Majority of the festivals in the Visayas region is in veneration of Santo Nino.  The image of Santo Nino (child Jesus) is claimed to be the oldest religious image in the Philippines.  And two of the highly urbanized cities of the country houses the said image - Tacloban City and Cebu City.

The year 2013 tested the resilience and faith of the two cities' devotees as the natural catastrophes severely damaged their respective churches- Basilica Del Santo Nino of Cebu City and Basilica of Santo Nino de Tacloban, that is, the October high-magnitude earthquake and the November super typhoon and storm surge, respectively.

Whilst severely damaged, devotees continue to flock the said churches to honor the miraculous image, their patron saint, for expressions of gratitude, faith and hope of the life that is given.  December of 2013, I was able to visit both churches and can personally attest that these structures are testaments of the strong confession of faith that Filipino Catholic devotees have over Santo Nino.

Tacloban City, Leyte
Basilica of Santo Nino de Tacloban- 25 December 2013

According to the writing of Iluminado Lucente, the Santo Nino de Tacloban dates back to the year 1739 and no mention is made on the accounts of early Jesuit missionaries who evangelized the island.  It is most likely that the veneration of the image of Santo Nino reached Leyte island due to the strong devotion to this image in Cebu, Panay and other parts of Visayas.  To the Visayan region, Santo Nino was a patron, a protector in times of drought, disease, hunger and fire.  Tradition has it that the miraculous image actually belonged to Buscada, a barrio of Basey, Samar.  Tacloban had its own image, but less smaller and presentable but due to a greater number of inhabitants in Kankabatok than in Buscada, the parish priest deemed it proper to exchange images.  Thus, Tacloban City kept its present image.


Among the structures significantly devastated by the super typhoon is the home of the Santo de Tacloban - the Tacloban City Santo Nino Church, as locals unassumingly refer to.  From a distance, I could see the roofless church yet structure remains intact as my family, fortunately complete, visit the church to offer our thanksgiving and prayers on Christmas day of 2013, a month after the super typhoon struck.

Albeit structurally damaged and flooded, patrons continue to confess their faith and give thanks despite and in spite of the tragedy that has caused tremendous loss of life and property surrounding the church.  It was heart breaking to visit the church with list of names and pictures posted on the walls of patrons who departed in the onslaught of the super typhoon.

As the chorale fill the air of the vicinity with christmas carols and songs of hope, I see many faces of patrons armed with varied stories to tell but currently with one vision and that is, to give thanks for the life they had and for the opportunity to face tomorrow with a stronger faith and personality.

One day at a time, soon the church shall be rebuild on the same note with the patrons advocacy to continue to live life to the fullest and encourage one another that this too shall pass.

Cebu City, Cebu


The Holy Child of Cebu - the Santo Nino de Cebu - image is claimed to be the oldest religious image in the Philippines, the statue originally given in 1521 as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan via Antonio Pigafetta who physically handed it to Lady Humamay, the principal wife of Rajah Humabon.

The Minor Basilica of Santo Nino was built on the spot where the image was found by Spanish mariner Juan de Camos.  The parish was originally made of out bamboo and mangrove palm and claims to be the oldest parish in the Philippines.  Now, it is built as one of the greatest architectural designs for a church in the country.


On 15 October 2013 in the morning, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Tagbilaran Bohol which force was felt throughout the Visayan region.  It caused thousands and millions worth of casualties including damage to historical landmarks and churches.  And even the Basilica of Santo Nino in Cebu was not spared.  The belfry and the facade was destroyed, thus, masses are currently moved and conducted at the pilgrim center.

The Pilgrim Center

It was the first time I visited the Basilica of Santo Nino and for the last two days of the year 2013, together with my family we hear the mass and expressed gratitude for the year that was despite the destruction of our home and the loss of lives of some friends and fellow Warays due to the super typhoon.

We are to start anew and strengthen our faith to our Creator that this too shall pass.  I honestly am not a religious person or a devout Roman Catholic, to be specific, as I oftentimes pray by myself and seldom hear mass, but the faith and veneration to our Creator has always been constant.  And I truly admire the passion of church goers of Santo Nino, both in Tacloban City and Cebu City, as no adversities in life can dampen their spiritual faith.

Indeed, people from Visayas has always journeyed in faith with Santo Nino.  These two highly urbanized cities in the country which houses the historical images of Santo Nino may have undergone partial destruction of the house of Santo Nino, but the devotion and manifestation of love to the Holy Child will never vanish and continues to live for the generations to come.

You May Also Like