Monday, July 20, 2015


Through the Sto. Nino was the Visayas catholicized.

Magellan first landed in the Philippines on March 16, 1521 in the island of Homonhon which is now part of Guiuan in Eastern Samar. The first Catholic mass was held 15 days later in the island of Limasawa which is now a municipality of Southern Leyte, and the first Christian baptism in Cebu 14 days later where Magellan presented an image of the Sto. Nino as a baptismal gift to Humamay, wife of Humabon, ruler of Cebu, who was said to have requested Magellan to subdue Lapu-Lapu, ruler of Mactan, the acknowledged conqueror of Magellan, after which Humabon poisoned the surviving Spaniards for raping some of the local women [Wikipedia].

The Spaniards returned to Cebu 44 years later in 1565, burned some houses, found Humamay's Sto. Nino in one of the burned houses, built a church on that burned house which today is the Basilica Minor del Sto. Nino which of course housed Humamay's Sto. Nino that as of today is the oldest Christian image in the Philippines [Wikipedia].

The Augustinians of Cebu brought the Sto. Nino veneration to Tacloban in 1768 after the expulsion of the Jesuits, and with them a likeness of Humamay's Sto. Nino which the locals called El Capitan. The image was sent for repairs to Manila in 1889 but got lost when the ship carrying it back to Tacloban caught fire and sank, so a borrowed replacement was used for the fiesta procession who became the lesser El Teniente.

Six months later, the Military Governor of Leyte was informed of a boy waving from a box found by fishermen floating near the island of Semirara, which when opened contained the image of El Capitan. It was brought back to Tacloban but without the boy who vanished, and paraded to exorcise a cholera epidemic.

A church built by the Franciscans in 1860 houses the image of El Capitan today.

Tacloban is of course the image that portrayed Super Typhoon Haiyan's ferocity to which the world descended, in planes and ships and the marked SUVs that zip across desolate swatches of the coastal road between Guiuan and Tacloban as the displaced watched from their temporary residences, and waited to be moved to their permanent and uncertain future.   

El Capitan's house has been repaired for the Pope's visit and Tacloban today is rising from the devastation of Haiyan. With the blessing of its patron and the lesser El Teniente and El Sargento, Tacloban is on recharge mode.

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