sto_nino_devotion_2

Cebu’s beloved Child, God and King

Sto. Niño  devotion

God and King, the image of the Sto. Niño or the Holy Child is perhaps Cebu's and the Philippines' most beloved of all Catholic religious icons and it's devotion is centered in this island province.

Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Niño , the province’s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.

The line of people snaked just behind the smaller entrance of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, to the narrow corridors within the Augustinian monastery complex, a counterpart of the famous San Agustin in Intramuros. It continues just before reaching the sacristy and into an even smaller passageway at the back of the chapel where the famous icon of the Sto. Niño de Cebu is enshrined.

The devotees silently and patiently await their turn to touch on the glass partition, wiping their handkerchief or kissing the rectangular block directly infront of them. At the same time, they are mumbling prayers and supplications with eyes closed in thanksgiving or for various favors.

Sto. Nino devotion

A man kneels in prayer at the shrine where the image of the Sto. Niño is. This is where devotees from around the Philippines stand in line to offer prayers.

Cebu is the center of the Sto. Niño de Cebu devotion in the Philippines. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the country, brought the image and gave it as a gift to then named Queen Juana, the wife of Rajah Humabon who were newly baptized into the Catholic faith. 44 years after the death of the circumnavigator, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi returned to the Philippines. During a skirmish in a village that they burned down, they found this same image in one of the still standing huts. It was given to the Augustinians for safekeeping.

Sto Nino devotion

The Minor Basilica of the Sto. Nino is where the original religious icon is kept. It was first brought by Magellan's fleet into the islands in 1521.

The minor basilica (proclaimed as such in 1965) of the Sto. Niño de Cebu is the sanctuary of the image under the Augustinians. The first church was started in 1566 made from wood and nipa but got burned. Two structures were built later but it was only in 1735 that the present church was started and finished four years after. The stones used were quarried in Panay and the wood from the forests of Cebu. The architecture is said to be a mixture of Muslim, Romanesque and Neoclassical styles.

Sto. Nino devotion

Devotees kneel and sit just infront of the chapel where people line up to venerate the image.

The image of the child Jesus is just about 11 inches in height from feet to crown. It is garbed with a military general’s uniform with one hand holding a globe while the other is raised in blessing and holding a scepter. It is believed to be a 16th century image carved in Flanders. Devotion was officially recognized in 1578 and the feast day was proclaimed in 1641 as every 14 January. Today, it is celebrated every 3rd Sunday of January.

Sto. Nino devotion

Devotees light candles for their supplications and thanksgiving. Originally situated within the basilica's halls, it is now found outside of the church.

Devotees come in all ages, of different economic status and from different parts of the country and abroad. Families with children or baby in tow line up to kiss at the chapel. Some are bringing gifts like toys, balloons and other items as an offering. Pilgrims gather at an area where they light candles as a means of offering a prayer or supplication.

Across the country and in many Filipino communities abroad, the 3rd Sunday of January is especially marked with masses, dances and celebration. It is also the highlight of the country’s biggest street festival called the Sinulog.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

20 Comments

  1. dong ho
    January 22, 2009 @ 12:08

    when i was in cebu, i too became a devotee. it made me appreciate God more in life. attending the vigil the night before the grand parade was the highlight of the celebration. it was one of the most exciting experience one shouldn’t miss when they attend the sinulog.

  2. Lantaw
    January 22, 2009 @ 12:36

    Great images as usual Estan!

  3. Sidney
    January 22, 2009 @ 13:55

    In Flanders ??? Wow… I am from Flanders… do you have more info about that?

  4. Em
    January 23, 2009 @ 10:31

    I like the banderitas…. i miss the fiestas we have there. It’s fun with all the palaro and the banda and processions… not to mention all the food one can eat.

    very nice images indeed.

  5. Nomadic Pinoy
    January 25, 2009 @ 21:51

    I can’t imagine Cebu without Sinulog. I’ve been there once in 1992, hiked the entire route and felt blessed by the Holy Infant – when I got back to Davao, I found out that I passed the CGFNS exams for US-bound nurses.

  6. estan
    January 26, 2009 @ 17:23

    Sidney, that’s all the information I have. They based it on the features of the image and deduced from there.

    Nomadic Pinoy, that’s a blessing for you!

    Guys, thanx for the visit and comments.

