Sinulog, one of the country’s festivals in honor of the Sto. Niño, is celebrated every third Sunday of January in Cebu City, which is considered the cradle of Christianity in Asia.
But the celebration of the Cebuanos to show gratitude and fidelity to their patron saint was not always held in the first month of the year.
The feast of the Sto. Niño traces its roots on April 28, 1565, when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and his men arrived in Cebu and found the religious image. The image is said to be brought by Ferdinand Magellan when he came to Cebu in 1521 and introduced Christianity to the province. Magellan supposedly gave the Sto. Niño image to Cebu’s Rajah Humabon and his wife, Amihan.
Legazpi’s ships bombarded villages and one of his men, supposedly named Juan Camus, discovered the image of the Holy Child Jesus inside a wooden box in a partially burned hut.
The finding of the image was deemed providential to the Spaniards that they thought it necessary to hold a feast in honor of the Sto. Niño, making April 28 the original feast day of the Holy Child Jesus.
Later in 1571, Legazpi established the town of Cebu and named it “Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesus,” or Town of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, in honor of the Sto. Niño.
Different religious orders, however, honor the Sto. Niño in various dates in early years. Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians celebrate the feast day on Jan. 14, while Dominicans observe it on Jan. 15.
There is no exact record of how and when the transfer of feast day happened, but in 1721, Pope Innocent XIII introduced the celebration of the feast on the second Sunday after the Epiphany, which fell on the third Sunday of January.
In 1980, the first ever Sinulog parade in Cebu City was organized by then Regional Director of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development David Odilao Jr. with the help of physical education teachers from different schools and universities.
The teachers studied and analyzed the dance steps to be demonstrated as a thanksgiving offering to the Cebuanos’ patron saint. Characterized by two steps forward and one step backward movements to the beat of the drums, the sinulog dance is said to resemble the sulog (current), where the festival name is derived from.
Since then, the Sinulog Festival has become one of the country’s biggest and most popular festivals, drawing hundreds of thousands of devotees, revelers and spectators from all walks of life.
The discovery of the image of Sto. Niño, also called kaplag, or finding, is also celebrated every year on April 28 because of its historical significance and the Cebuanos’ devotion to the Holy Child Jesus.
In 2015, Cebu commemorated the 450th anniversary of the finding of the image of Sto. Niño. The event was spearheaded by the Order of St. Augustine-Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu.
Sources: Inquirer Archives, santoninodecebubasilica.org, sinulog.ph, ncca.gov.ph