The Icon of the Sto. Nino de Cebu in the Philippines: For Faith or Luck?

Yesterday, the third Sunday of January, is an Ordinary Sunday for the rest of the Roman Catholic world.  But for us in the Philippines, it is the  Feast of Sto. Nino de Cebu—a dispensation of the Holy See (A short history of the feast is here).  Thus, in the last Sunday’s liturgy we hear the following passage from the Isaiah:

At the first time the land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephtali was lightly touched: and at the last the way of the sea beyond the Jordan of the Galilee of the Gentiles was heavily loaded. The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy. They shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest, as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils. For the yoke of their burden, and the rod of their shoulder, and the sceptre of their oppressor thou best overcome, as in the day of Median.  For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.

For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:1-7)

This passage from Isaiah is the basis for the icon of the Sto. Nino de Cebu (housed in the Basilica run by the Augustinians).  The usual icon is the Infant Child holding a globe on his left and and a sceptre on his right as he blesses the people.  On the Infant’s head is a bulging crown with a cross (similar to the chess notation for a queen).  The Infant’s cape is spread out and dotted with flowers.  The color of the cape is sometimes gold, but a more proper would be the traditional red (embroidered with gold), for it reflects best the verse “garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire.

In other icons, the Sto. Nino is dressed according to the trade of the owner.  If the owner is a farmer or fisherman, the Sto. Nino is dressed with camisa de chino (cotton long sleeves) with matching straw hat (usually termed as Sto. Nino de Palaboy or the Wandering Child).  If a the owner is a student, the Sto. Nino wears a crisp white polo shirt, brown shorts, socks, and shoes.  A possible biblical basis for this practice may be the word “Immanuel,” meaning “God is with us” even in our daily life (but I prefer the kingly icon).

The Sto. Nino is usually placed in business establishments to bring good luck.  But “luck” is a Chinese superstition.  Catholics should not believe in luck.   We Catholics should not fear the predictions of Chinese astrology based on the twelve animals and the five elements.  For as Paul said,

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Rom 8:38).

We should not put the icon of the Sto. Nino in our homes and offices as a talisman for good luck; rather we should put Sto. Nino as a sign of our faith in a good God.


About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

One Response to The Icon of the Sto. Nino de Cebu in the Philippines: For Faith or Luck?

  1. sgbc says:

    One prominent feature of a religion in the Philippines is the veneration of the Sto. Niño. Although many are questioning its practice, different people use different arguments to justify it.

    Read it at:

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