The Feast of the Holy Child or Pista ng Santo Niño is one of the most popular festivals in the Philippines. The fiesta, which supposedly celebrates the arrival of Christianity in the archipelago, has become a showcase of syncretism of the Christ Child and other, much older spirits (but don’t tell this to the Pope). There’s a Farmer Niño, a Policeman Niño, lucky green-robed Niños for shops, and protective red-robed Niños for homes. (I’ve even seen a cross-dressing Niño! Don’t tell the Pope!)
Much like St Patrick, who could only convert a few Irish chiefs to his Christianity, the Santo Niño is a symbol of this false triumph of the Cross in the Philippines. It wasn’t until several years later, when the galleons returned, that the country was truly overrun by evangelists. What emerged in between those years, however, was a vibrant syncretism of Catholic art and pagan devotion, one that is still evident to this day.
Here, the faces of the Holy Child are as numerous as the islands that foster them. They remind us of a time when religion was more child-like: generous, inclusive, and intimate.
Tulad ng sa mga batà, nawá ay magíng palaging maliksí, matuwain, at mausisà ang iyóng diwà. (I have no translation for this blessing, sorry. But it’s a blessing!)