I grew up in a home where my mother had a devotion to the Sto. Niño. This meant that there was a statue (or two or three) of him in every bedroom, a calendar that highlighted the days of his novena on all our walls, and a small white relic of sorts in all our bags. My childhood was punctuated with visiting the Basilica, waiting on rooftops for the procession to pass and lining up to venerate the miraculous image. He was always there, the Sto. Niño, with his red cape and his ready smile.I even brought his image with me all the way to my college dorm in Manila.

When I grew up, however, and journeyed through my own faith life, I found my own devotions to other aspects of Jesus’s identity. And the mental image of the dark-skinned child with the curly hair became replaced by the grown up whom I could converse with. In many ways, I realized that this symbolized my growing relationship with the Child Jesus. By growth I do not mean that people who have a devotion to the Child Jesus have an immature faith. But by growth, I mean that I had come from the image of Jesus that my mother had passed on to me to the image of Jesus that I had come to know and accept myself. Under my mother’s care and watchful gaze, my faith has grown and taken root.

Although I have other devotions, I still look forward to visiting the Basilica at least once within the nine days to wave my hand and sing the song for Sto. Niño. I bask in the festive atmosphere that pervades the entire city as we wait in anticipation for the fiesta. When visitors ask me what makes this fiesta so special, I proudly invite them to attend the novena Masses because my words cannot do the experience justice. I revel in seeing my students experience these Masses for the first time. I cannot help but smile when I hear the steady beat of the drums and the loud cries of the Pit Señor in the streets. And whenever I can, I speak of the love and devotion that Cebuanos have for the Sto. Niño and of the love that the Sto. Niño has for the Cebuanos. I have come to realize that so much of my identity as a Cebuano and as a Catholic finds its roots in the Sto. Niño. And to celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño is to come home.

Home is where love begins, faith takes root and hope comes alive. Home is where we come to rest when the rest of the world has made us restless. Home is where the memories of our childhood are housed. And home is where the Child Jesus is free to roam in the hearts and minds of those who love him.

Viva Pit Señor! Viva SeñorSto. Niño!

[Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo]

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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