The Christianization of Las Islas Filipinas

(How the Devotion to the Sto. Nino Evolved from Historical Fact to Oral Tradition)


Venue:  Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

            526 59th St. (Upper Church) Brooklyn, NY 11220

Date:   Saturday, January 4, 2019 – 2:00 to 4:00 pm


Historical Events Background (from “Las Islas Filipinas: Man of Destiny, Book 1, Vols. 1 & 2: The Story of Visayan Enrique, First Circumnavigation of the Globe and the Voyage of Admiral Ferdinand Magellan. A Historical Novel,” by Cristo Rey Alunan.)


March 16, 1521 – “After more than 3 months traversing the expansive and hazardous Pacific Ocean, Ferdinand Magellan and the Armada de Maluco crossed it with only 3 of his ships. The Santiago was lost in Brazil and the 39 crewmen were re-assigned to other ships. The San Antonio deserted and went back to Spain with 55 men. After a disastrous encounter in Islas de Ladrones where they killed 7 inhabitants on March 6, 1521, they went through the island of Rota and on to the Archipelago of San Lazarus on March 16, 1521. The Spanish conquistadores meet with the natives. They planted the Christian cross on land.”

March 31, 1521 – “… Easter Sunday, mass was celebrated in an island named Mazaua according to eyewitnesses. The First Mass was celebrated in the Philippines.”


                                    IN THE COURT OF RAJAH HUMABON

“Today, Rajah Humabon (Aka Tito de Vera) will select a new wife. He has 40 wives, but to ensure perpetuity of his lineage, he wants to have a son who can ably succeed him. The Royal Entourage enters and his Court: Rajah Colambu, Rajah Siau, Hara Humani (Dr. Francia de Vera), Hara Amihan, and escort. Rajah Humabon sits on a chair, with his Harem. Others sit on the mat.”

The Spanish Entourage enters: Admiral Ferdinand Magellan with his entourage. He sits on a velvet chair, his officers, 3 captains, Antonio Pigafetta, Visayan Enrique and Chaplain Padre Pedro de Valderrama, and his sacristan are standing behind him.

(“Kappa Malong Malong” Kulintang music, drums, and gongs are played with dancers). Followed by singing of “Dahil Sa Iyo” by Hara Humani, as signaled by Rajah Humabon.”

The Court of Rajah Humabon in Cebu waits patiently for the Visit of Lakan Lapu-Lapu and his family. There is a sudden commotion when a Native with a Conch shell horn trumpets the arrival of Hara Lai-Lani presenting her 3 lovely daughters, Princess Agana and her younger sisters, Jasmin and Maya, to Rajah Humabon. Hara Lailani and her daughters go up the stage.

Enter the able leader of Mactan, Lakan Lapu-Lapu (Wally Pacumio), brother of the 3 sisters, who begrudgingly resented the tradition of offering one of his sisters to be another wife of the Rajah. Escorted by his guards, Lakan Lapu-Lapu goes in with his warrior-escort and stands behind Rajah Humabon. Then Rajah Humabon signals Hara Lailani and her daughters to dance and Princess Agana sings.

After their graceful performance, Rajah Humabon chooses Princess Agana to be a member of the Harem. He asks her to sit next to him. Hara Humani signals Princess Agana to take her place beside her.  This act seals the Alliance between Rajah Humabon of Cebu and Lakan Lapu-Lapu of Mactan.

In ceremonial performance, Lakan Lapu-Lapu demonstrates his formidable skills in Kali Silat (or Arnis de Mano dance & movement). In response, Magellan asks Visayan Enrique to do likewise, exhibiting their skills in swordsmanship.

April 10, 1521 – “… a week after their arrival, Ferdinand Magellan asked permission from Rajah Humabon to allow him to bury 2 of his men, making Cebu a Christian cemetery. The solemnity of the Christian funeral made a deep impression on the inhabitants. On April 12, 1521 Rajah Humabon consented for Ferdinand Magellan to establish a Factoria, a permanent trading base in Cebu.

