Five hundred years of Christianity, Five hundred years of Faith! Yes friends! It is true what you are reading, 500 hundred years of Christianity and Catholic faith. In the Philippines 82% to 85% of the population profess the Catholic faith. It is a small country but has 7,100 islands and 109 million people. Christianity arrived in the Philippines in Cebu in March 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan came, the Portuguese explorer who brought Santo Nino (Child Jesus of Prague) with him and gave the statue to the newly baptized Queen Juana of Cebu (the first person who embraced the Christian faith) in April 1521. And from then on, this faith continues and is practiced by the Filipinos wherever they go.
This was the beginning of the Christian faith in the Philippines. The Santo Nino (Child Jesus) has been a symbol of faith of the Filipinos since its arrival 500 years ago. This faith is rooted in the Child Jesus, which is neither “immaturity” nor childishness but spiritual childhood, this total trust in the Love of God (as a Father). Filipinos believe that God is in control of everything and what happens is on purpose. From the beginning they have already experienced many miracles and He continue working them in their lives. There’s also the joy and the smiles of the Filipinos that touch the hearts of many people that they meet, in the street, in work or elsewhere. “This smile that just came out naturally, behind this smile is the normal life, there pains and problems” (Pope Francis 2015 during his visit to the Philippines). This Feast is celebrated every third Sunday of January and it is a big and festive celebration especially in Cebu. There is a long preparation, first for the everyday Novena Mass in the Minor Basilica de Santo Nino, and the fluvial procession - the street procession the day before the Festive Sunday Mass. There’s also the “Sinulog Festival”( it was started in 1980,” Sulog” which means ”like water current movement”).
Sinulog is a ritual dance honouring Santo Nino or the Child Jesus. The festival attracts 1 to 2 million people a year. Although this Feast has already been celebrated for many years in the Philippines especially in Cebu, now it is also celebrated in the different countries where the Filipinos are, for they bring with them this tradition. That’s why Filipinos bring a statue of Santo Nino if they go or migrate to another country because they know and they believe that He will take care of them. The Santo Nino is in almost every Filipino’s home and we associate ourselves with the Child Jesus. When you go to the hospital, you can see a Santo Nino statue dressed like a doctor, or elsewhere as a policeman, a baker. This is because we see ourselves and our aspiration to the Child Jesus. And whatever calamities might arrive in the Philippines - typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions etc.— Filipinos will continue to stand and rebuild their lives because they know that God is always there for them. I was very surprised and happy when I discovered that this Feast of Santo Nino is also celebrated here in Scotland and other parts of UK.
I did not realize that many Filipinos living here far, far away from their homes in the Philippines continue this devotion to the Santo Nino. Everywhere in the world this Feast is celebrated, and this year was a very different way from the usual yearly celebration. First and foremost, we’re not able to celebrate it together in the church because of the pandemic (but via social media platform). Despite this, it didn’t stop us from having a livestreamed Solemn Mass here in Scotland with a proper liturgy (approved by the Holy See) with beautiful and joyful songs and wearing the traditional costume for some. We didn’t miss the Sinulog dance (the dance after the mass where each one dances while holding the Santo Nino) with each family dancing in their own homes. Dancing with Santo Nino while praying to Him.
I am happy to share this article about my faith and about the faith of Filipino Catholics living around the world. Let us pray that we may always recover our being children because there is nothing to be ashamed of, because the Kingdom of God is for little children (Matthew 19:14).
Sister Rosario | Sisters of St John, Aberdeen