Pope Francis Receives a Santo Niño From the Philippines

The Santo Niño is one of the most popular patrons of Filipino Catholics.
IMAGE Nikko Marc Abadiano Ricaplaza

Among Catholic populations across the world, only Filipinos have a unique devotion to the Holy Child Jesus or the Santo Niño. The Santo Niño de Cebu is the oldest Christian relic in the Philippines, given by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon and his chief consort Hara Humamay as their baptismal gift.

A replica of the statue was given to Pope Francis on February 20. The Santo Niño was handed to the Holy Father by Monsignor Jan Limchua.

Photo by Mons. Jan Limchua.

Photo by Mons. Jan Limchua.

Photo by Mons. Jan Limchua.

The vestments on the Santo Niño were designed and created by Nikki Luke, while the encarnaciones were done by Kyle Isidore Donggon. Encarnaciones comes from the Spanish word encarnar, which means "to fleshen" or, in the case of the Niño, to paint. According to Nikko Marc Abadiano Ricaplaza, it is a special painting skill in which imperfections on the image such as dents and bumps are craftily masked by color. Ricaplaza and his twin sister Nikki donated the vestments. 

Ellis Manuel Misa Méndez and James Donell Guinitaran were responsible for all image design and metal accoutrements. 


Photo by Nikko Marc Abadiano Ricaplaza.
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"I think it's almost everybody's dream to give a gift to the Pope," Ricaplaza tells Esquire Philippines. "The Philippines is celebrating the quincentenary of the arrival of Christianity in our archipelago. With that is the arrival of the Image of the Santo Niño. We think it's a wonderful way of celebrating that by giving the Pope a Santo Niño whose image became a refuge for our people. I would lovingly remember the late Cardinal Vidal saying, 'If you touch the Santo Niño, you are touching the Cebuano Culture.'"


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