” What does it mean to become a child? What does it mean for God to become flesh? To become a child and to become flesh is to be weak and vulnerable. That is why when a child cries, we cannot just say go to the kitchen and prepare your food. At this time of our quarantine, we cannot just go out without the face mask or without regularly washing our hands. It is because to be a child or to be made of flesh is to be weak and to be vulnerable. Yet, in spite of these, our God became a child and became flesh so that He could redeem our weaknesses and vulnerabilities and give them new life. He can redeem our weaknesses because even if God became flesh, God also continues to be Divine.

The Union of the Human and the Divine Nature in One Divine Person of Jesus Christ

The two upraised fingers on the right hand of the Santo Niño proclaim to us our faith that the person of Jesus Christ is both human and divine. Jesus is fully human and He is also fully divine. That is why we call the Santo Niño “Señor,” because the image does not only proclaim Jesus as a cute child. The image also proclaims to us that Jesus who became a child is at the same time our God. That is why we can continue to pray to God because God understands our sufferings and our human struggles. More than His understanding, with Jesus’ remaining as God, Jesus also hears our prayers and brings us back to the Father.

The Divinity of Christ and the Orb on the Santo Niño

This divinity of Jesus is proclaimed in his kingly vestments and the posture of holding an orb with a cross on the left hand in the image of the Santo Niño. The posture of holding an orb has already been a symbol in antiquity of a person’s dominion of the world. This posture in the Santo Niño is a depiction of the child God’s dominion over the world as prophesied by Isaiah, “For a child is given to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonderful-Counselor, God Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:5 NAB) At this time in our life, we might be scared, worried, and hopeless. This depiction reminds us that everything that we have such as our sorrows and pains are in the powerful hands of the Santo Niño. Let us not lose hope and courage.

The Passion of Christ and the Cross on the Orb

You might notice that there is a cross on top of this orb. This tells us that the dominion of God and his kingship is not of worldly power but through the power of the cross. The glory and the kingly throne of God are in the glory and throne of the cross. God’s dominion is not through the use of violence, anger or through the use of force. That’s why God did not come to us riding on a chariot with his army of angels. Rather he came to us in the form of a vulnerable infant. It is because His dominion is the dominion of love expressed in patience, waiting and in full trust to the love of His father. The glory of God is shown in his crucifixion. It is in his crucifixion that Christ also conquered death and sin. Many of us must already be impatient, restless and bored inside their houses because of the quarantine. The cross in the orb might be reminding us to practice patience and full trust that our sacrifices will be of help in our fight against the spread of COVID 19.

The Passion of Christ and the Red Cape

One of the distinct features of the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu is the red colored cape. This red color brings us to the image of the shedding of blood and the burning love of God to each one of us. The red color symbolizes the shedding of blood that is why we use this color on Palm Sunday when Christ entered Jerusalem to prepare for his death, Good Friday, commemoration of the Lord’s Passion or when we celebrate the martyrdom of our saints. Aside from this, it also speaks of God’s burning love that He became man and offered his life for us. That is why we use red vestments during Pentecost, the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation and votive Masses of the Holy Spirit. This red cape reminds us that our identity as God’s children does not depend on what we do and what we have or what other people say to us. It depends on God’s love for all of us.

The Resurrection of Christ and the White Inner Garment

You might have also noticed that inside the red cape of the Santo Niño de Cebu is a white inner garment. This inner white garment depicts the glorious resurrection of Christ. Like that garment placed underneath the symbol of Christ’s suffering, the glory of Christ’s resurrection is also hidden yet revealed after his dolorous passion. The color white is not just a symbol of glory. It is also the color of resurrection. Thus, the white garment in the Santo Niño proclaims Christ’s glorious resurrection by which He makes all things new. Christ has shown to us that he is our true king for has conquered sin and death through the power of his great love. We may be experiencing a lot of sufferings and deprivations at this time. But, the resurrection of Christ gives us hope because in the end life and love will always be victorious. After meditating on what the image is telling us, we ask ourselves how these insights and feelings resound in our own experience and in our life. How are we invited to imitate Jesus in our own lives at this moment? Where is God leading us?

After we have dwelt on these questions, we proceed to the next step which is the Oratio or Prayer.

Oratio (Prayer)

In this stage, the spiritual meanings that were shown to us by the image turn into prayer. In this step of the lectio divina, we are guided to prayer as we direct our thoughts, emotions and will to God. We offer our difficulties and our desires at this moment to our King and our God in the image of the Santo Niño. We ask the Lord to liberate us from the evil of COVID 19 and we ask the Lord to give us the patience and strength to face the difficulties that we experience at the moment.

Contemplatio (Contemplation)

After our prayer, we proceed to the final step in our lectio divina which is contemplation. In this step, we rest in the mysteries of faith that are visually expressed to us in the image of the Santo Niño. We stand in awe before the mysteries of the life of Christ in front of us. We contemplate before the great love and humility of God who entered into our lives so that all of us can be saved.

In this article, I have shared with you how to pray with the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu using the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina. We said that we can pray with the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu because of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Through the incarnation, we have various ways of praying with the image of the Santo Niño. One of these ways is praying with the image of the Santo Niño guided by the practice of Lectio Divina. We said that in this practice, there are four steps namely, Lectio or Reading, Meditatio or Meditation, Oratio or Prayer and Contemplatio or Contemplation. In lectio, we silence ourselves as we “read” and gaze at the image of the Santo Niño. We notice the features that strike us and grab our attention. Then we proceed to Meditatio or Meditation where we ruminate on the features that strike us. We listen to our hearts the meaning of the feature that strikes us in our lives at the moment. After we have listened to the meaning, we lift up our feelings, desires, and thoughts to God in prayer or in the Oratio. Then, we go to contemplatio or contemplation where we rest in the mystery of God who continues to abide and stay with us.

