Oldest Christian relic in PHL to visit Ilocos Norte

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A downpour of excitement among Ilocano devotees anticipate the Santo Niño de Cebu (Holy Child of Cebu) who is set to visit the Province of Ilocos Norte from July 1 to 8, 2014 to mark the milestone of its arrival in the country about half a millennium ago.

Santo Niño de Cebu (Holy Child of Cebu)The Santo Niño de Cebu is a statue of the Holy Child Jesus which history dates back to the birth of Christianity in the Philippines.

Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in the service of the kingdom of Spain, arrived in Cebu during his voyage to the Far East in 1521. He persuaded Rajah Humabon and his chief wife, Humamay to pledge their allegiance to Spain and convert to Christianity.

Upon the return of Magellan’s expedition, the royal couple was baptized and Italian historian Antonio Pigafetta personally handed the image of the Holy Child to Humamay as a baptismal gift.

History has it that in 1565, the second Spanish expedition took place and mariner Juan de Camus, crew of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, found the image on an altar in one of the burnt ruins. Legazpi in turn instituted a fiesta to commemorate the finding of the icon, a celebration that survives until now as “Kaplag” (finding).

On that actual site of “Kaplag” was where the first Augustianian church and convent in the archipelago was built now known as the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu, the shrine of the Holy Child’s image.

The pilgrim image stands at approximately twelve inches and is clothed in a loose garment and red and gold embroidered vestment. It has a golden crown and holds a golden globus cruciger, a replica of the world, in the left hand.
‘Niñong Gala’

People who witnessed the miracles of Santo Niño said that he appears as a little boy who often wanders around to play with children or rescue those who are in need, thus the nicknames Niñong Gala and Viajero (wanderer). Among the Holy Child’s purported miracles were saving a six-year-old child from a fire and returning the lost carabao of a farming couple.

Many of the devotees thus tend to leave shoes, slippers and toys for Santo Niño at the Basilica which the priests later on donate to several orphanages.

“It’s a huge honor and blessing, the very first time that the Santo Nino of Cebu, the evangelizer of the entire country who Christianized us five hundred years ago, will travel to the Northern Luzon,” Governor Imee Marcos said.

She also added that the Sto. Nińo’s visit is a “double joy” for the province for it coincides with the 85th birthday of former first lady and now congresswoman of the second district of the province, Imelda Marcos.

The Diocese of Laoag led by Bishop Renato Mayugba is also currently preparing several activities to welcome the Santo. Nińo de Cebu which will be brought to several churches in the province.

The visit of the Santo Nino de Cebu in several parts of the country is one of the religious and devotional rites for the nine-year preparatory celebration to mark the 500 years of Roman Catholicism in the country.—Grazielle Mae A. Sales, PGIN-CMO

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