The Beauty of Santo Niño de Cebu

Photo: CTTO

If you could ever keep something for five centuries, that thing must be very precious and beautiful!

We Filipinos are so blessed that we have kept something very precious and beautiful for almost five centuries now.

And that is our faith and devotion to the Santo Niño de Cebu.

We Filipinos are lovers of beauty. This love for beauty is evident in how we express our faith. The perceptual features of colorful images, vibrant songs, graceful dances, moving dramas, and inspiring prose among others in our devotions do not only give delight to our senses but also bring us closer to the Divine.  These features enable us to know, see, hear, feel, and touch our God who is no other than Beauty Himself. As St. Augustine would say, “Late have I loved you, Oh Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you.” Our God is not an abstract God. Our God is alive in the dances, processions, dramas, images and the different experiences in our lives. Indeed, God is an “Emmanuel.” The devotion to the Santo Niño de Cebu manifests this captivating beauty loved by Filipinos.

The year 2021 will be a big year for the Catholic Church in the Philippines and the Augustinians. The Philippine Church will celebrate its 500th Anniversary of Christianization and the Augustinian friars who are the caretakers of the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu will also be celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Santo Niño. This blog is humbly dedicated to these big celebrations in the Philippine Church. I have entitled this blog as The Beauty of the Santo Niño de Cebu because I believe it is the Beauty of the Santo Nino which captured the hearts of the Filipinos for almost five centuries.  

This beauty of the Santo Niño is intimately connected with the dawn of Christian faith in the Philippines. It was instrumental in the baptism of our forefathers to Christianity 500 years ago. The chronicler Pigafetta of the Magellan expedition in 1521 recorded that during the baptism of Queen Juana, she was moved to tears and conversion through the image of the Santo Niño. He wrote, “While the chaplain was getting ready for the ceremony, I showed her an image of Our Lady, a small statue of the Child Jesus and a cross. Upon seeing them, she was moved and, with tears in her eyes, she asked to be baptized…The Queen asked me to give her the statue of the Holy Child to replace her idols, and I gave it to her.” This beauty that captured the heart of Queen Juana and our forefathers continues to capture the hearts of people from different walks of life today. No wonder devotees call the Santo Niño as Bato Balani sa Gugma or Magnet of Love. It inspires them to become better persons and Christians. For some, it gives them strength to face the many challenges of life.

This captivating beauty is manifested in many ways in the devotions to the Santo Niño. The image, prayers, songs, dances, processions, gestures and other religious practices are rich resources of understanding our God and Filipino culture. Through these devotions the faithful concretely express their faith and also their identity as Filipino Catholics. Thousands of devotees and tourists from around the world flock to Cebu City and its neighboring islands during the feast of the Santo Niño every month of January to witness this showcase of faith and Filipino culture.

I would like to understand more the meaning of these devotions that we have been practicing for five centuries.

Why do I dance in my prayer during the Sinulog?

Why do I wipe and kiss the image of the Santo Niño?

Why do I shout Pit Señor?

These are just some of the things that I would like to understand more. I believe that understanding these devotions can greatly help in my identity as a Catholic and also as a Filipino. With understanding, I can appreciate them well and also enable others to appreciate these different expressions of our faith.   I can also strengthen my Catholic Faith in understanding these devotions because I can say that these are Filipino practices that are in accordance to Sacred Scriptures, Church Tradition and Magisterium. In addition, with understanding, I can also be critical to my devotions in assuring that a one sided view of Christ can be avoided and that the demands of responsible discipleship will not be neglected.

This is the reason why I set up this blog and entitled it as the The Beauty of Santo Niño de Cebu. I want to share and explore the beauty of the Santo Niño which the Filipinos have kept in their hearts for almost 500 years and counting. May this blog be my humble offering to the 500th Anniversary of Christianization and Arrival of the Santo Niño in the Philippines.

Viva Pit Señor!

P.S.

If there are things that interests you about the Santo Niño or things that you would like to understand more about the devotion, I would appreciate if you could share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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