There are several colorful and interesting festivals in this merry month of January. Among these are the Sinulog in Cebu, the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan; and Dinagyang in Iloilo. All these celebrate the Feast of the Sto. Niño. Go around the Philippines and you can still find a lot of other fiestas and celebrations honoring the Sto. Niño. Without much thinking, you can easily deduce that the Child Jesus is extremely popular in the Philippines.
Being a child speaks of innocence, simplicity and unconditional love. We can relate with that so to speak as we have been small children in ages past. Relating with a child is to recognize our nothingness, our smallness, our shortcomings in front of our Almighty God.
Our human weakness reveals our need for God, thus, our love for the Sto. Niño shows our recognition of His mercy, goodness and great love for us. In a country that still has a high incidence of poverty, the presence of the Sto. Niño provides a sense of assurance, a refuge of families who are in search of better futures: joblessness, without decent homes, inadequate education, and even hunger, among others. Thus, we can safely say, the reason of the big number of devotees. But that’s just half of the story: the other half also tells of the great multitude of those who have received favors and answered prayers from the Sto. Niño! I am one of those!
While we can cheer and celebrate our way in these festivals, we are being challenged to the realities of most of those who participate in the glee that is the festival. Our celebrations will be empty and void of meaning if the realities of the least of the Sto. Niño’s “brothers and sisters” are not addressed. We have to grow our love for others and strengthen society by recognizing the various problems affecting most of our fellowmen. We may not be able to do it in a grandiose scale, but we can start at home by teaching our children the value of love, social justice, and peace. We have to build our families in the fear and love of God.
On this feast, let us again discover the child in us, and imitate Jesus’ childlike qualities of innocence, simplicity, loving and total dependence on God. This attitude should also make us grow in faith and action. Just as the Lord Jesus “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man,” (Lk. 2: 52) every family should provide the foundation for Christian formation. We have to allow God to work in us and in our families, “knowing that here on earth, God’s work is truly our own.” (Pres. John F. Kennedy)