Two churches in Batangas and Iloilo provinces were elevated to archdiocesan shrine status in honor of the Holy Child Jesus on Sunday, feast of the Sto. Niño.
In Batangas City, Archbishop Gilbert Garcera of Lipa led a Mass to declare the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception as the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santo Niño de Batangan.
The decree designating the basilica as a shrine states that the local church “recognizes the deep devotion of the faithful of the archdiocese to the Santo Niño de Batangan.”
“We believe that this ardent and deep devotion of the devotees is a remarkable way of attaining holiness,” it added.
The Santo Niño de Batangan is a dark-skinned image of the Child Jesus that was enshrined in the basilica since the Spanish era.
The present image is a replica of the original one that was destroyed during a fire in the church convent in 1999 but contains within its pedestal the ashes and remaining fragments of the original icon.
The basilica was the second church in the Philippines to receive the church title in 1948 by the authority of Pope Pius XII.
The Batangas basilica is also home to the venerated Marian image of La Inmaculada Concepción de la Ciudad de Batangas, which received the honor of an episcopal coronation, also by Archbishop Garcera, in 2018.
In Iloilo City’s historic Villa de Arevalo district, the Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish was declared as the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santo Niño de Arevalo in a Mass led by Archbishop José Romeo Lazo of Jaro.
The shrine is recognized as “the home of the venerated Santo Niño de Arevalo, the third oldest Sto. Niño image in the country.”
The image’s devotion is officially dated since the foundation of the parish in 1581, a few years after the beginnings of the devotions to Sto. Niño de Cebu and Sto. Niño de Tondo in Manila.
Archbishop Lazo also blessed the crown offered by the people of Arevalo in an act of solemn coronation that was placed on the image by Arevalo Shrine Rector Father José Clasico Nufable and his Parochial Vicar Father Rex John Palmos.
Arevalo district is known historically as “La Villa Rica de Arevalo” (The Rich Village of Arevalo), named so by Spanish Governor General Ronquillo de Peñalosa in 1582. It is one of the eight Spanish Villas that were considered as centers of regional consolidation during the Spanish colonial period.
The Santo Niño de Arevalo is a centuries-old brown-skinned image and is similar to the visage of the Santo Niño de Cebu. It is also considered the premier Santo Niño devotion in Iloilo province that was properly organized during the tenure of Father Anselmo Avanceña, curate from 1864 to 1882.
This is the third local shrine in the Jaro archdiocese following St. Vincent Ferrer in Iloilo province’s Leganes town and Our Lady of Fatima in Jaro.
The archdiocese also has one national shrine, which is the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral in Iloilo City.