In this time of enhanced community quarantine, let us take this opportunity to strengthen our relationship with God by spending a few minutes of our day praying with the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu through our Christian practice of Lectio Divina. I hope that this can deepen more our appreciation of this great gift of Santo Niño to us and most importantly deepen more our relationship with God.

Santo Niño de Cebu and Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection

The image of Santo Niño is often associated with the season of Christmas and the many Santo Niño festivals in the country like the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo and the Sinulog in Cebu. It is during this time that we see the proliferation of the images of the Holy Child in the nativity scenes or held by dancing people on the streets. However, the richness of the theology of this image of the Holy Child goes beyond these season and festivals. The image of Santo Nino de Cebu can also be associated with the season of Lent because it also speaks about Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The Image of Santo Niño de Cebu as Narrative of Christ’s Mysteries

Aside from the infancy and childhood of Christ, the image of Santo Niño is also a narrative of the mysteries of the life of Christ. These mysteries refer to the Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery (Passion, Death and Resurrection). This is made possible because of the mystery of the Incarnation as decreed by the Second Council of Nicea (787). When God became man in the incarnation, sacred images became instruments in knowing who God is. They have become man’s windows to the Beauty of the Divine. More than the common perception that the Santo Niño only deals with the affective devotion to the Holy Child, the image of the Christ Child in the Middle Ages is a means to convey theological information and allow the presentation of the essential mysteries of Christ. While the Western Christians have their books, the Filipinos have the image of Santo Niño de Cebu as one of the images that articulates who Jesus is for them. It is very helpful to rediscover that the beloved image of the Santo Nino is not just about the infancy of Christ. Aside from this, the image is also a narrative of the mysteries of Christ’s Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The Image of the Child as Sacrifice

Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) is depicted in the child image of Christ in the Santo Niño. Leah S. Marcus in her article “The Christ Child as Sacrifice: A Medieval Tradition and the English Cycle Plays” in The Christ Child in Medieval Culture, remarked that “one of the most bizaare, yet very common, miracles of the Middle Ages, the bread of the Eucharist is transformed between the very hands of the priest at Mass into a small living child.” This child, according to the commentators, is no other than the infant Jesus. Fr. Alberto Esmeralda, OSA mentioned in his article The Santo Niño and the Total Christ that “St. Nicholas of Tolentino once lamented to a friend that old age has robbed him of one of the pleasures of his childhood: to see the Eucharistic bread turn into the baby Jesus at the moment of consecration.” This connection between the Eucharist and the Incarnation reveals that the image of Jesus as a Child is a depiction of Jesus who sacrificed Himself for the salvation of humanity. This sacrificial lamb who is innocent, powerless and meek is fittingly depicted by the image of the Child.

Red Vestment as Jesus’ Passion

The Passion of Christ is expressed in the red color vestment of the Santo Niño. In Liturgy, the color of vestments is “meant to give effective, outward expression to the specific character of the mysteries of the faith being celebrated.” According to William Saunders, the color red points to tow images. First, red symbolizes the shedding of blood and is therefore used on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, any other commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, the votive Mass of the Precious Blood, the days marking the martyrdom of the apostles (except St. John), and the feats of other martyrs who offered their lives for the faith. Second, red also symbolizes the burning fire of God’s love. It is this burning love of God that brought Jesus to offer his life for his people. This is the reason behind the use of red vestments during Pentecost, for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation and for the votive Masses of the Holy Spirit. The red robe of the Santo Niño teaches us the internal unity and coherence of the earthly mission of the Son of God, which began with His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and culminated with the Paschal Mystery – that is, His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Cross on Top of the Orb

The cross on top of the orb also depicts the Passion of Christ. However, this cross is perceived in the context of the Resurrection and Kingship of Christ. In the Christian faith, the cross is not just a symbol of death and suffering. More than this, it is also an expression of the triumph of Christ over the powers of darkness. For Christians, the cross is an instrument of salvation because it is on the cross where Christ expressed His unconditional love to His people.

The Crown, Scepter and Globus Cruciger

The Resurrection and Kingship of Christ are expressed in the crown, scepter and the globus cruciger of the image of Santo Niño. Its perpetual novena opens with these words of acknowledging the Kingship of Christ: ” O Señor Santo Niño, You are our king and our God, we worship you…” Furthermore, the Kingship of Christ is also proclaimed when the devotees shout “Pit Señor!” during the sinulog dance. “Señor” is a Spanish word which means “Lord” in this devotion. Jesus in the image of the Santo Niño is the “Lord of lords and King of kings.”(Rev 17:4) The Psalmist also proclaims, “For the Lord is the great God, the great king over all gods, whose hand holds the depths of the earth; who owns the top of the mountains.” (Ps 95:3) The Scriptures are filled with the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and King. However, this lordship of Christ does not refer to the worldly kings and rulers. Jesus tells his persecutors, “My kingship is not of this world.” (Jn 18:36) It is because His Kingship is a kingship over all creation. Christ’s resurrection conquered death and the whole humanity is given hope to be reoriented to God. Thus, the death of Christ did not go in vain because He also rose from the dead and became victorious over death. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also is vain.” (1 Cor 15:14) This would not be unusual because the infancy narratives in the Gospel which is the iconographical transcription of the image of the Santo Niño were written in the light of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus.


