Celebrating the Cebuano Heritage of Faith

Probably one of the greatest legacies that Spain left to Filipinos is the Catholic faith which started in our very shores in 1521 when the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan baptized the royal family together with their eight hundred Cebuano subjects. It was also them that Magellan gave the Queen of Cebu the image of the Holy Child which is thought to have come from the Flanders. Christianity, though, did not spread but was nipped in the bud because of the death of the invaders a few days thereafter. The true Christianization of the Philippines occurred some forty-four years later in 1565, when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, upon the rediscovery of the image of the Holy Child, established a shrine in its honor, which is now considered the mater et caput (mother and head) of all churches in the Philippines.


The original feast of the Santo Nino de Cebu, now known as Kaplag was originally celebrated every April 28 and not on the 3rd Sunday of January, now made more famous by the Sinulog, probably the grandest event in the country. The date also happens to be the feast of St. Vitalis, an obscure early Christian martyr under whose protection the City of Cebu was placed. As a way of celebrating an ancient feast recently revived, the Augustinian community of Cebu presented a painting exhibit of one of their conferences in 2013. Dubbed as “Kaplag, Expressing the Face of Jesus in Art in the Year of Faith 2013”, the painting done by Rev. Fr. Dominador Besares, O.S.A., paid homage to the Santo Nino the most widespread Catholic devotion in the country.

Gold as Color of Divinity

Done in multimedia, thepaintings also featured details of several heritage Baroque style Cebu churches, particularly those built by nearly Augustinian missionaries such as the Basilica Minore, Carcar, Sibonga and Argao. Although centuries have already passed since these stone churches were built but these houses of worship continue to attract worshippers today, often serving as a refuge of the weary who seek to be unburdened from their many problems and concerns. In order to give emphasis to the Santo Nino, a representation of the child Jesus, Fr. Besares utilized gold, the color frequently used in Orthodox Icons which is appropriately the color of divinity.



Published originally in Cebu Daily News, June 2015 and printed in the Souvenir of Fiesta Senor 2015.
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