I could be dancing for the Holy Child today

PIT Señor! I could have been in Cebu today for and dancing to honor the Sto. Niño in the Sinulog, the annual festival of the city held every third Sunday of January. The trip was been planned mid-year of 2014 and a free ticket to fly to the Queen City of the South was flashed before me. Circumstances lead me to decide not to push through. Sad.

The Sto. Niño at the Shrine Hills came from Prague

It’s been years since my most recent participation in this major festivity, one of the biggest and most colorful festivals in the country. What I remember was weaving through the street dancers and mimicking their dance steps. For kilometers we would move to the beat of the drums and along the way, get our faces stained by charcoals and bathed in water or beer by fellow merrymakers. It was good, “clean” fun until it was put to a stop. Apparently, a good number of people can’t take the idea of “fun” that came along with the festival.

The festival was never the same since then, but the devotion and merriment has in no way diminished. Different strokes for different generations.

In Davao City, the festival of the Sto. Niño is celebrated at the Shrine Hills. Every January 15th, the devotees march the steep slope to the top of the hill to pay their respects and offer prayers of gratitude, or seek divine intervention from the Infant Jesus. It is believed that the Sto. Niño holds miraculous powers, especially among expectant mothers, and grants the wishes of the believers.

Children & adults bring their images of the Sto. Niño to be blessed. (Photos by Ida Damo)

More than the wish to bear children, other devotees have asked to be healed of an affliction or a mate to spend the rest of their lives with. Perhaps many have been blessed with granted wishes, which lead for more people to turn into a life of prayer and believing that there is indeed a higher force who only wants the best for everyone.

Devotees of the Holy Infant await their turn to stand & pray before the image. (Photos by Ida Damo)

The statue that stands at the Shrine of the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague was flown in from the Czech Republic capital during a time of devastation. The woman who saved the image brought it to Davao dreamt that the Niño was standing on top of a hill overlooking the city. This is where the baby Jesus is enshrined today.

On the day before the feast day, January 14th.

During the rest of the year, the Shrine Hills holds regular Sunday masses and is a place for retreat. The vast ground with its lush greenery and shade providing trees also serves as a park for those who prefer to stay longer after offering a prayer.

The Shrine Hill’s vast grounds is also a park where devotees & visitors can relax in. (Photo by Ida Damo)

I don’t believe I have visited the Shrine of the Infant Jesus on his feast day, but I know I get to visit during the Visita Iglesia on Maundy Thursdays. It’s one of the stops of our group’s 13-church visit.

This year I was to visit the Shrine Hill a day before the feast day (I hope that counts) when the entire compound was busy preparing for the most important day of their calendar. I can’t help but be impressed with the most beautiful bed of red roses where the Sto. Niño was going to stand.

The image in the case & bed of roses made ready on the feast day. On the day before the feast day at the Shrine of the Infant Jesus at Shrine Hills.

On the day of the feast, the Sto. Niño is out of the display case.(photo by Christian Pasumbal)

Maybe I will get to visit the shrine on the feast day or dance in honor of the Niño at the Sinulog in the future. In the meantime, let me shout this phrase of praise to the most loved child in the Catholic word—Pit Señor!

Thank you Ida Damo & Chritian Pasumbal for the photos you shared.