Sto. Niño A Magnet that Drew in Devotees and Guests

Sto Nino Fiesta 4 Cover Option

There is hardly any Filipino who has not heard the word ‘Sinulog’ (from the Cebuano word ‘sulog’, roughly meaning ‘like water current movement’). Every third week of January, wherever there are Filipino Catholics, a group will honor the Christ Child (Sto. Niño) through nine days of Novena Masses culminating in a gathering where the prayer dance ‘sinulog’ is performed.

The Sinulog Festival and the devotion to the Sto. Niño has its root when Catholicism was introduced in the Philippines. In 1521, the rulers of Cebu, Rajah Humabon and Queen Amihan were baptised together with their subjects. The Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan gave Hara Amihan an image of the Child Jesus as baptismal gift. The Sinulog Festival is now considered the grandest festival in the Philippines attracting millions of people during its celebration.

It then goes without saying that Sto. Niño devotees in Christchurch also honored the Christ Child. Nine days of Novena Masses were held at Sacred Heart parish. Then on Saturday, 20th January, the eve of the celebration (or visperas), a fluvial procession was held in Lyttelton Harbour at 9am. Around 180 Filipino pilgrims reserved two Black Cat Ferry trips to join in the fluvial parade. The ferry was decorated with red and yellow ribbons and balloons. There was a reenactment of how Magellan handed the image of Sto. Niño and a Sinulog dance was performed. The ferry trip took around 30 minutes and participants prayed the Rosary while on the procession. There was also a land procession later in the afternoon.

Sto Nino Fiesta 3 Cover Option
Sto Nino Fiesta 5

The meaningful and fun day was followed the next day with the Sinulog Festival held at Cowles Stadium. The venue was filled to capacity with devotees and guests from all over Christchurch and neighbouring areas. The Mass was concelebrated by Fr Peter Head, parish priest of Sacred Heart Parish in Addington; Fr Rex Ramos, newly assigned parish priest to Hurunui, and Fr Tony Ricarte, guest priest from New Jersey. He inspired the crowd with a relatable homily of the theme: “Sto. Niño: the Magnet of Love in the Synodal Church”. He explained that it is because God became a child in Sto. Niño, vulnerable and approachable, that the Little Child Jesus is the magnet of love by everyone. We then have a choice to draw near to Him.

After the Mass, there was a Sinulog dance led by dancers then later joined in by everyone, including the three priests. Free lunch was had by everyone, and people went home replete. Once again, Sto. Niño drew various
members of the community together, binding them together in love for him and fellowship with one another.