By Katie Engesser
A strong devotion through dance takes place at The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sunset Park. The star of the show is the infant Christ, known as the Santo Niño in the Philippines.
Maria Almonte came close to tears while explaining her devotion, saying “I cannot express how much I depend on him.”
Dr. Restiuto Estacio, who came to the feast dressed as the Santo Niño, said “this [celebration] represents how thankful we are to the Santo Niño because he’s the one who make us Christian.”
The image of the Christ child dates back almost 500 years, when explorer Ferdinand Magellan set sail. Magellan landed on the island of Cebu in the Philippines and began spreading the message of Christianity. And it worked. The king and queen of Cebu and 800 other natives became Christian. When the queen was baptized she was presented with the Santo Niño. Now, millions of Filipino people head to Cebu every January for the feast.
“The day to day visit of pilgrims to that shrine is just a testimony of the faith of the Filipino people,” said Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn James Massa, who once lead a delegation from Brooklyn to the Philippines for an international eucharistic congress. “It’s a devotion that’s visceral, that really comes from deep within and the image and the Catholic faith has really held the people together.”
The faithful continue that tradition in Brooklyn.
“It’s very important because it symbolizes a kind of unity and being a Catholic. We were born to it,” said devotee Josie Nover.
Father Patrick Longalong, who is the coordinator of the Brooklyn Dioceses’ ministry to Filipino immigrants, said the feast “revitalizes our zest for life.”