January 20, 2019 ~ Jasper Christian Gambito/ St. Peregrine Laziosi Diocesan Shrine. Today, the Philippine Church celebrates the Feast of the Child Jesus, also known as the Sto. Niño. Devotion to the Child Jesus in our country started more than three centuries ago when the Spaniards introduced Christianity to our ancestors. Started by the Augustinian friars in Cebu, devotion to the Sto. Niño spread throughout the Philippine archipelago to a point that in almost all of the diocese in our country, there is a parish  named after the Child Jesus.

In a Sugbuanon Sto. Niño novena published in 1858, the people of Sugbu, Cebu implores the Child Jesus, whose love is being compared to a magnet.

“Batobalani sa gugma
sa daang tauong palanga
canamo malooy ca unta
nga canimo nangilaba.”

One characteristic of a child is that it is merciful and full of love, and that love and mercy being shown by the Child Jesus attracts people to devote themselves to Him.

The aid of Señor Sto. Niño is also being sought by the people of the island of Panay because of the miracles He had shown to the Visayans. Their 1886 Sto. Niño novena mentioned a common practice among the Visayans wherein they bring the image of the Child Jesus to the sea so that He would be pleased and would grant them rain in times of drought. This could be the reason why various communities are conducting fluvial processions in honor of the Sto. Niño.

“Con imo nga pag-dugayon
ang ulan nga guin-pangabay,
paga-dalhon ca sa bay-bay
cag sa dagat pasulumun;
agud mo sila taga-an
sang guin-tinguha nga ulan.”

The people of Batangas and Muntinlupa also had their version of the Sto. Niño novena. The ninth stanza mentions that because of the miracles and wishes granted to them by the Child Jesus, they became more devoted to the Sto. Niño that even the Augustinian Friars who formerly administered the spiritual care of those lands retained their devotion and affection to the Niño.

“Sa himalang ganito
ay nahikayat ang tao
sa paghahalal sa iyo
Patron ka nilang totoo.
At ang mga Agustino’y
nanatili sa sinta mo.”

Sto. Niño, our Lord Jesus Christ depicted in a form of a child, is being seen as a compassionate and empathic patron of the various communities of our country – a patron who is ever-willing to grant our needs. Like a child, Sto. Niño easily forgives and understands our transgressions and our weaknesses. Because of this, He is being implored to adopt the weary and the needy. This is reflected in the novena to Sto. Niño de Muntinlupa which mentions:

“Kaya Niño ang aming daing
ang kami’y Iyong ampunin.
Ang kailanga’y tambingin
sakloloha’t patakasin.
Kami’y naaasang totoo
sa pagkamaawain mo.”

In this article, four novenas to the Child Jesus which is used in four different areas in the Philippines were presented. But what’s common to these novenas are following attributes of the Sto. Niño: first, that He is merciful; second, that He is compassionate; third, that He answers our prayers, especially when we are doing things which would please Him; and fourth, that His love and affection attract the faithful to be devoted to Him.

The aforementioned attributes of the Sto. Niño are the attributes we as Christians should also follow. We are being challenged by the Lord that just like a child, we should be merciful, compassionate, empathic, and most of all – full of love.

Be not afraid to be child-like. Be not afraid to show mercy, compassion, empathy, and love. Be like the Child Jesus. Be devoted to the Child Jesus.

Pit Señor!