The Colorful Celebration of Infant Jesus: Viva Santo Nino!!

By Sherwin Funa, ASEAN-Korea Weblog Correspondent, Philippines

One of the widely celebrated feasts in the entire archipelago of the Philippines is the Feast of Santo Nino – the image of child Jesus. It is said to be the oldest religious image in the country. Donated by Ferdinand Magellan of Spain to Raja Humabon of Cebu, in 1521 as a symbol of alliance. The Cebuanos (natives of Cebu) revered the image of Santo Nino as Bathala (an animistic God of Creation).  Santo Nino is believed to be originally made in Belgium because it is very similar to their Infant Jesus of Prague.

In 1565, it was found by a Spanish Mariner Juan de Camus in a pine box of a burned house. The image is 30 centimeters tall, wearing a loose velvet vestment, a gilded neck chain and a woolen red hood. The image holds a golden ball in the left hand – a replica of the world, and the right hand is slightly raised as a gesture of blessing.

The month of January is the busiest time for the patrons of Sto Niño. Different places in the Philippines have its own way of celebrating this feast. But among the most famous ones are Sinulog in the province of Cebu, Atitihan in Aklan and Dinagyang in Iloilo.

Sinulog Festival is celebrated on the 3rd week of January in southern Philippines, Cebu City. It commemorates Cebu’s pagan origin and acceptance of Roman Catholicism particularly to the miraculous image of Santo Nino. The festival moves through the sound of the drums that is similar to Pahina River in Cebu. The word Sinulog comes from the Cebuano adverb sulog which roughly means “like water current movement”. During the celebration of Sinulog, the streets of Cebu turn to a colorful flowing water of people dancing gracefully to the beat.

On the western part of the Philippines, still in the Island of Visayas another festivity is being celebrated in the honor of Sto Niño, which is known as Ati-atihan Festival. The town of Kalibo in Aklan was said to be originally inhabited by Aetas. Ati-atihan means “to be like aetas”, they are known for their creative face paints and signature dances. In this celebration, people puts on their exceptional costumes, that includes painting of their faces of dark tone and pumping to the beat of the drums on street dance. Christian and non-Christians consider this day as a religious processions. Ati-atihan is the mother of the Philippine Festivals, Sinulog and other processions are just adaptations of Ati-atihan.

 Lastly, The Dinagyang Festival. In 1968, a replica of the original image of the Santo Nino de Cebu was brought to Iloilo by Fr. Sulpicio Enderez as a gift to Parish of San Jose the year after Dinagyang Festival was celebrated. This was an initiative by the local government on its aim to boost tourism and development along side of honoring Santo Nino. The Dinagyang is divided into three Major events: Ati-Ati Street Dancing, Kasadyahan Street Dancing and Miss Dinagyang.

 These festivities and celebrations are just some of the few occasions that Filipinos are known for. Most of the time or if not always, the theme of the celebration is to always give praise and gratitude to the creator for the bountiful year they had are for the year to come. No matter where and who the patron is, every town and province in the Philippines has its own unique way of celebration – that is why IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES.

Acknowledgement: See more festival photos, visit the following websites.

Sinulog Pictures:

Ati-atihan Pictures:

Dinagyang Pictures:


4 thoughts on “The Colorful Celebration of Infant Jesus: Viva Santo Nino!!

    • Hi Mark Madrona,

      Thank you for bringing this up, and to answer your questions, the Photo is not mine. In the bottom portion of my article, I cited the links where I got the photos. I was just trying to feature the festivity and tried to incorporate beautiful photos with it that I got randomly from the web.

      I already confirmed this with SEAMEO-INNOTECH, they sent me an email. The photo was taken down already in their site, they are already doing some investigations.

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