  7. Liezeil
    January 26, 2009 @ 19:28

    The Filipinos’ devotion to the Sto. Niño is really phenomenal. Antonio Pigafetta’s “First Voyage Around The World” gives an account on how endeared Queen Juana was with the Sto. Niño which was given to her as a gift by Magellan. He mentioned about a miracle that happened in Zugbu when the brother of a Rajah (I can’t exactly recall if it was Humabon) who was then very ill, was healed. Although Pigafetta himself entertained doubts whether what happened was indeed a miracle or pure coincidence, that incident according to him transalated to more Zugbuanos being converted to Christianity. This, and maybe a lot more amazing stories probably explains the Filipinos’ ardent devotion to the child Jesus.

    Great narrative, by the way.

  8. Candles, icons, prayers anyone? | langyaw
    January 27, 2009 @ 11:52

    […] was a Friday and for devout pilgrims of the Sto. Niño, the Basilica is the place to be, just like in the Black Nazarene Basilica in Manila. I had to […]

  9. Sidney
    January 31, 2009 @ 10:59

    “They based it on the features of the image and deduced from there.”

    Hahahaha…is he looking lie a Belgian 😉

  10. The Sinulog Mardi Gras: lost in translation | langyaw
    February 8, 2009 @ 19:52

    […] had it’s beginnings with the traditional sinulog, a prayer dance that was offered to the Sto. Niño during it’s feast day every 3rd Sunday of January. What was then a small celebration within […]

  11. Visita Iglesia: Seven Old Manila Churches | Simbahan
    April 2, 2009 @ 8:42

    […] 4 Tondo Church’s convent was one of the first few in Luzon having been accepted by the Augustinian friars in 1572. It is under the protection of the Sto. Niño de Cebu. […]

  12. henryoliversarcon
    April 30, 2009 @ 11:37

    oh dearest miraclous sto.nino im one of your devotees and your real or true and your doings is real and im here seeking help for me to pass the board examination for teachers and this august its my fourthtime in taking the board exam and i need help from you dearest sto.nino and i wish that all of the priest will pray for me and some of the nun n the church thank you in advance

  13. 7 interesting churches in Cebu, a visita iglesia | langyaw
    May 1, 2009 @ 0:50

    […] Minor Basilica of Sto. Niño de Cebu This basilica, a shrine to Cebu’s beloved Child, God and King, is perhaps the busiest of all churches in the province. It is also an architectural gem steeped in […]

  14. Interview: Arnold Carl Sancover, Cebu heritage blogger | langyaw
    November 16, 2009 @ 11:26

    […] in WordPress the search key words people use that led them to my site: cebu churches, history of Sto. Niño, etc. Hala! Naa pud diay mga tao nga ingon ani diay. Mga hilig ug heritage (Oh, there are also […]

  15. Langyaw in 2009 | langyaw
    December 31, 2009 @ 18:14

    […] never known it. It’s secrets, off-the-beaten-path travels, her people’s devotion to the child, God and king, the Sto. Niño with it’s attendant festival, the Sinulog. There’s culture and […]

  16. dongmhor
    January 5, 2010 @ 20:01

    dong how about the masbate pls send me more pic of masbate city and other barangay

  17. Hail to the Child King! Viva! Pit Señor Santo Niño! | langyaw
    January 6, 2010 @ 1:02

    […] God, two different ways of honoring the Christ. The devotion to the Sto. Niño is done in honor of the child Jesus while the Black Nazarene is of the suffering adult. Both is […]

  18. Devotees at the Sto. Niño Minor Basilica | I AM A DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER
    January 6, 2010 @ 1:04

    […] The Filipino’s devotion to the Sto. Niño de Cebu is one of Catholic Philippines cherished religious tradition and is being celebrated in many parts of the country on the 3rd Sunday of the month. Check out my post about the devotion in langyaw.com. […]

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    March 12, 2012 @ 13:02

    […] is quite obiquitous and, like the Sto. Nino, lechon and dried mangoes, it is one of Cebu’s iconic images. Nevermind if its also found in […]

  20. » Are you ready for Cebu’s Sinulog? | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    January 7, 2013 @ 22:42

    […] Lest you forget, the Sinulog is celebrated in honor of the Child/God/King: the Sto. Nino. Nine days before the feast is the novena which starts with a procession from Fuente Osmena all the […]

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