HomeChurch & AsiaPhilippines feast of Child Jesus kicks off with 300,000 people praying

Philippines feast of Child Jesus kicks off with 300,000 people praying

Another big religious celebration kicked off in the Philippines this week with thousands of people in the central Philippine province of Cebu walking together in prayer to honor the Child Jesus.

The Sinulog festival, seen as an extension of the Christmas season in the country, started with a two-kilometer procession dubbed “Walk with Jesus” early in the morning of Jan. 9.

The Child Jesus, also known as the “Santo Niño,” is no doubt the most famous child in the Philippines with his image prominently displayed in all possible places.

The original image of the Child Jesus, the oldest religious relic in the country, is a gift from Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the queen of Cebu.

On Jan. 9, an estimated 300,000 devotees of the Santo Niño, bringing with them their own images of the Child Jesus, braved a heavy downpour for the procession.

Jonas Bayron, a devotee from the neighboring province of Leyte, had to travel by boat with his family to visit what many believe as the miraculous image of the baby Jesus.

“It is our 30th year as devotees,” said Bayron. “We don’t mind the weather and the cost of our trip. It’s the least we could do for what the Niño had done for my family,” he said.

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Bayron will be joining thousands, if not millions of devotees for the traditional kissing of the image inside the basilica where the image is being kept and venerated.

A sea of devotees wave their hands in the air as they sing a hymn in honor of the Child Jesus on Jan. 9, the first day of preparations for the feast of the Child Jesus. (Photo by Alan Tangcawan)

Augustinian priest Perfecto Nohara, rector of the Minor Basilica of the Santo Niño, said the devotion to the Child Jesus is popular especially among the faithful in Cebu.

“We treasure this faith and we continue to spread it,” said the priest as he called on the faithful to share the devotion of the Child Jesus to the rest of the word.

Earlier, organizers of the Cebu’ Sinulog festival reminded devotees how to properly carry the image of the Child Jesus in the traditional dance ritual.

Mary Rose Villacastin-Maghuyop, a dance choreographer, said some people have complained that the ritual has been “over-modernized” in recent years. 

“When you handle the Niño, handle it with love, handle it with care,” she said, adding that the most important thing to do is to pray during the religious dance.

The Sinulog dance moves consist of two steps forward and one step back to the beast of the drums. The word Sinulog comes from the Cebuano word “sulog,” which means water current.

Filipinos celebrate the feast of Santo Niño every third week of January with colorful parades, fluvial processions, street dancing and other festive rites in different parts of the country.

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