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Santonilyo: The Pagan Origins of Santo Nino

Santonilyo was said to be an old and a new god to the pantheon of ancient Visayas. In relation to this, it was also believed that this was also connected to the Santo Nino de Cebu.

In Cebu, some, if not most, establishments or residences have always kept an altar or a pedestal with a carved wooden statue of a little king, clothed in rich fabric of red or green, wearing a golden necklace and bearing a scepter and a globus cruciger in his hands. This figure was brought by the Spaniards and is known as Santo Niño. This image is revered by Cebuanos,  holding festivities in honor of the miraculous child Jesus.

During the pre-Spanish colonial era, our ancestors had similar wooden idols named as guardians, protectors and pagan deities. This brought a similar legend about a piece of drift wood that turned out to be miraculous, and scared away creatures when placed on the farms. Let’s take a look at the origins of the religious image that once was said to be a pagan god and converted to the catholic path to many of us believe in.

Ifugao “Bulul” Pair Rice God Statue with Inlaid bead eyes considered as a Lianito credits to www.tribalasia.com

 The Lianito Idol

The Animist people of the Visayas region worshipped a time god known as Kaptan, equivalent to the creator god Bathala of the Tagalogs. He was the supreme deity in the Visayan pantheon, but relatively distant. To bridge the gap of the activities of heaven and the mortals, the ancient people replaced mediators such nature-based deities known as diwatas (fairies and elementals) and anitos (ancestral spirits) who supposed to give blessings and abundance on a family or a society.

Furthermore, these “Anito” spirits are usually old ancestors who have lived a virtuous life when they were alive. Each house in the ancient Visayas was supposed to carry a “tawu tawu”(idols) made out of wood, stone, gold or ivory whom the family pay honor in resemblance of offering food or flowers and “pag-anito”(worship) to ensure and continue daily blessings upon them. When the head of a family dies, everyone in the village help make the statue, they would carve out an androgynous (to further symbolize gender-equality), child-like image, and always smiling to what they would call the “Lianito”, the collective embodiment of the ancestor spirit of a family and territory and they would dress the doll with gold and would place the image among the other idols.

Painting of Queen Juana (Hara Humamay) by Filipino artist Manuel Panares

The Baptism

The birth of Catholicism in Cebu was through the image of Santo Niño de Cebu, brought by the Spanish Occupation through Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian scribe of Ferdinand Magellan, given as a gift to Hara Humamay the royal consort of the chieftain of Cebu of 1521, Rajah Humabon, as token of good relations and allegiance to Spain. The queen was baptized to Catholicism and renounced her animist beliefs and dubbed a new Christian name, “Juana”.

Queen Juana loved the image so much that according to the account of Pigafetta upon receiving, she bathed the statue with her tears of joy as she is hugging it. Eight hundred Cebuanos were baptized as well and were given an image of the Virgin Mary, a crucifix and a bust depiction of Jesus before Pontius Pilate. The Spaniards underestimated the animist faith that Magellan discovered that the king and queen still keep their Lianitos. The queen perhaps readily accepted the Santo Niño because it looked more regal and refined. Rest of the history follows of another chieftain’s refusal of conquering the land and instilling tradition that was Datu Lapu-Lapu and had a violent conflict which caused Magellan’s death.

Moving on its dark past of the conquest through religion, 44 years after Magellan came Miguel Lopez De Legazpi, arrived Cebu and found the native’s hostility and fearing the retribution for Magellan’s death. The villages were burned during the progressing conflict. Juan Camus, a Spanish mariner found the image of the Santo Nino in a pine box amidst the ruins of a burned-down hut. Presented the image to Legazpi and the Augustinian priests; the natives denied the gift was associated to Magellan and claimed it have been there for a long time. A church was built on the spot to where the image was found that was originally in bamboo and mangrove palms then was reconstructed later and claims to be the oldest parish in the Philippines.

