The Sto. Niño is a representation of the Child Jesus which literally means “holy child.” Filipinos, being largely Roman Catholics, venerate and are faithful devotees of the Sto. Niño. Many feasts are offered in honor of the Child Jesus and are celebrated particularly in the month of January.
The arrival of the Holy Child
The devotion to the Sto. Niño is a mark left by the Spaniards when they assumed power over the Philippines. Ferdinand Magellan's arrival in Cebu shores gave birth to the what is now an active religious tradition in the Philippines – a wooden image of the Sto. Niño was given as a gift to Hara Amihan (Queen Juana), wife of Rajah Humabon (King Carlos) – the two with their people were later baptized into the Catholic faith.
The Image, the Patron Saint
The image of the Sto. Niño is the oldest religious image in the Philippines that was brought by the Spaniards. The very first image of the Sto. Niño known as the Sto. Niño de Cebu is enshrined in the Basilica Minore de Sto. Niño in Cebu – being the patron saint of the province. The Sto. Niño, being a representation of the child Jesus, is exemplified by the Roman Catholic Church to celebrate its incarnation.
Aside from the Cebuanos' Sto. Niño de Cebu, many other images and versions of the Sto. Niño were given life in the various festivals dedicated to the holy child. The Sto. Niño replicas are also dressed by devotees and are paraded during the celebrations.
Celebrating the Holy Child
The celebration of the feast of the Sto. Niño was approved by the Holy See. Special liturgical texts are used during local feasts. The official celebration is set on the third Sunday of January, where in various provinces has their colorful and grandeur fiestas in offering. Cebuanos boast of their Sinulog Festival, while the Ilonggos host the colorful Dinagyang Festival. The Aklanons celebrate their spectacle, known to be the wildest and grandest of all Philippine festivals – the Ati-Atihan Festival, while the Manileños honor the Sto. Niño de Tondo with a fluvial procession to celebrate the Sto. Niño de Tondo Festival.
Myths and tales
Some of the natives of the islands have been reluctant to accept the change brought about by the Spaniards; they resent the aggressors for injecting the western faith into their already existing belief system. Of their many signs of resistance is the claim of the old-faith adherents that the Sto. Niño was already their deity even before the arrival of the Spaniards as told in the Old Sugbu oral tradition. Also, tales claim that the Spaniards stole the icon from the natives – the Child-God known to the natives as Salvador del Mundo or Ai Suno found in the old settlements of Cebu and Bohol – and the colonizers only renamed it to what it is known today as the Sto. Niño.
It is also said that the Sto. Niño is not a result of the Spanish evangelization, but of earlier Chinese or Franciscan missions.
- Sto. Niño de Cebu
- Sinulog Festival
- Dinagyang Festival
- Ati-Atihan Festival
- Sto. Niño de Tondo Festival
- Basilica Minore de Sto. Niño
- Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish
- “Sto. Niño.” The Philippines (Accessed on January 16, 2008.
- Angliongto, Warren. “The Sto. Niño devotion: An enduring Spanish Legacy.” Travel Smart (Accessed on January 16, 2008).
- Mendoza, Rose Marie. “Feast Day of Sto. Niño de Tondo.” The Many Faces of Tondo (Accessed on January 16, 2008).