Stolen Sto. Niño image returns home | Inquirer News

Stolen Sto. Niño image returns home

/ 09:49 PM February 13, 2013

DEVOTEES touch and kiss the recovered image of the Sto. Niño de Romblon at the Sambulig Festival in Tanza, Cavite. MARICAR CINCO

News that the image of the Sto. Niño de Romblon has been found moved Chi Famatigan to tears. She and her husband Jun, 60, believed that their devotion to the Child Jesus has kept his Parkinson’s disease from progressing.

“For a time, we kept returning to Romblon to attend the novena Masses for (the image’s) recovery. We stopped when everyone thought we will never find Him again,” she said. The Famatigans are now based in Parañaque City.


Like other devotees, Chi could not hide her excitement upon seeing again the image of the Nuestra Señor Sto. Niño de Romblon.


The 400-year-old statue was stolen from the St. Joseph Cathedral in Romblon, capital town of Romblon, in December 1991, when the church was undergoing repair. It was recovered on Jan. 29 from an antique collector in Aklan.

Devotees began pouring into the house of Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona in Quezon City, where the image had been kept until its return to Romblon for re-enthronement on Feb. 9.

On Feb. 3, the Sto. Niño statue was brought to the annual Sambulig Festival, a gathering of Romblon natives in Metro Manila, held in Tanza, Cavite. Sambulig is a term in Asi, a variant of the Visayan language spoken in Romblon, which means “oneness or unity.”

“This year’s really special as we all came here to see the Sto. Niño,” said Jun, who is president of the Romblomanons in Metro Manila Association.

The one-foot tall, wooden statue is a replica of the Sto. Niño of Cebu. Elders tell stories that a galleon that was supposed to take it to Spain stopped over Romblon and was never to leave the island again.

“My grandmother told me that the galleon attempted seven times to leave Romblon. But every time it did, the waves became strong and storms came,” said Rosario Mayor, a 68-year-old devotee who now lives in Sta. Mesa, Manila.


This is why Romblon’s fluvial processions in honor of the Sto. Niño go around the water seven times, Mayor said.

The Sto. Niño de Romblon became the patron of the island and His feast is celebrated through the Biniray Festival, held every second Friday of January.

Drooping eyelids

According to Madrona, it was a Romblomanon priest assigned to Aklan who informed him that the image was sold to the antique collector. But to make sure, Madrona took with him a 50-year-old church worker familiar with the images in Romblon’s cathedral.

The church worker recognized the statue through its detachable left arm and cuts in its feet. Madrona said an old priest ordered the cuts done as there were stories that the Sto. Niño had stepped down from the altar and wandered around.

“When she (the church worker) saw the eyes, those drooping eyelids, she really knew it was the one,” Madrona said.

“The antique collector said the person who sold him the image kept the Sto. Niño in his closet for 10 years,” he added.

He said he made an offer to buy the image, but the collector gave it to him for free.

Romblon is preparing for a grand mardi gras to welcome the Sto. Niño’s return. But more than the celebration, Msgr. Ernie Fetalino of the Diocese of Romblon believed that the image is back to “strengthen the Catholic faith” on the island.

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Provincial Board Member Felix Ylagan said the image would bring hope to the people. “Some said their lives will be better now or that Romblon will be spared from calamities. But what’s most important is the positive outlook it brings out in everyone,” he said.

TAGS: Cavite, Child Jesus, Tanza

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