The image of Santo Niño de Cebu is a rich resource of our Christian faith. It is not only an image that we see during the season of Christmas and the many Santo Niño festivals. Aside from these, we can also meditate on the image of the Santo Niño in the season of Lent because the image is also a narrative of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. As we read this narrative in the image of Santo Niño, may we strengthen our devotion to Christ who became one of us as a little child to show His unconditional love to us in the cross.

God as a Smiling Child

This is the image of Santo Niño de Cebu which is believed to be the image given by Ferdinand Magellan to the Queen of Cebu in 1521.

When we think of God, what usually comes into our mind is a stern disciplinarian up above the skies who looks at us with piercing eyes. The Santo Niño gives us another image of God. We have a child who is smiling at us. This captivating smile of the image speaks about our God who always looks at us with love and mercy in spite of our weaknesses.

The smiling feature of the Holy Child, however, did not occur until the time of the Counter Reformation. It was not common for images of the divine to be smiling because their purpose was to bring the viewers to the other world. However, in the age of the Counter Reformation, Sacred Art broadened its purpose. Sacred Art in this age adopted a propagandist stance in which it served as a means of extending and stimulating the public’s faith in the church. Artworks in this era aimed to win people back to the faith were sensuous and more accessible to the average churchgoer. This kind of philosophy deeply influenced the smiling feature of the image of the Santo Niño.

More than its practical purpose, the smiling feature of the Santo Niño is rooted in the identity of God as eternally loving and merciful. (Luke 6:36) Our all powerful God who became a child out of love desires to have a loving relationship with us. God desires to have a loving relationship with us not because of our merits and the good things we have done. As St Paul writes, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Rather, our God who desires to be close to us because our God is a God who is love. (1 John 4:16)

This Smiling God in the image of the Santo Niño conveys a message that it is alright to return to God in spite of the mistakes that we have done. Our God is a Prodigal Father who celebrates a feast on the return of his lost children. A Smiling God is a God who reminds us that there is nothing to be afraid for he says, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) This is a great reason for all of us to be joyful in the midst of life’s difficulties and challenges. We have a God who eternally loves and shows mercy to us.

Augustinian Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines holds 10th Ordinary Provincial Chapter

Today the Augustinian Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines holds its 10th Ordinary Provincial Chapter at the Santo Niño Spirituality Center in Tolo-tolo, Consolacion, Cebu. An Ordinary Provincial Chapter is held every fourth year in each province of the Order of St. Augustine where the chapter members examine the state of the province and set its direction for the next four years. The friars re-elected Fr. Andres D. Rivera, Jr., OSA to serve for another four years as Prior Provincial of the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu-Philippines. He will be assisted in leading the province by six Provincial Counselors namely, 1) Fr. Nelson G. Zerda, OSA, 2) Fr. Alladin P. Luzon, OSA, 3) Fr. Frederick C. Comendador, OSA, 4) Fr. Jose Rene C. Delariarte, OSA, 5) Fr. Melchor L. Mirador, OSA, and 6) Fr. Sisinio A. Paderog, OSA. The first Provincial Chapter of the province was held on January 6, 1984 and on April 15, 1984 with Fr. Eusebio B. Berdon, OSA as the First Prior Provincial. For the past 37 years since its canonical erection, the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu is one of the vibrant provinces of the Order of St. Augustine serving the people in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

The Image of Santo Niño de Cebu as a Sign of Christ

Augustinian friars praying before the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu.

As a Sacred Image in the Church, the image of Santo Niño de Cebu is a sign of Christ. It is not honored in itself. Rather, it is honored because it represents the God-Man Jesus Christ who became a child like us. The Fathers of the Council of Trent decreed:

“We honor sacred images not because we believe that any divinity or virtue are in them or anything is to be asked of them or that trust is to be reposed in images but because the honor given them is referred to their prototypes that by which the images which we kiss and fall prostrate, we adore Christ and venerate the saints.”

The Council of Trent

The image of Santo Niño is not created by sculptures to gain fame and glory for the sake of art itself. On the contrary, it is meant to glorify and evoke the transcendent mystery of God. St. Augustine writes about the beauty that transcends material things and the important role these material things play in bringing him to the Divine. He writes:

“But, what do I love, when I love Thee? Not the prettiness of a body, not the gracefulness of temporal rhythm, not the brightness of light, not the sweet melodies… these I do not love, when I love my God. Yet, I do love something like a light, a voice, an odour, food, an embrace, when I love my God.”

Confessions, X, VI, 8.

The image functions primarily to dispose the faithful towards the infinite Mystery. It pulls the believers like a magnet towards the Beauty who is God made flesh in Jesus Christ. No wonder according to the Gozos, the Santo Niño is called the batubalani sa gugma, a Cebuano phrase which literally means “magnet of love.” Like a magnet, the beauty of Christ in the image calls and brings the people to Himself.

For Anscar Chupunco, the image of the Christ-Child is not just an image of a vulnerable child. More than this, it is a sign that points to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. Fr. Andrew Batayola, OSA, Augustinian friar and former Rector of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu, asserts that the image of the Santo Nino speaks about the Total Christ where its red cape symbolizes Christ’s Passion and Death and its inner white garment and crown speak of His glorious resurrection. This idea of the image of the child Jesus capturing His Passion and Death is also mentioned by Dez Bautista and Abe Florendo who claim that the look of fear on the face of the Holy Child in the icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help “seems to be caused by a vision of the Passion revealed by Archangel Gabriel holding the cross and nails and Archangel Michael with the lance, the poled tipped with a sponge and a vessel containing vinegar.” The Augustinian friar Czar Emmanuel Alvarez also affirms this internal unity of Christ’s birth and the Paschal Mystery – that is, his passion, death and resurrection in a depiction of the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes like mummy in strips of linen and placed in a manger that resembles a tomb.

