AT SM City Cebu Art Center’s “Sto. Niño: A Homage,” one gets to have a feel of the different ways local artists see Cebu’s religious and cultural icon, the Sto. Niño of Cebu.
Jojo Sagayno, an innovative, exploratory artist, saw the Sto. Niño in the many votive candles carried by Sinulog dancers; Joseph Ong came up with a diptych abstraction of the Sto. Niño church on one side and the Sto. Niño image on the other; Ronnie Rudinas, from Mindanao, came up with a smiling and playful Sto. Niño.
Cesar Castillo had the Sto. Niño image in the hands of children and a devotee; Rhodesa Cruzet, a medical physicist, came up with well-adorned Sto. Niño images; Efren Enolva focused on a smiling Sto. Niño in the hands of devotees.
Clint Normandia had the Child Jesus in the hands of a Sinulog dancer; Tony Vidal has different versions of the Child Jesus—with Mama Mary, with St. Joseph and with Our Lady of Perpetual Succour; John Dinglasa had the Sto. Niño basilica churchyard with balloon sellers; Fe Madrid Pepito placed the Sto. Niño image in still-life paintings; Mean Mustard had the Sinulog Sto. Niño; Jess Dinglasa placed the Sto. Niño in the church with devotees; Jun Impas had two Sinulog dancers and the Sto. Niño image; Bong Francisco saw the Sto. Niño in a Sinulog dancer; Guido Lubanga came up with four pen and ink images of the Sto. Niño encased in intricately carved settings; and Lito Pepito, from Mindanao, came up with his recollection of the image of the Sto. Niño.
Other artists are Noel Bueza from Lucban, Quezon. Though not familiar with the Sto. Niño of Cebu, Jesus as child and as Crucified has always been a subject of adoration for him. When he came for the exhibit, he made sure he would visit the Sto. Niño.
“I went to the church and found the faith of the people so palpable. And when the priest gave the blessing, I felt it personally that I was part of the Mass of the Sto. Niño. I do go to Mass but this was different; different to be a part of the devoted crowd and I felt great joy.”
Joel Cristobal is from Paras, Rizal. He is married to Queenie Ramo, from Cebu, and is therefore familiar with the Sto. Niño who, for him, serves as his parameter for respect and adoration.
“I have little children and my hope is to transfer my adoration to the Sto. Niño to the children. Because of the many sects (religious) now, I hope my children will always be faithful to their faith. I have an altar to the Sto. Niño at home and I pray that this altar will keep my children away from the temptations in this era of the millennials. The Sto. Niño is my inspiration, ‘the apple of my eye.’”
Jun Tiongko of Tanjay, Rizal, says he is not really familiar with the Sto. Niño, as he is more at home in painting Jesus crucified. The challenge of painting the Sto. Niño reminded him of his paintings as a child. Even as a seven-year-old, he was already painting the child Jesus and painting the Sto. Niño brought him back to his childhood paintings and memories.
Angelico “Jik” Villanueva, a sculptor, is from Montalban, Rizal.
“Even before being asked to join the exhibit, I already did the Sto. Niño. All my work is religious. I am the kind of person who doesn’t wait for what God gives us. All I know is that if you’re really devoted to God, you pray and thank Him for whatever He has in store for you. It’s all up to him. I will do my best not to fail Him. Everything I have is a blessing.”
Mar Vidal, a Cebuano, has always been a devotee of the Sto. Niño. From childhood, he has always done the Friday novena at the basilica. Though now that he resides in Lapu-Lapu City, he goes to the Sto. Niño church only on the first Fridays of the month. The other Fridays, he prays the novena at home with his family. He credits the Sto. Niño for the health of his wife Gwen, who twice was on the verge of death due to cancer (she is now cancer-free). And even meeting Manny Pacquiao was, for him, a blessing (he has done a life-size portrait of the senator and boxing great) from the Sto. Niño because he first caught a glimpse of the boxer among the Sto. Niño devotees although now Pacquiao is no longer a Catholic.
According to Celso Duazo Pepito, exhibit organizer, the exhibit is a collaborative effort with SM City Cebu in cooperation with ArtPortlCebu, and “aims to provide the viewing public an opportunity to understand the root of the Cebuanos’ veneration to Sr. Sto. Niño through visual imagery created by the artists based on their personal viewpoint.”
“It also aims at enticing the public to support and nurture the importance of creating art that truly reflects the Filipinos’ deep religiosity.” Celso is also a Cebuano whose paintings focus mostly on the family as is shown in the paintings on exhibit.
“The Sto. Niño deepened my faith, my belief. Wherever I go, I use it as an opportunity to pray. My faith is intense and continuing, I want to be with him all the time.”