Ritual’s challenge: Change

By Elisabeth P. Baumgart

WHEN the gates of the Sto. Niño Pilgrim Center opened at dawn yesterday, a throng of devotees rushed in for the best spot from where to watch the traditional ‘Hubo’ mass, or the changing of the Sto. Niño’s garments.

In his homily, Fr. Ian-Narcissus Openia described it as a blessing from God that the devotees gathered at the Pilgrim Center at an hour when they were supposed to be still in bed. The mass was at 4 a.m.

“Do we even understand why we are all here?” he asked the devotees.

“We are all called by the blessings of God to be here. It is a blessing that all of us are here gathered together,” said Openia.

He urged the crowd to understand the event by understanding others.


“Listen to the hearts of those who around you, and not your minds. You will then understand what has drawn us all here,” he said. “Our love for the Señor Sto. Niño is because of the many miracles that He has performed in our lives.”

But while it’s the Sto. Niño who creates miracles, the people should work hard to make miracles happen, he said.

“We should not always wait for the miracles, but instead we should be the ones who do the miracles,” said Openia.

After the homily, the crowd observed silently as Fr. Openia started removing the clothes of Sto. Niño. Then the crowd cheered when priests bathed the Child’s image.

The priest then dressed the image with garments less ornate than the ones used during the whole Sinulog celebration.

The cheers grew louder as the icon was raised for all to see.

The changing of the image’s clothes symbolizes the need for people to shed their old ways, explained Openia.

“Hubuan nato ang atong kaugalingon sa tagsa-tagsa nato mga pamatasan nga atong na-andan (Let’s get rid of the sinful ways that we’ve grown accustomed to),” said Openia.

The religious rite started to be performed in public only in 1992. Before that, the rite was done inside the church rectory, with only a few people allowed to get in.


Hubo photos below.

Change and the Child. Fr. Ian-Narcissus Openia (left, all fotos) replaces the Señor Sto. Niño’s ornate clothes, worn during the previous days’ novena, with simpler garments. The Basilica del Sto. Niño’s website explains that the ritual, which includes a bath, signifies cleansing, renewal and child-like trust in Divine Providence. (Arni Aclao)

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