This is the image of a 4th Century Roman Paleochristian “Sarcophagus of Stilicho.”

Aside from Christ’s Passion and Death, the kingly regalia of the image of the Santo Niño also points us to the Resurrection of Christ. Christ’s resurrection conquered death and by His victory, He gives humanity the reason to hope that life and love will always be victorious.

The image of the Santo Niño de Cebu is a sign that points us to Christ. It is not an image that we worship nor honor in itself. We honor the image because it is a sign that points us to Christ. May our lives too become signs that bring and gather people to Christ.

What the Image of Santo Niño Teaches us about Love

This picture was taken during the Hubo Ritual where the fiesta clothes of the replica of the Santo Niño de Cebu were changed with simpler clothes to mark the end of the feast of the Santo Niño.

What is love?

Through the ages, many people have attempted to define love. And yet, no one has fully fathomed its meaning. As the popular song goes, “Love is a many splendored thing.” This richness of meaning only speaks of how deep this mystery of love is to us. One of the ways we can have an understanding of this mystery is to meditate on the image of the Santo Niño. This image speaks a thousand words about what love is because it is no other than the image of the incarnation of Love who is no other than God. Scriptures say, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) Jesus as depicted in this image of the Holy Child is a Love that is unconditional in the flesh and blood.

The image of the Santo Niño is an image of God’s unconditional love to each one of us. This is the very reason why God became like us in the form of a child. The evangelist John proclaims, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The Incarnation of God in the Holy Child is not because we have done something commendable that could merit salvation. We are saved because God loves us first and continues to be faithful in spite of our unfaithfulness. Jesus teaches us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16) God’s image of love is not just the red heart that we often see during Valentine ’s Day. Rather, love is showed to us in the image of God’s begotten Son who became a child for us. It has feet that will walk for miles to heal the sick and preach the Kingdom of God.  It has hands that hold the world so that it would always be under His dominion of love. It has eyes that see the needy and the poor. This love has also ears to hear the cries and prayers of His people. It has mouth that proclaims God’s message of love to His people and a mouth that rebukes the hypocrisy and stubbornness of people. Love in our Christian faith has a body that was previously wrapped in swaddling clothes and later offered to us in the throne of the cross so that we can have eternal life. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

God’s unconditional love as shown in the Holy Child Jesus is an important reminder for all of us today. It is because love is not just always about joy and laughter. No matter how much we make our relationship with others as best as possible, time will come that it will be difficult. It is always preferable to be with somebody filled with excitement and enthusiasm. It is good to be in a place where everybody is in high spirits and everybody looks good and beautiful. However, love is not always a bed of roses. Love can also be thorns in the roses. It can be dull, boring and exhausting. Time will come that you will not spend time just as you spend quality time with each other now. There will come a time that you will not admire each other as the most beautiful man and woman in the universe just as you see each other now. There will come a time that you will not understand each other just as you understand each other now. And when that time comes, it does not necessarily mean that you already fall out of love. It may only mean that you are just starting to understand what love really is all about. We start to see that love is not only about the way we feel with each other. It is not just about being head over heels with somebody. Love is more than sweet kisses, roses and chocolates. Love is grounded first of all in the commitment to be with the beloved even if the heavens fall. This commitment to be with the beloved would even require us to be tough to rebuke the beloved just like what Jesus did to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the insensitivity of the vendors in the temple. St. Augustine’s reminders to his brothers can enlighten us about our practice of love. He said,

If any of you should wish to act out of love, brothers, do not imagine it to be a self-abasing, passive and timid thing. And do not think that love can be preserved by a sort of gentleness – or rather tame listlessness. This is not how it is preserved. Do not imagine that you love your servant when you refrain from beating him, or that you love your son when you do not discipline him, or that you love your neighbor when you do not rebuke him. This is not love, it is feebleness.”

Sermon on 1 John 4:4-12

Thus, even if it hurts us to rebuke and correct our beloved, we continue to do it because of love.

On this day when people talk a lot about love, there is a danger that we can be easily swayed by descriptions of love based only on feelings and personal interests. It can be helpful that as we celebrate this day with our beloved, we also ground ourselves in our Christian understanding of the meaning of love as revealed to us in the image of the Santo Niño. In this image, Love is a person who offered his life for us in spite of everything in the person of Jesus Christ. This is a very challenging understanding and practice of love. With the grace of God, this love is possible and even necessary in our life today.

Let us pray for all the lovers today that they can be images like the Santo Niño of Christ’s unconditional love for us.

For all the lovers, Pit Señor!

For all the single men and women, Pit Señor!

 For those who are challenged by the love of Christ, Pit Señor!

Viva Pit Señor!

The Parish Community of St. Augustine of Hippo – A Mirror of Santo Niño: Cause of Our Unity and Charity

The Augustinian friars, Fr. Johnny Valdez (Center), Parish Priest of St. Mark, and the team of volunteers in the Pilgrimage of Santo Nino de Cebu enjoy camaraderie and the local delicacies at the convent of Saint Mark Parish in Cabarroguis, Quirino.

Naimbag nga begat kenyayu! (Good morning to all of you!)

Mangantayon! (Let’s eat!)

Agyamanak! (Thank you!)

