Sto. Nino and Queen Juana

Queen Humamai was the wife of King Humabon of Cebu.  When Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu, the queen embraced Christianity.  Humamai was the first Filipina, Cebuana at that, who became a Christian in the entire Philippine Archipelago, and most probably the first native woman in the Far East who became a catholic.

On April 24, 1521, together with some 800 Cebuanos, Queen Humamai received the sacrament of baptism from the hands of Fr. Pedro Valderrama, Chaplain of Magellan’s expedition.  The name Juana was given to her as her Christian name in memory of Queen Juana of Castille, mother of King Carlos V.  And King Humabon was christened Carlos in memory of Spanish King Carlos V., father of King Philip II, whence came the nomenclature Philippines.

The historian Gaspar de Agustin (1698) says, it is the common opinion of most historians at that time that the Image of Santo Niño, found by General Legazpi’s men in Cebu in 1565, must have been left by Ferdinand Magellan as a gift to the wife of King Humabonon on the occasion of her conversion to Christianity.  This is corroborated by Signore Pigafetta who recorded that a little statue of the Holy Child Jesus was presented by Magellan as a gift to the wife of Hari Humabon on the occasion of the her baptism.  As a matter of fact, from Humabon’s time to the time of King Tupas, the cult and devotion to Sto. Niño whom the natives called Bathala was already known and flourishing among the Cebuanos.  Historical narratives have it that at the time the Image of the Holy Child, the very Image enshrined in the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, Cebu City, was presented to the people by the first Augustinian missionaries, the natives then present manifested their homage and veneration to the image through dancing – known today as “sinulog” – through with jubilant outburst of “Pit Señor Sto. Niño”.

One of the common sights that was inseparable from the traditional yearly festivity of the Sto. Niño was the fact that the natives always made a point to climax it with a procession, at times fluvial, and acts of jubilation by groups expressive of spiritual homage to the Sto. Niño and public faith in the person represented by the Image.

This yearly celebration is observed by the faithful devotees to give thanks to the Sto. Niño for all the graces, material as well as spiritual they received during the year and to ask for more favors in the incoming years.