by Maria Eleanor E. Valeros, newmedia specialist
CEBU CITY, PHILIPPINES (January 13, 2015) – Santo Nino as fishmonger, as patriot, as coconut toddy (tuba) provider, and as speedy boater.
These are just four of numerous manifestations of the Holy Child experienced by people in over four centuries of devotion and reverence of his presence here in the Philippines.
A child will always be a child, they say, and the Holy Child is no exception. Stories abound of his pranks. The most popular of these which every devout Cebuano learned by oral tradition from their parents and forebears is the one about the Nino being a fishmonger.
Story goes that early one morning, a fish vendor was walking by the Basilica carrying a load of fish on a rattan tray on her head, locally called “lirong.” Some call it “nigo.” A boy whom she described as dark-skinned and with curly hair called her from the convent and told her that he would like to buy some fish but that she would have to come back for the payment a little later in the day as the priests were still asleep. Trustingly, the woman gave the child a string of fresh danggit (rabbitfish), a popular fish variety in Cebu.
Later that day, the vendor went back to the convent and asked the Padre Cura for payment. But the priest denied having a dark-skinned, curly-haired boy for a servant, more so ordering anyone to buy fish.
A little search led them to the image and there the string of fish was, resting by the feet of the miraculous icon. The Padre could argue no more.
Another manifestation had it that a certain Colonel C.F. Sharp was surprised by a Cebuano volunteer who came to him in Fort San Pedro used as a military headquarters during World War II. Sharp described the volunteer as no more than a boy with dark skin and curly hair. This story was noted by Cebuana newspaper writer/editor Conching Briones who saw first hand the horrors of World War II in Cebu. She was quoted to have reported this in her column Dateline Cebu in “The Evening News” (1961). The story circulated in 1943. Sharp was an American officer of the United States Army in the Far East (USAFE).
The USAFE was officially closed down in 1942, but it secretly continued recruiting patriotic volunteers to fight the Japanese invaders.
Still another story is that of his being a speedy boater, perhaps one of the most touching of his manifestations. Testimony was written by the recipient himself, a sailor named Fernando Saavedra de Gracia. In his letter posted from Manila, dated Sept. 26, 1877 addressed to his Cebu-based friend, one Don Fidel Maas y Matti, de Gracia narrated that on the morning of Sept. 3, he hurriedly left the church of San Agustin (now the Basilica) and rushed to join his ship – Barcelona – at the port.
Much to his chagrin, however, the Barcelona had already left for Manila and was already at some distance from the pier. Then a boy approached him and spoke to him in fluent Spanish, just like a native speaker and told him he knows where the sailor is going. And that he could catch up with the ship, that had just left port, through his baroto (dug-out canoe).
While seated in the boat, de Gracia noticed that though the boy was not paddling, the baroto was sailing very fast. They caught up with the ship. A rope ladder was lowered for de Gracia by co-workers onboard. When he asked the boater how much the fare was, the boy told him to donate the money to the Hospicio de San Jose in Manila. When he asked the boy his name, the boy purportedly answered: “I am Jesus of Cebu.”
There is a story too that the Santo Nino walked along the shores of Old Cebu at night, and in the morning the image would smell of seawater and that dried amor seco weeds get stuck at the hem of the icon’s cape. So the priests assigned the sacristan mayor to check the icon regularly, have the weeds removed before the church opens for Mass.
The sacristan, tired of removing the amor seco weeds this time, complained “my goodness, you wandered again last night, hope you brought me some coins so I can buy myself tuba (coconut toddy).”
Indeed, after he had cleared the cape of weeds, he found some coins by the feet of the image.
An exhibit of “The Different Devotions to the Santo Nino” features these information along with a timeline of the Order of Saint Augustine presence in the Philippines, paintings and photographs, as well as varying versions of the icon like Santo Nino de Arevalo of Iloilo, Santo Nino de Pandakan, Santo Nino de Tondo, San Nino de la Victoria, Santo Nino Palaboy (vagabond), among many others. Exhibit runs from Jan. 12-19, 2015 at SM City Cebu Art Center.
This is initiated by the Augustinian Province of Santo Nino de Cebu – Philippines, Office of the Executive Director of 450Kaplag Celebrations in cooperation with SM City Cebu Basilica Minore del Santo Nino de Cebu Museums, and Visayas Association of Museums and Galleries, Inc. The latter curated the exhibited.#