These are some of the Ilocano words I have learned in my three day stay in our Parish Community of Saint Augustine of Hippo in Saguday, Quirino Province last February 7-9, 2020. I was privileged to visit this community because I was invited by my confrere Fr. Exuper Lumintac, OSA, the Parish Priest, to give a talk about the Santo Niño de Cebu and to be the mass presider and homilist of their feast of the Santo Niño which they call the Panaguidaton Festival. More than these Ilocano words, I am so blessed to witness and learn how the theme of this year’s feast “Santo Nino: Cause of Our unity and Charity” is mirrored in this simple parish.

The Parish Community of Saint Augustine of Hippo

The Parish Community of Saint Augustine of Hippo in Saguday, Quirino is under the stewardship of the friars of the Order of St. Augustine for the past seven years. Fr. Exuper Lumintac, OSA is the present Parish Priest and he is accompanied by four Augustinian priests and three Simply Professed Friars. Although the Augustinian friars started the evangelization of Bayombong in 1739, this parish was founded by the CICM missionaries and was later handed over to the Diocesan Clergy. Due to the lack of priests in the diocese, the stewardship and care of the souls were given to the Augustinian friars. This offer was formally accepted during the Augustinian Provincial Chapter of 2012 assigning Fr. Sesenio Paderog, OSA and Fr. Tarquin Gamao, OSA as pioneer Augustinian missionaries to this parish. Aside from assisting the diocesan clergy, this commitment of the Augustinians to the people in Saguday is also part of the revival of our former mission areas in the northern part of the Philippines. Through the hard work of the community of Saguday, friars and guidance of the Santo Niño, the structures of the church and convent expanded together with the growth of the faith of the parishioners and even the entire diocese of Bayombong. Another sign of its growth is the expansion of the care of the friars to the parish in Vintar, Ilocos Norte. A big part of their ministry in this part of the Philippines is the propagation of the devotion to Señor Santo Niño de Cebu.

Señor Santo Niño de Cebu Visits Saguday

The image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu is the oldest symbol of Christianity in the Philippines. It is believed that this image which is presently housed at the Basilica del Santo Niño de Cebu was the same image brought by Magellan in 1521 and was given as a gift to the Queen of Cebu during her baptism. This means that in 2021, the Philippine Church will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Introduction of Christianization in the Philippines and the 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Santo Niño in the Philippines.

It is for this reason that the pilgrim image of the Santo Nino de Cebu was also in Saguday for a pilgrimage to 500 chosen churches and places in the country and in other parts of the world. Aside from Saguday, the image also visited the Cathedral and other parishes in the Diocese of Bayombong. One of the things that I appreciated most in these visits of the Pilgrim Image was the catechism that was done by the friars in order that the faith of the people is guided and deepened. In addition, a sharing among the devotees and friars of their experience of how they have been touched by the presence of the Santo Niño in their lives is also an essential moment to know more the face of God beyond the colors and gesture of the sacred image. I am so privileged to hear the personal stories of the friars and parishioners which enabled me to see the depth of their faith experience. This pilgrimage organized by the Augustinians is aimed to create more awareness of the celebration and the growth of the devotion to the God who became like us in the image of a Holy Child, the Santo Nino. My experience in this visit made me say that these objectives were achieved. (Visit this link to know more about the activities related to the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of Santo Nino in the Philippines.

God Unites with Us

The participation of the lay people and clergy from the parish of St. Augustine and nearby parishes during the fiesta celebration showed me what unity means in action in the parish and in the diocese. Each sector contributed their time, resources and talents in making the fiesta celebration successful. The bishop of the diocese and the diocesan clergy warmly welcomed the image in the cathedral and in their parish churches with dance presentations, food, prayers and Eucharistic celebration. They were drawn in unity with each other because they can testify in their lives how the Lord in the image of the Santo Nino united with them through the many stories of healing and blessings like passing the board exams, getting a new job, conversions, spiritual liberation and overcoming difficulties that were seemingly hopeless to them. The Lord united with them concretely in their lives through the graces they received. The word “Emmanuel,” (God with us), is alive and materialized in their midst. And because of these experiences of God uniting and journeying with them, they were also drawn to unite and journey with each other in service, prayer and thanksgiving. The God who united with them empowered them to make unity a reality. This experience taught me clearly that indeed the Santo Nino is the cause of unity.

Unity as Practice of Charity

The unity that the community in Saguday showed is is a concrete expression of their charity. The practice of charity in a community is verified in the quality of unity of the people. Without unity, there is no charity and without charity, there is also no unity. Saint Augustine, the Spiritual Founder of the Augustinians, gives primacy in community life because community is the school of charity. He wrote these opening words in his Rule,

“The main purpose for you having come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart.”

The Rule of St. Augustine, 1.3

The participation and cooperation of the people in the parish community of Saguday showed me how they put into practice the virtue of charity. They showed charity because they experienced first the charity of God to the people in Saguday. They were very thankful that God sent them holy friars who would serve them and guide them in their journey to God. One parishioner shared with me how thankful he is with the presence of the Augustinian friars because through them God manifested to them in concrete his unconditional love. The local government even commended how the friars responded to the needs of the people when a strong typhoon struck their town and many of the houses were destroyed. The friars did not only take care of their spiritual needs. They also took care of their practical needs. The visit of the pilgrim image in the parish community of Saguday was a concrete expression of charity to his people. He loved them so much that he wanted to be with them wherever his people are. The God in the image of the Santo Niño is not a God who just stayed in the altar of his beautiful basilica. On the contrary, we have a God who goes out to reach his people in far flung places because of his unconditional charity. These expressions of charity that they experienced in their lives enabled the people of Saguday to share charity with each other. This virtue of charity is reflected in the name of their festival in honor of Santo Niño which is an Ilocano word Panaguidaton which literally means “sharing” and “giving.” They have been so blessed that they wanted to share these abundant blessings to others in charity. Without a doubt, this experience taught me that the Santo Niño is also the cause of our charity.

