TODAY the 3rd Sunday of January is– in the Roman Catholic national liturgical calendar of the Philippines–the Solemnity or Feast of the Santo Niño. The really international Roman Catholic missals, and of course all missals published in the Philippines, have a special page with the readings and prayers for this Mass.
Cebu City and Tondo and Pandacan in the Archdiocese of Manila have made the celebration of today’s feast a stirring, unforgettable and touristic event. But the spiritual aspects of the fiesta have not disappeared thanks to the vigilance of the parish priests, specially the Agustinian fathers, who were the very first to honor the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague in the convent of the Sto. Niño de Cebu founded by Fr. Andres de Urdaneta himself on April 28, 1565. This was the very day the Legazpi-Urdaneta expedition arrived.
Despite the frenzy of the millions who, in Cebu City, participate in the Sinulog Festival, which is said to be the grandest and most attended religious procession in our country, no one forgets that it is the Child Jesus who is being honored by all–by the street dancers as well as the members of diocesan organizations.
Pit Señor! Pit Señor!
The Sinulog originated with the original candle vendors who sell their wares in front of the Augustinian Church of Cebu. They were the first, a couple of hundred years ago, to do the forward-and-backward movement of the prayer-dance of petition and thanksgiving to the Santo Niño. The movement is said to imitate the sulog (flow) of Cebu City’s Pahina River. While dancing–waving their lighted candles–the women chant “Pit Señor! Pit Señor!” Many, even Cebuanos, don’t know what the chant means until told that “pit” is the abbreviation of the word “sangpit” — which is Cebuano for “to call the name of” and therefore “Pit Señor” means say “Hail, Lord!” Some parade-procession participants cry out “Pit Señor kang Papa ‘ni” (or replace Papa with someone’s name for whom the devotee is making petitions), which means “Hail, Lord, this one’s for my Papa.”
Most people think the Holy Child Jesus is the patron of Cebu because of the magnificence of the feast day for him. But Cebu actually shares with Mexico Our Lady of Guadalupe as its patroness.
|The image of the Santo Niño is the oldest religious image in the Philippines. The wooden image, made by Flemish artisans, was brought to the island by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. On the baptism of Cebu’s King Humabon and his wife, Queen Juana, Magellan gave the Sto. Niño image to the queen.
In 1565, 44 years later, when the new batch of Spanish conquerors returned to Cebu, they found the Cebuanos hostile to them. They burned down Cebu to punish the Cebuanos. In the debris of one of the razed houses, a Spanish soldier found the image of the Santo Niño that Magellan had given to Queen Juana, completely intact. A miracle!
The miraculous image is kept in the Agustinian parish convent. Only a replica is kept for the faithful to see in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.