One of the most precious Philippine natural jewels is the beautiful island of Cebu. This popular city is a favorite vacation and leisure destination of local Filipinos and foreign travelers alike. In my personal list of preferred worldwide travel destinations, I would rank Cebu as among the top ten of the world’s best vacation spots to consider.
Cebu’s majestic natural wealth is evidently spread out in the vast mountainous terrains, sprawling fertile land and crystal clear sea for which this beautiful paradise island has been bountifully blessed. Its natural serenity casually invites the weary traveler for an invigorating physical and spiritual rejuvenation.
The most important natural resource of Cebu are its people; the Cebuanos. The local residents are innately hospitable, warm, jovial, friendly, accommodating and devout religious Catholics. They are the island’s greatest asset that has made Cebu City tourist-friendly and perhaps the best reason why Cebu is a must-visit travel destination.
One of the best time to visit Cebu is the month of January. This being the first month is significant as it marks the start of a month-long schedule of festivities focusing on a very important annual celebration, the Sinulog Festival. The highlight of this much anticipated festival is an extravagant simultaneous thanksgiving celebration of Masses, prayers, singing, dancing and colorful parades to honor, thank and celebrate the Feast of the Sto. Nino (The Holy Child Jesus) officially observed every third Sunday of January.
It is a local tradition among the Cebuanos that participation in the Sinulog festivities is a sure way to have one’s personal petitions granted by the Sto. Nino. The highly revered image of the Sto. Nino which is installed at the Basilica De Sto. Nino is widely believed to come down from His pedestal to join the locals during the parade held in His honor. And this is the best time for the participants to ask and thank Him for personal petitions and favors which are surely granted.
Historically, Cebu has been blessed by God to be the planting ground of the first seeds of Christianity for the Philippines. When Magellan came to Cebu on April 17, 1521, he formally introduced Christianity to the locals. He then gave the image of the Sto. Nino as a baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon who was later named Queen Juana. The baptismal rites were not limited to the rulers but also included about 800 of their subjects. From here, Christianity as a national religion was embraced and conversion soon sprouted to other parts of the country.
For who would have thought that a goodwill baptismal gift of an innocent Image of the Holy Child Jesus would herald the baptismal of the Philippine nation into the Catholic Faith. This inspirational token of the Sto. Nino brought forth the spiritual baptism of the Filipino people and our nation's eventual conversion to Christianity was the best gift ever given by Magellan and the Spaniards.
From Cebu, the Philippines was pre-destined by Divine Intercession of the miraculous Sto. Nino to become the largest Christian nation in the Far East and probably the single largest Catholic Christian nationality in the entire world. Thus, while the Sto. Nino is considered to be the Patron Saint of Cebu, it could very well be nationally honored as the Philippine Patron Saint of Christianity.
If only for this important reason, the celebration of the Sinulog festival shouldn’t be limited to Cebu. The entire Filipino nation should set aside the Third Sunday of January as a national holiday of Thanksgiving to honor and thank the miraculous Sto. Nino for His Divine Intercession in making the Philippines a truly blessed Christian nation that we are.
Edwin L. Yap
Makati City, Philippines