A Spiritual Pilgrimage

As I go back to my community at the Nuestra Señora de Gracia parish in Makati, I can say that my visit to the Parish Community in Saguday, Quirino was a spiritual pilgrimage. During my stay, the Lord through the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu revealed to me how powerful God is in His vulnerability and how loving he is in spite of our doubts and infidelities. I am thankful that my brother Fr. Exuper invited me to give a talk with the aim of enabling the people there to appreciate the devotion and deepen their faith. But, I am more thankful that his invitation actually enabled me to appreciate the devotion and deepen my faith as a devotee and priest. In reality, I really did not teach something to the people. It was the people who taught me an important lesson that I will continue to bring in my heart. They taught me in their lives that Santo Niño is our cause of unity and charity. As I was brought by a parishioner to the bus station in Santiago, he shared with me,

Father, napakaganda po nang tema natin kasi ito na po ay sinasalamin ng ating parokya.” (Father, our theme is so beautiful because it is mirrored in the life of our parish.)

Inspired by his words, I hope to mirror this in my own life too as I continue my spiritual pilgrimage with my brothers in my community.

Agyamanak Saguday! (Thank you Saguday!)

Viva Pit Senyor!

The Santo Niño de Cebu and Stories of Healing

The image of Santo Nino de Cebu is brought to procession in the Parish of Nuestra Senora de Gracia in Makati City.

There are many stories of healing miracles that have been attributed to the image of Señor Santo Nino de Cebu. These miracle stories are significant for the devotees because they are the “why of the devotion, or the reason for its perpetuation.”(Astrid Sala-Boza) Some of these stories which were handed down from generations of devotees were compiled in a book entitled Legends of Santo Niño de Cebu by Manuel Enriquez de la Calzada. Originally written in Cebuano, this compilation of stories was translated into English by Martin Abellana and was published in 1965. Other stories of healing miracles were also gathered in a Doctoral Dissertation of Astrid Sala-Boza entitled A Formal-Functional Study of the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu in an Ethnohistorical Perspective. I would like to share with you some of these stories of healing because they give us a glimpse of how the devotees perceive God as the Divine Healer in the midst of sickness and epidemic. I hope to learn from the faith of the devotees to trust in God especially at this time that many people are suffering and in fear because of the outbreak of a deadly corona virus which already taken the lives of many people.

The Image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu is the Christ-Child and King

The image of the Señor Santo Niño is the depiction of Jesus as a child and as a King that had become intimately connected with the Filipino faith. Jesus’ childhood portrays God’s love to humanity that He became like us in all things except sin. Aside from being a Child, the Santo Niño is also Señor because he is also a king whose kingship reveals to us His dominion over all creation. The original image of Santo Niño which you can visit at the Basilica del Santo Niño de Cebu in Cebu City is believed to be the oldest among all the images of the Santo Niño in the Philippines. Historical records reveal that it is the image brought by Magellan in 1521 and was given as a baptismal gift to the Queen of Cebu. It was during this time that the seed of Christianity was planted in the hearts of our forebears. From this seed, Christianity continues to grow making the Philippines one of the predominantly Catholic countries in Asia. This image of the Santo Niño is historically documented from the time that it was given to the Queen of Cebu and the time that it was discovered forty four years later by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Aside from this original image of the Santo Niño de Cebu, there are also replicas of the image which have also been attributed with stories of healing miracles.

The Healing of Humabon’s Nephew

Rajah Humabon was the Rajah of Cebu during the arrival of Magellan in the Philippines in 1521. There was a time when Humabon’s nephew was gravely ill. The natives were so concerned with the illness of Humabon’s nephew that they sacrificed to their pagan idols and prayed for his healing. Magellan corrected this practice and extolled them to burn all their idols and pray to Jesus Christ represented in the image of the Santo Niño. Magellan himself had great faith in the healing power of Christ that he told the natives that they could cut off his head if the prince would not be cured by their faith. A procession was then organized from the square to the prince’s house. When they arrived at the prince’s house, Humabon’s nephew was baptized and then later recovered from his illness. The prince spoke and declared that he had been cured by God. This healing that happened to him was also experienced by other natives who prayed to God through the image of the Santo Niño. Many natives asked to be baptized to the Christian faith because of these experiences of healing that they attributed to the Santo Niño.

Epidemic on Children in Humabon’s Kingdom

A story is also told about the epidemic that killed many children in Humabon’s kingdom. Children had fever and experienced vomiting of blood. The people went to mananambal (quack doctors) to heal their children. The many herbs and roots of trees that they used to cure their children did not help. The people became desperate and did not know what to do to address the situation. They were devastated by the epidemic and loud cries of the family members can be heard in the Kingdom. Queen Juana heard the cry of one of the mothers and went to her house without telling anyone. She asked the mother to bring the affected children to the room where the image of the Santo Niño was. The children were placed on a bamboo bed before the altar of the Santo Niño. Then the Queen left them. After a while, the vomiting of the children stopped and they were healed. The parents were filled with joy that they shouted, “O Miraculous Image! We thank you with all our hearts for the miracle you have just done.”

