The Santo Niño de Cebú ("Holy Child of Cebu") is a Roman Catholic depiction of the Child Jesus, similar to the Infant Jesus of Prague, and other venerated statues. Like them, it is clothed in textile robes. For centuries Santo Nino served as the patron saint of Cebu, and continues to be celebrated at the Sinulog, the primary festival of Cebú.But now, the patron saint of Cebu is the Our Lady of Guadalupe since Jesus cannot be a patron saint. It is located at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City, Cebu, Philippines.
In April 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, in the service of Charles I of Spain, arrived in Cebu during his voyage to find a westward route to the Spice Islands . He persuaded Rajah Humabon and his wife Hara Humamay, to pledge their allegiance with Spain. They were later baptized into the Catholic faith, taking the Christian names Carlos and Juana. Magellan gave Juana the Santo Nino as a symbol of the alliance. However, Magellan died during the Battle of Mactan later that month, and the alliance became more or less moot.
The Spanish returned to the Philippines in February 1565. Cebu was the first stop of Basque explorer Miguel López de Legazpi, who would later found Manila. He defeated Rajah Tupas (nephew to Humabon) on April 27, destroying the village in the process. The Santo Nino was found relatively unscathed in a burnt-out dwelling. This event was quickly acknowledged as miraculous, and a church was later constructed on the purported site of the discovery. Today, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is an important historical and religious landmark in Cebu, with devotees forming long line up to pay their respects to the Holy Child.
The Holy See has approved special liturgical texts for use during the local Feast of the Santo Niño in the Philippines, set on the third Sunday of January. The festival that follows is known as the Sinulog, which combines the street festivities and religious devotion of the Cebuano people.
The Santo Niño was long considered to be the patron "saint" of Cebu. However, the Santo Niño is a representation of Jesus Christ as a child. The Catholic Church in the Philippines sets the Holy Child as an example of humility and as a celebration of the Incarnation. Many Cebuanos do not consider the Christmas Season over until the Feast of the Santo Niño.
With this in mind, in 2002, the Archbishop of Cebu, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, declared Jesus' mother Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe to be the principal patroness of Cebu. This upset some Santo Niño devotees, who felt that the declaration "demoted" the Holy Child. However, the declaration is consistent with Catholic thought requiring a patron saint be a human saint who has gone to his or her heavenly reward and who prays to God on behalf of the living, rather than a divine being himself.
Since the Holy Child is a representation of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, he cannot, as God, be considered a patron. In that sense, Cardinal Vidal's move was to actually install a patron saint for Cebu, when before there was none. He did not, however, abolish the feast or the traditional street celebrations. There are various Filipino American prayer groups in the United States that celebrate a Novena to Santo Niño. The novena begins with a recitation of the rosary, followed by various Philippine native songs and prayers. These prayers include a thanksgiving prayer, a blessing for the hosting family, an act of consecration prayer, and a prayer for the sick.
Basilica Minore del Santo Niño