HE IS only fifteen centimeters tall but he commands the devotion of millions. He is our Santo Nino (Child Jesus). He arrived in our land in 1521 with Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition. He came from Flanders, a country in northern Europe which used to be a colony of Spain.
On the day the Spaniards celebrated the first mass, the priest baptized Raja Humabon and his wife Juana. Christian articles of faith were given to them. One of them was the statue of Sto. Niño, the smiling child-god. Later, Magellan was killed and his men returned to Spain. Some said the statue was worshipped by the Cebuanos as a rain god.
His left hand held a globe with a cross on top. His right hand was slightly raised in salutation. He was wearing a rich Flemish costume with velvet cloak and a real plumed hat. The Cebuanos performed a dance ritual for this image known as “sinulog” to the beat of drums and the shouts of “Pit Senyor” (Hail Lord).
Forty years later, another group of conquerors under Miguel Lopez de Legaspi conquered the islanders. This time, Cebu was under Raja Tupas. He ordered his men to burn their houses before fleeing to the hills. A soldier of Legaspi found this Sto. Niño in a large box in one of the houses left unburned. The child-god was still at its regal best.
Legaspi later named Cebu “City of the Most Holy Name of Jesus” in honor of the Sto. Niño. The image was enshrined in a church in the city which later became a basilica. The celebration and the devotion hit the highest peak as far as the Roman Catholics are concerned. He is now a part of a Filipino faith family. This year, his fiesta falls on January 21 (the third Sunday).
His fiesta honors the children and would also remind the children in us. Let us not just focus on the expensive rituals but let us concentrate also on how the Sto. Niño affects us and our society. We have to remember that we have children, and once we were children also.
The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant. How? The home is the nest of love. The parents are the models and the home should be a habitat of love, respect, unity, cooperation and formation. The children would always want to go back in a home where good things await them … just like the Child Jesus who loved so much the company of Joseph and Mary.
The children are like politicians. They are unpredictable. We have to prepare for their unpredictability by providing them lessons that would positively guide them to follow the right path. We love the children and we don’t want them to lose their way. Let’s hope we can do the same also to the politicians.
Let us have a child prodigy because a child prodigy is a child who knows as much when it is a child as it does when it grows up. We simply want to prove that the making of a real man started when he was a child. That man who was once a child will become a responsible leader … not a puppet.
I remember my favorite author James Agee when he said, “In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again; and in him, too, once more and each of us, our terrific responsibility towards human life; towards the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of error, and of God”.
Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give. We know that children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers. The adults should understand that everyone is the child of his past. We have to think always that children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.
I am reminded of the street children who are chased by the policemen because they are begging. We see child prostitutes who sell their body, soul, and future. Many of us do not mind them because they are not our children. Day in and day out, we see Badjao mothers carrying their naked children and asking us for a small amount. They deserve to eat also because they are citizens of the Philippines (but they don’t vote).
Homeless and parentless children are just under our noses sniffing solvents for their meals. We just move our heads to show unconformity but we did not do so much to implement what our religion is teaching us. We simply want to see the “ati-atihan” dance and admire that piece of wood we call “Sto. Niño.”
Celebrating the fiesta of Sto. Niño is not just dancing, eating, and politicking. Let us not make fun of ourselves by doing funny things. The fiesta is not about “body painting.” It is about social justice.