Cholera Epidemic of 1883

There was also the story of the worst cholera epidemic in the history of Cebu which happened in 1883. Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe diarrhea which can lead to dehydration and death. This is caused by the consumption of contaminated food and water. The epidemic ravaged the city and the neighboring towns for the months of September, October and November. The government, the church and the people of Cebu helped together in stopping the spread of the disease. They campaigned for proper sanitation and hygiene among the people of Cebu. In addition, there were also “auroras” where the images of San Roque, San Vicente and the Holy Cross were carried around the streets of the city and in the barrios with people following and reciting the Holy Rosary. In the afternoons, the people from different walks of life would pray together in churches begging the Lord to stop this dreadful disease. Auroras with the image of the Holy Child were also held particularly in places where many people were affected by the disease. During the processions, the Litany of the Saints was recited and the gozos of the Santo Niño was sang. The processions ended at the San Agustin Church where the Holy Mass was celebrated. After the mass, the people danced the sinulog and also kissed the feet of the holy image. One time the dancing and the kissing were stopped because a very cold and tempestous wind blew from the mountains. This was soon followed by a heavy downpour that flooded many places in Cebu. After the heavy rain, the spread of the dreaded disease stopped. The people attributed this deliverance from the disease to the Santo Niño. As a an expression of thanksgiving, a mass officiated by the Bishop of Cebu was held in San Agustin and was attended by government dignitaries and a big crowd of grateful Cebuanos.

Jesus Christ is the Healer

Jesus Christ represented in the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu performed a lot of healing miracles in the Scriptures.  These miracles demonstrate that He has power over creation and that He is confirming that indeed the Kingdom of God has come. Thus, the Santo Niño is not just an image of a cute little child but also a powerful king who has dominion over all creation. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect another?” Jesus assures John that He is the anointed one by telling him of the miracles that he has done: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:3-5) It is to be noted that these healing miracles were not just done by Jesus to heal physical illnesses. They were done so that we may know more who Jesus is and the Kingdom of God that God is offering to us. The spiritual writer Ronald Rolheiser says that Jesus healed the blind so that they may see more deeply. He made the lame walk so that they may walk in freedom. He made the deaf hear so that they may hear God’s word. The dead are raised so that they may have new life. The healing miracles of Jesus invite us to see that life is more than just the difficulties we experience. It is also about living a life with God in the midst of the difficulties and crisis we experience.

Some Insights from the Stories of Healing

Today we are again faced with the challenge of an outbreak and natural disasters. This situation caused us to be anxious about our safety. The stories that we have shared above can give us three insights that can be helpful in facing these difficulties. The first one is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Once there is acknowledgement of the problem, people can start moving forward in finding ways to address the problem. This acknowledgement of the problem can also open ourselves to ask for assistance from other people who can help us better in these difficult situations. Denial of the dangers and the magnitude of the problem in order to protect our own interests can lead to more and bigger problems. The second insight that we can learn is the importance of cooperation. Natural disasters can be devastating to us. But, I believe we can be bigger than these disasters when we join hands together in helping one another. The relief efforts and the contribution of the different sectors of our society in the recent eruption of Taal volcano is a witness to the power of cooperation. The third and the last insight we can learn from these stories is the importance of our faith in God. It is important that we need to do everything that we can to mobilize our people and to act to address these disasters and outbreak. In addition to these actions, it is also equally important that we do not forget to pray to God to guide and to strengthen us in our efforts. The stories of healing that we have shared are reminders to all of us that we are never alone in our difficulties. Faith reminds us that we have a God who cares and is with us even in times of disasters and outbreak.  

Santo Niño: A God with Us

This photo taken by Eloisa Lopez is from

In the midst of the difficulties and threat of a violent eruption of Taal, some of the displaced residents continue to dance and bring their wooden images of the Santo Niño during the feast day of the Santo Niño last Sunday. Near a box of coins and bills, the cute little image of the Santo Niño stands on a small altar in a passenger jeepney amidst weary passengers going home from work. In spite of the challenges on marriage and family, the image of the Santo Niño holds a very special place in the homes of Filipinos. Aside from the kingly image of the Santo Niño de Cebu, there are also other depictions of the Santo Niño in the Philippines. There is a Santo Niño portrayed as a doctor amidst the many children and adults who are suffering from sickness. Others portray the Santo Niño as a policeman in a society where controversies of ninja cops and phone grabbing general are present. These are just a few scenes that show to us that our God in the image of the Santo Niño is a God who is with us in the midst of the many challenges that we face as a nation.

Through the dark and golden ages of our history, the Santo Niño has always been with our people. He is the Emmanuel, the God who is with us (Mt. 1:23). In fact, the history of Christianity in our country has been intimately intertwined with the veneration of the Santo Niño. History and the numerous tales of our people show that the Santo Niño has continued to be with us through thick and thin.

The arrival of the image of the Santo Niño to our shores in 1521 cast the first streaks of dawn of Christianity upon the shadows of the pagan worship of our forefathers. Through the image of the Santo Niño, we were introduces to the true God of Christianity who became a child because of His great love for us. His immense beauty and majesty in the image of the Santo Niño moved the heart of Queen Juana of Cebu to embrace Christianity. As a translation of Pigafetta’s chronicle says, “She was shown an image of our Lady, a very beautiful wooden Child Jesus, and a Cross. Thereupon, she was overcome with contrition and asked for baptism amid her tears…(later)… she asked to giver he the litte Child Jesus to keep in place of her idols and she went away.” From this account, this “first spiritual miracle of the Holy Infant (Boza),” the seed of devotion that was planted continued to spread and penetrate into the soil of the hearts and minds of every Filipino.

