Lighting a Candle at Santo Niño Basilica, Cebu

On my return visit to Cebu, me and my friends went back to Basilica del Santo Niño to light a candle at the church. Candle-lighing at the church is part of the tradition in the city, reflecting the religious past of the people of Cebu.

Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu City
Outside Santo Niño Basilica were women offering candles for sale. Upon lighting a candle we bought from one of the women, we brought it back to her. She then offered a prayer for us. The prayer was done in a dance, the Sinulog dance that Cebuanos perform during Sinulog Festival, Cebu’s biggest annual festival dedicated to the Santo Niño.

Candle lighting at Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu City

Sinulog dance symbolizes a fusion of Cebuanos’ pagan roots and their acceptance of the Roman Catholic faith. Sinulog came from the word “sulog,” which literally means “movement of the water,” thus the Sinulog dance performed by the women at the Santo Niño Basilica is like the motion of water, two steps forward and one step back, as they wave the candle in a prayerful song.


Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu City prayer
Facing the church, the woman offered prayers while doing the Sinulog dance.


The woman’s prayers were in Cebuano dialect, and although I did not understand a word said, it was good to experience this cultural tradition. Around the church, people were fervently offering prayers and lighting candles as well.

Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu City

Inside Santo Niño Basilica, a mass was being held. At the left side of the church, a long line of people waited for their turn to see the Santo Niño image up close and to offer thanks and prayers to the Santo Niño.

Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu City mass
Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu City
It was said that Santo Niño Basilica was built on the very spot where Spanish explorers found a Santo Niño sculpture left behind from Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition.

The Santo Niño image was said to have been given by Magellan Rajah Humabon and his wife after they converted to Christianity. The Santo Niño image was left intact inside a burned wooden box. The Santo Niño image is considered as the oldest religious relic in the Philippines

The Basilica del Santo Niño also houses a small museum that carries paintings and memorabilia depicting the historical past of Cebu.


Santo Nino Basilica, Cebu City painting
Painting at the Santo Niño Basilica depicting the christening of Rajah Humabon’s wife


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