April 14, 1521 – “… the historic Christianization, conversion and baptism, take place. Padre Pedro de Valderrama, Padre Angelo de Bustamante with their sacristan baptize the Royal Entourage of Rajah Humabon’s Court. Rajah Humabon is named “Carlos,” after the reigning King of Spain; Hara Amihan is named “Juana,” after the mother of King Carlos; Hara Humani is named “Isabella,” (aunt of King Carlos); Rajah Siau is named “Felipe”(father of King Carlos), and his wife is named “Maria” (aunt & mother-in-law of King Carlos). Some 800 new converts were given their Christian names. At the baptismal ceremony, Ferdinand Magellan gives the icon of the SANTO NINO to the local queen, Hara Humani, as gift for being converted as Christian. Padre Pedro de Valderrama and Padre Angelo de Bustamante bless the crowd, assisted by the sacristan.

Thus was born the CHRIST CHILD, the SANTO NINO, in Las Islas Filipinas, on April 14, 1521.

Hara Humani (Dr. Francis de Vera) signals for the Santo Nino song “Batobalani,” to be sang with Sinulog Dance.”  (Enter the Sinulog Dancers.)



  1. A few days after the baptism, Magellan undertook a war expedition on the behalf of the newly named Carlos,[16] attacking Mactan Island and burning down hamlets who resisted.[15] The residents led by Lapu Lapu defended Magellan's attack with force, and Magellan died on 27 April 1521 in the Battle of Mactan, about three weeks after he had arrived in Philippines.[17] After Magellan's death, his Spanish colleagues left.[18]

The next Spanish expedition arrived on April 27, 1565, again to gain a foothold for a colony to trade spices, and this was led by Miguel López de Legazpi. He attempted a peaceful colonization, but these efforts were rejected. He opened fire on Cebu and burnt the coastal town down destroying 1500 homes and possibly killing 500 people.[19] In the ruins of this destruction, the Spanish mariner Juan Camus found the image of the Santo Niño in a pine box. According to the local legend, the survival of the statue was seen as a sign of miracle by the colonizers, and ever since it has been believed to have miraculous powers.[20]

  1. Historian, Fr. Arnel Dizon, OSA, the main presentor of the conference launching the Santo Niños’ 500th year, explained how the image of the Santo Niño remained with the Cebuanos after Magellan’s troops left. Dizon said, the Santo Niño became one of the ‘anitos,’ or the dieties of the native Cebuanos. They worshipped the Santo Niño to pray for rain and abundant harvest. “The Santo Niño soon become the most powerful ‘anito’ of the natives,” said Dizon in his presentation.


  1. The meaning of ‘Pit’

“PIT” is a contraction of the word “sangpit”, which is a Cebuano word for calling out loud a person or God with a particular intention. There is no exact translation for this word that could describe the Cebuano meaning of sangpit. Probably, the closest transliteration is “appeal”, which means making a serious or urgent request.


Sangpit is a much deep and calm word than ‘appeal.’ ‘Sangpit’ is usually used when a person visits a home but nobody is around and he/she wants to borrow something from the owner, his/her action is “sangpit.” A person says this when he/she is a distance away or does not have a sight of the receiver of the message. When a person does ‘sangpit,’ he or she must have with him a request, appeal, or intention that the receiver could give or grant.

This is the sense of saying out loud in prayer “VIVA PIT SENYOR! The person is making an appeal from a distance, unworthy to face or make a request from God and that one could only humbly utter this word with prayerful request. It is like crying out loud to God and gazing towards heaven by saying, “Lord, please answer my prayers!”

“Sangpit” resembles on the shout of the blind man sitting by the roadside, who cried aloud to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:35-43). He could not go near to Jesus because of his sickness but the best thing he could only do is to say aloud his prayers to him.


(Instructions: All characters in native, pre-colonial costumes and in Spanish conquistador costume will come to Center Stage while NARRATOR announces each Historical Character he/she represents.  All costumed characters will remain in center to form a TABLEAUX above the long Table of Santo Nino statues.)