We have experienced how the Santo Niño manifests the saving power of God in the many blessings and miracles that He bestowed upon the Filipino since His providential arrival in our country. Even during the finding of the troops of Legazpi until the present, many stories of miraculous wonders have already been attributed to the workings of the Santo Niño. These stories concern health restored after illness, easy deliver in childbirth, defense against an impending attack by invaders, protection from fire and disease, rain and good harvest after a long drought (Tenazas). And who could forget the 1986 EDSA Revolution? It was a glorious moment in history where we showed to the world our great faith and unity as a people. Instead of guns and swords, we carried our faith to the Santo Niño Mary His mother in facing the tanks and possible genocide. Fr. Benigno Beltran recounts, “They stormed the gates of heaven with their prayers and brought images of the Child Jesus and of his Mother as they manned the barricades and waited for the tanks and the assault troops to attack.” Hence, it may also be proper to say the it was not just the courage of the people but also their faith that made EDSA Revolution possible. Until today, the saving power of God continues to be written in the pages of our history as we continue to hold on to our faith and devotion to the Santo Niño.

Indeed through the ages, the Santo Niño continues to be with us in times of distress and persecutions. This tells us that our God in the image of the Santo Niño is not just another image of a cute baby that every Filipino loves to cuddle and adore. He is the true God who by His great love walks with His people even in the midst of poverty and oppression. And just as God saves us, our devotion to God also commands us to share in this saving action of God in helping our neighbors particularly the marginalized. Devotion without justice is dead. Our great prophets in the Old Testament can attest to this. Thus, our religious practice of touching and kissing the image of the Santo Niño should also move us to touch the needs of other people who are images of God. As we adorn our images with flowers, we are also called to adorn our neighbor with the fragrance of our love and care. They are the Santo Niños in flesh and blood who calls us to practice our devotion in showing our care and help to them. “Faith,” our bishops says, “is to be lived, not only thought about. It is a spirituality that has to be integrated with our history so that it may be reformed.” In the midst of the challenges of our society today, our God has never failed to be with us in the image of the Santo Niño. May we respond to be God’s never failing presence to others as well.

Understanding the Devotion to Señor Santo Niño de Cebu

The devotees raise their hands as they sing the Gozos to the Santo Niño de Cebu. Picture: Fr. Rommel Par, OSA

Today we celebrate the feast of the oldest symbol of Christianity in the Philippines – the image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu. In fact, the image of the Santo Niño is as old as Christianity in the country. It was during the arrival of the Santo Niño in our shores in 1521 brought by Magellan and given as a baptismal gift to Queen Juana of Cebu that Christianity began in our country. That is why next year 2021, the Church in the Philippines will celebrate its 500th Anniversary of Christianization and 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Santo Nino. On the feast of the Santo Niño de Cebu, we notice a number of practices done by the devotees which can be different from other devotions in the Church in the Philippines. These practices are close to our hearts because they have their roots in our native religion and Christian evangelization. It is helpful to understand their meaning so that we can also deepen more our devotion to God especially on this feast of the Santo Niño.

One of the things that we can notice is the presence of different kinds of images of the Santo Nino carried by the devotees during mass or processions. Although the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu is dressed in red kingly robes, you can also notice Santo Nino images dressed in different professions such as a doctor, dentist, policeman among others. Jaime Belita interprets this phenomenon as a manifestation of “nearness, intimacy and accessibility of power or the sacred.” Through the image of the Santo Nino, Filipino devotees experience the close presence of the Divine which surpasses articulation. Our God is somebody who is present with us in the image of the Santo Niño.

When you enter the Basilica del Sto. Niño in Cebu, you can also notice a long line of people waiting for their turn to have a few seconds of time to touch, wipe and pray near the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu. The devotees believe that “there is a real presence of the holy in the object.” And this presence of the holy in the object is a holiness that can be transmitted to the person touching it with their hands or their handkerchiefs. Holiness is not something abstract in the Filipino mind. Rather, it is concrete and even transmissible. Things can become sacred by association or by touch of another holy object, place or person.

Aside from the wiping and the touching of images, there is also the famous rhythmic, bodily movements accompanied by the continuous beating of the drums called sinulog. According to Manuel Enriquez de la Calzada, the word sinulog comes from the Visayan word sulog which literally means “water current.” Hence, this dancing imitates the water current that moves forward and backward. Sinulog is a prayer of adoration of the devotees to God in the Santo Nino. Devotees are not just contented in reciting their prayers. Their faith filled devotion enables them to sing and dance their thanksgiving and their petitions.

Together with this ritual dance of the sinulog is the shout of “Pit Señor!” This phrase is an abbreviation of the Cebuano phrase “sangpit kang Senyor” which literally means “I call upon Senor Santo Niño!” The devotion to the Santo Niño is a call to Senor Santo Niño for thanksgiving for the many blessings received and also for assistance for other needs. This call of the devotees expresses their faith that the God who is represented in the image of the Santo Nino is a God who is so near to them that He listens to them.

These are some of the practices that devotees do in their devotion to the Santo Niño. Through these practices, they express their faith to God who became like us in the Child Jesus so that He can be with us – Emmanuel. Aside from our Filipino way of expressing faith, the devotees identify and relate themselves closely with the image of the Santo Niño. It reflects the peoples’ “simplicity, innocence, purity and playfulness.” Although, devotees need to be cautioned not to neglect the hard sayings and commands of the adult Jesus, it is in the Santo Niño where the value of being childlike is celebrated by the devotees. As Jesus said in the gospel, “In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” In other words, the criterion of the authenticity of our devotion is measured on how the devotees live their life in faith, hope and love. I hope with these notes on the meaning of these practices, our understanding will help us deepen the faith which we have received and translate it in our love and service to others.

Viva Pit Señor!