Sto Nino De Arevalo of Iloilo: Miraculous, Historical But Uncelebrated
This image of the Sto Nino De Arevalo, considered the third oldest in the Philippines after the Sto Ninos of Cebu (1521) and Tondo (1572), is humbly venerated at the simple yet beautiful church at Villa Arevalo, Iloilo City.
One may take confusion as to why Ilonggos annually celebrate the arrival of the Cebu image in its shores while there’s an even bigger event that had happened in the province 400 years ago. I myself cannot answer such, but my guess are glaringly obvious, market forces. But the Sto Nino De Arevalo deserves the devotion and pride of Ilonggos, after all He’s been watching over and showering His people with blessings and miracles for more than four centuries.
The image of Sto Nino de Arevalo was said to be brought by the Augustinians upon the establishment of La Villa Rica de Arevalo (today’s Villa Arevalo) as a Spanish settlement and as the capital of Oton province in 1581. The missionaries believe that the image of the Child Jesus is instrumental in spreading the message of God’s love for His people, especially the poor and needy. This belief originated at the time when the Spanish discovered the Image of Sto Nino de Cebu (miraculously survived a fire unscratched), decades after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan gave it to Humamay (Juana) as a baptismal gift. Ever since then, the missionaries propagated the strong devotion to the image as evidenced by its presence in almost all towns in the country until today. The Augustinians realized that the welcoming and embracing arms of the images makes it easier for the natives to relate to the Child Jesus.
The Sto Nino de Arevalo is an image made of wood, and may have been consecrated at the same time the new pueblo of Arevalo was established. It had survived many crises like the transfer of people to Punta de Iloilo, Dutch and Moro raids, fires and earthquakes strong enough to topple His belfries and church.
The image of Sto Nino De Arevalo has much deeper meaning for His devotees. Testimonies of miracles are well known to the people of the parish like sick people recovering from terminal diseases like cancer or serious injuries, childless couples having offspring, or saving the town from famine or lack of rain.
There was also a story people claim that the Sto Nino defended the town from a Moro raid. The people, upon seeing a flotilla of Moro pirates coming, placed the image at the coast. According to the story, the pirates where stopped by a boy with a red cloak.
Even the survival of the image is considered miraculous. During World War II, the American troops burned down the municipal hall and the convent of Arevalo fearing that the Japanese may use them as their garrisons. The residents saw the fire consuming the convent but were bewildered that the fire was suddenly put out.
Another story involves the strong earthquake of 1948 in Panay. The earthquake, having a magnitude of 8.3, almost destroyed the church of Arevalo. Upon seeing their altar destroyed by the quake, they were surprised to see the Sto Nino stood still on top of flail pedestal.
Arevalo Church: Home of the 1581 Sto Nino de Arevalo
The Arevalo Church, the home of the Image of Sto Nino De Arevalo, is placed at the middle of Plaza Villa. This is a unique feature considering almost all churches are separated from their plazas. It is of modern design since some part of the church were destroyed either by fire or by earthquakes. The altar is supported by Solomonic or helical columns which took inspiration from that at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. A large wooden cross with the image of the crucified Christ serves as the center piece of the altar. The image of Sto. Nino is found at the right side of the main altar, encased in glass and is flanked by angels made of wood at both sides. The church is a popular for weddings as well.
A convent with Spanish colonial style is at the side of the church and serves as the priests’ residence, activity hall for church organizations, and administrative office.
Uncelebrated, Devotion drowned with pageantry
The feast day of the Sto Nino de Arevalo is celebrated every third sunday of January, a week prior the famous Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City. But the image is not honored during the festival, rather the event celebrates the coming of the replica of Sto Nino de Cebu to Iloilo in 1968. The Sto Nino de Arevalo, though less popular than the two older images of Child Jesus, must be given attention and be considered a real precious treasure for Ilonggos.
Parish of Sto. Nino De Arevalo
Arevalo, Iloilo City, Philippines
Telephone Number: (033) 337-5657
Schedule of Church Services
Monday – Saturday 6:30 AM
Wednesday 6:00 PM
Sunday 6:00 AM – Ilonggo
7:30 AM – English
9:00 AM – Ilonggo
4:30 PM – English
Sta Cruz Chapel: 6:00 AM Ilonggo
Confessions- Daily after 6:30 AM Mass except Sundays
Saturday (Regular Schedule) – 11:00 AM
Pre-Baptismal Seminar – Every Saturday 10:00 Am
By Appointment except Monday
Common Wedding – Wednesday @ 6:30 AM
By Appointment except Monday
Pastoral Services (Sick Call / Blessing) – By Appointment
Getting There: Jeepneys going from Iloilo to Villa Arevalo pass through the church and the plaza; Visitors may ride Villa Baybay and Mohon jeeps to reach the plaza and the church.
Tags: Church, Iloilo City, Metro Iloilo - Guimaras, Villa Arevalo, Visita Iglesia
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