Pit Senyor Santo Nino!
So goes the loud cry from Cebu. This third Sunday of January, the annual Sinulog celebrations takes place in my beloved island. There would be revelry and fun, dancing and festivities. Vibrant colors and sounds saturate the streets in honor of the Holy Child.
This morning, I asked the young people of Majada, “who is more powerful the Poong Nazareno, whose feast we celebrated last Monday, or the Sto. Nino, whose feast we celebrate today?” They paused in silence for a few moments. Their eyes wide with innocent confusion over the riddle. A little hand shoot up in the air followed by a triumphant answer, “the Poong Nazareno!” The little girl was so sure of the answer, her eyes were gleaming with victory. I chuckled at the innocent blunder.
Jesus who is truly God and truly man shared humanity with us in its fullness. He was a child once and lived as a child indeed. I explained to the little girl how much Jesus would understand her childhood as he also had the chance to play with friends, run up and down the road in Nazareth, and explored the hills and holes like any child would do. The Almighty God took upon himself the humble humanity of little boy.
And so we celebrate the Feast of the Sto. Nino in the Philippines. It is a feast we Cebuanos hold very dearly. Thanks to the modern means of communication, events happening in the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino in Cebu is streamed live right through our screens here miles away in Canlubang. I surely miss the activities and festivities the second time around. In this feast, we celebrate more the closeness of Jesus to us as he shares our own nature. We believe he understands us because he experienced what we are experiencing now.
But more than this, we look to him as a model of obedience and simplicity. In the same way that he put upon himself our humanity, we are invited to put on the godly virtues that the Holy Child possesses. Because of this child we have become children of God, and so in Him we also see how it is to be a child of God.
It’s wonderful to reflect on how the Catholic Faith has come to the Philippines. Just as God came to be with Israel 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas eve, he came to our islands in the form of the Sto. Nino handed on Queen Juana of Cebu. It is then with gratitude that we celebrate this wonderful feast as a thanksgiving for the gift of Faith and the powerful protection of the Little Child himself. Sinulog is that very oblation of dance that springs forth from our culture seeking to express the wonders that God has done for our people.