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Feast of Santo Nino attracts 3.2 million in Cebu

Gift from Magellan provides enduring symbol of Philippine Catholicism

Feast of Santo Nino attracts 3.2 million in Cebu

Devotees carry images of the Child Jesus during a Jan. 16 religious procession in Manila. (Photo by Vincent Go)

Published: January 18, 2016 07:45 AM GMT

Updated: January 18, 2016 07:46 AM GMT

Some 3.2 million people attended the start of this year's celebration of the feast of the Santo Nino or Child Jesus in Cebu City in the central Philippines.

Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu said the celebration, dubbed the Sinulog, is a feast for all children.

"Many of our children might not receive the right love and compassion from others, from us," the prelate said during the Mass to mark the 451st feast of the Santo Nino of Cebu.

"Let's love, care and carry them just like how we love, adore, carry and worship the Senor Santo Nino," added Palma.

Devotees carry images of the Child Jesus as they dance in procession around the city. 

The prelate said the feast, which is celebrated every third Sunday of January, is a strong reminder that "we should care for our children" as we carry Jesus "in our hearts and in our lives."

The image of the Santo Nino has been part of the Filipino people's devotion for centuries.

The feast of the Santo Nino is one of the most celebrated feasts in the country. 

Msgr. Hernando Coronel, rector of Quiapo Church in Manila, said devotion to the Black Nazarene, whose feast was celebrated on Jan. 9, and the Santo Nino is complementary.

"Christian Filipinos have a fond affinity to the Child Jesus and identifies with the suffering Nazareno," Msgr. Coronel said.

"Filipinos love their children, and protect and care for them," the priest said, adding that Filipinos also "undertake sacrifices for their love ones" like the Nazareno. 

Msgr. Coronel said the faithful should be reminded that there is no contest as to which devotion is more popular. "After all, it is the same one Lord Jesus," he said.

Unlike the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, where millions of people go for its religious significance, the Sinulog is a weeklong religious festival.

Nonreligious activities have been going on for a week even as thousands of people fall in line at the Santo Nino shrine to pray to the Child Jesus.

The image of the Santo Nino in Cebu is a gift of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the queen of the island during her baptism as a Catholic, thus bringing Christianity for the first time to Philippine shores in 1521.

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