CEBU City, April 28, 2014 — Cebuanos will celebrate a Holy Mass today, April 28, to mark the start of a year-long celebration of the 450th anniversary of “Kaplag” or the historic finding of the image of Sto. Niño de Cebu.
“The rediscovery of the image coincides with the beginning of the systematic evangelization of the Philippines,” said Fr. Harold Rentoria, OSA, National Commission for Culture for the Arts commissioner and executive director for the Kaplag celebrations. “Next year is truly a year of grace to us as a nation.”
Oldest religious image
No less than Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) president Archbishop Socrates Villegas will declare the opening of the grand celebration with a 5:30 p.m. mass at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu, the actual site where the oldest religious image in the country was found, exactly 449 years ago.
According to Rentoria, the finding of the Sto. Niño image is a vital piece of the history of the country and of the Church in the Philippines.
Upon their arrival in 1521 in the Philippines, Ferdinand Magellan and Fr. Valderrama gave the Sto. Niño image as a gift to the wife of King Humabon of Cebu.
History has it that the image of the Child Jesus was later on found in 1565 in a scorched hut. The discoverers were from the Order of St. Augustine, the first religious congregation in the country. The missionary friars originated from Spain and Mexico under the leadership of Fr. Andres Urdaneta, the great Augustinian circumnavigator.
Devotion to the Sto. Niño
On that actual site of “Kaplag” was where the first Augustianian church and convent in the archipelago was built. It is now known as the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu.
Since the establishment of the first church, the Augustinians have unceasingly fostered devotion to the Child Jesus, resulting in the strong devotion of Filipinos to Sto. Niño, especially in the Visayan region.
“The 450th anniversary of the finding of the image of the Child Jesus is a historical milestone that should not only be celebrated by the Augustinians or the Cebuanos, but by all Filipinos,” Rentoria said.
Due to the Sto. Niño’s significance in the history of the local Church, “Kaplag” is considered a national celebration, Rentoria added. (CBCPNews)