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Sunday, August 16, 2015

450 Kaplag Manila - Laguna Pilgrimage of the Sto. Nino De Cebu


Wazzup Pilipinas!

There is an ongoing celebration of the Kaplag, or the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Sto. Nino in the Philippines. Read more about it in a separate article that we published a few days ago regarding our coverage of the press conference held at the San Agustin Church led by Father Harold Rentoria and the Augustinian fathers.

They informed us of the happenings like masses, processions, a conference, and a fluvial parade among many others, to be done in Manila to celebrate the Kaplag which is a very important celebration for many Catholics.

Below are some information about it to better inform us hat it is all about and how significant it is for the Philippines.

KAPLAG is a Cebuano term for "finding" or "discovery". The celebration refers to the historic finding of the religious relic, the image of the Santo Niño, on April 28, 1565. The image is believed to be brought by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 as a gift to Rajah Humabon and his wife, Amihan who were converted to the Christian faith. The image was discovered by one of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi's soldiers, Juan Camus, in a partially burned hut.

The 450th Anniversary of Kaplag also commemorates the 450 years of Augustinian presence in the Philippines. Likewise, the celebration marks the 50th Anniversary of the Santo Niño Church as having been elevated to the honorific title, “Basilica Minore” – a title conferred in 1965 by Pope Paul VI through his Papal Legate Archbishop Ildebrando Cardinal Antonuitti.



AUGUSTINIANS & THE STO NINO

The Augustinians were the first Christian missionaries to reach local shores. When the first five of them – Fray Andrés de Urdaneta, Fray Martín de Rada, Fray Andrés de Aguirre, Fray Diego de Herrera, and Fray Pedro de Gamboa – arrived in 1565, along with the expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi, one of the soldiers (named Juan de Camús) discovered the image of the Child Jesus given by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan to the local queen of Cebu forty-four years earlier (in 1521). The annual commemoration of this event is commonly called as “Kaplag.” We have a detailed account of this provided by Fr. Gaspar de San Agustín, OSA in his book “Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas” (1998 bilingual edition, p. 342):

“Coming to a small house, which seemed to have not been entered into by anyone, he (sc. Juan de Camús) went into it and upon entering he found two native boxes tied together. He opened one and it had nothing inside except a bowl and a wild pig tusk. The other one seemed light to him and contained nothing. He went deeper into the house, found another box tied with Castilian sailing thread and Castilian cord made of hemp … and since it seemed heavy to him and to contain something, he cut the rope and opened it. Once opened, he found another box made of pine wood and a Child Jesus in it.”

The discovery of the religious icon marked the beginning of the systematic and sustained Christianization of our country, under the guidance of the Augustinian missionaries. Since then they have faithfully carried out their mission to evangelize our people, propagate the devotion to the Santo Niño, uplift the life of our countrymen, provide quality education, and so forth. The legacy they have bequeathed to the Filipino people goes well beyond religion. It comprises the arts and culture, education, fields of science (like botany, medicine, etcetera), philology, literature, cartography, urban planning, defense of human rights, promotion of justice, and many others. Indeed, the 450 years of presence of the Augustinian Order in the Philippines is worth-celebrating.


The Augustinian presence in our land has been associated with the Santo Niño devotion since 1565. The discovery of its image in Cebu 450 years ago has been interpreted, since the time of Legazpi up to now, as a sign of divine favor and protection. Thus, the Augustinians’ missionary works in the Philippines throughout the past centuries have been carried out under the aegis of the Holy Child, venerated by countless Filipinos in different ways and styles all over the world. The original image is venerated at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City under the custody of the Augustinian Order.

The Santo Niño icon of Cebu is historically recognized as the oldest religious relic in the Philippines. Its origin is traced from the celebrated voyage of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 which accidentally “discovered” and claimed the islands for the Spanish Monarchy. The historic arrival was purely uncalculated for the fleet did not intend to sail directly to the Philippines. The land of the spices, particularly the highly-contested Moluccas, was the expedition’s target destination. The armada reached the islands after it was driven away by strong winds from the original route which eventually brought them to the island of Cebu. The preliminary encounters that followed forged conditional alliances and the accompanying ceremonials took place including the introduction of the Christian faith. Initial attempt to evangelize the indigenous people of Cebu was accomplished with the hasty acceptance of the Christian faith by King Humabon and his subjects numbering around 800. The Santo Niño image was given to Queen Juana upon her ardent wish to have it in place of her local deities.

The baptized indigenous people did not flourish in their practice of faith mainly due to the untimely demise of Magellan (including the chaplain Fr. Pedro Valderrama) and the eventual return of the surviving contingent to Spain. Also attributable to the absence of deeper instruction, the baptismal rite was misconstrued by the locals as a customary ritual of friendship rather than a spiritual initiation.

After the interruption of forty-four (44) years, the Legazpi-Urdaneta Expedition arrived in Cebu. On April 28, 1565, the dramatic yet providential discovery (pagkakaplag) of the same wooden image in a partially scorched hut started the distinctive Christian heritage of the Philippines. The Augustinians who accompanied the journey commenced the systematic evangelization and Christianization of the islands. The subsequent foundation of the Church and Convent of the Augustinians rose on the actual site where the statuette was found. It became the central house of the Augustinians, the mother church in the Philippine Islands. The establishment of organic settlements and mission areas followed instantaneously and the pioneering evangelization gradually prospered in geographical reach and ecclesial organization despite the scarcity of missionaries. Additional religious orders were commissioned to the Philippines in successive intervals: Franciscans (1578), Jesuits (1581), Dominicans (1587), and Augustinian Recollects (1606). Their ground-breaking missionary endeavours contributed to the Philippine identity as a predominantly Christian nation.


BASILICA MINORE DEL STO NINO

The first Church and Convent dedicated to Santo Niño developed into a principal house of the Augustinian friars mainly in the spiritual and missionary formation, and the promotion of the devotion to the Holy Child – the adored patron, protector and inspiration. As a consequence, the Santo Niño Church grew in popularity throughout the islands both in magnificence and significance as the cradle of Philippine Christianity, and the perpetual sanctuary of the Santo Niño of Cebu. In recognition of the historical, religious and cultural importance of the Santo Niño Church and the sacred relic it keeps, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) petitioned Pope Paul VI in 1964 to confer on the Santo Niño Church the title “Basilica Minore” in time for the Fourth Centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines in 1965. The Santo Niño icon was also canonically crowned by the Papal Legate Ildebrando Cardinal Antoniutti – a solemn gesture of singular honor reserved to the beloved Santo Niño. In its entirety, the Fourth Centennial Celebration overwhelmingly succeeded in engaging the entire nation, thus renewing “The Philippines for Christ” in faith, commitment and enthusiasm to live out the Gospel message.

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