The Youthful Deity of the Rain

Visayan natives submerse the Santo Nino image to venerate with and call out for the rain.

Filipino Historian Nico Marquez Joaquin’s workes in 1980 state that it was also within the time gap of those 44 years since Magellan that the natives discovered a new god in the pantheon of the Visayas. The new deity in the form of a child they call Santonilyo. Influenced in its Spanish title, they recognized the statue as a lianito describing both an old and a new god to the Visayans.

Santonilyo is the child deity of good graces who was worshiped as a rain god for four decades since the Spanish first arrived. Fray Gaspar de San Agustin wrote about it in 1565 book “Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas”, that during drought, the ancient Cebuanos would bathe the image in the sea.

“Cun ulan ang pangayoon, ug imong pagadugayon. Dadad-on ca sa baybayon, ug sa dagat pasalomon. Ug dayon nila macuha ang guitinguha.”

Which translates: “If they seek rain and you delay it, you’d be brought to the shore and bathed in the sea. They then obtain the rain they desire.” The practice of immersing the sacred image is also mentioned in the Sto. Niño’s Gozos (prayer hymn) published in an 1888 novena.

However, Santonilyo’s popularity was already widespread among the Visayan islands reaching the Panay, Mindoro, Negros, Bohol, Siquijor, Samar and Leyte. The Santonilyo as mentioned by Felipe Landa Jocano, an anthropologist and author of “Filipino Value System”, as one of the supporting Upper world deities along with Ribung Linti (god of thunder and lightning) who assisted Tungkung Langit (the creator god of Panay Islands) in the creation myth known as the “Sulod” Epics.

In its connection of the legend of Panay that Santonilyo was said to have reached the islands as a fisherman caught a piece of “agipo” (or a driftwood) but couldn’t catch fish the whole day. Dismayed, he threw it back soon after, felt another tug to his net and realized it’s the same driftwood and over and over again would dump it on the sea, known only to catch the same agipo again.

Tired and frustrated, the fisherman decided to keep the driftwood in his boat, and like a miracle, fish flocked towards his boat and returned to the village with a bountiful catch. The villagers soon discovered that the piece of wood had other magical powers used as a scarecrow to keep the birds and animals away in drying the grains and in times of drought, only had to immerse the driftwood in the sea to produce rains.

This agipo became an idol in their pantheon, and like the venerated Holy Child, Santonilyo is also prayed for graces. The Lianito idol then on was called Lisantonilyo. As Santo Nino has been honored and prayed in Cebu, we are able to peak in the origins of our faith based on discovery and documents not diminishing the fact on what we truly believe in which is God represented as a sweet, youthful child that would save the whole world from sin.

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Culture

Get Your Fill of Lechon at the Cebu Lechon Festival

Now on its third run, Cebu’s best lechon-makers gather at the Cebu Lechon Festival.

In any Filipino festival or celebration, nothing quite whets the appetite and brings excitement to the palate than seeing the gloriousness of a roasted ‘lechon’ laid beautifully on the buffet table.

While the Philippines is oozing with all sorts of varieties of this now world-famous dish, all delicious in their own way, ask any food-loving Filipino where the best lechon comes from and the response will almost likely be unanimous – Cebu. 

There is no denying that the Cebu Lechon is hands-down the best and the most delicious there is, and that no trip to the Queen City of the South will be complete without taking a bite of its famous crunchy golden skin, and juicy, tender and flavorsome meat. 

But there is more to lechon than meets the eyes and the palate. This beloved dish is a culinary masterpiece itself that requires long hours in the roasting pit and skills to achieve that perfect balance of meat and fat, and overall flavor.

The world-famous Cebu lechon, along with the rich history, artistry and skills that go into preparing this beloved dish, is the highlight of this year’s Cebu Lechon Festival, spearheaded by The Mactan Newtown, in partnership with the City Government of Lapu-Lapu and the Department of Tourism Region 7 Office. 

Now on its third year, the annual gastronomic and cultural celebration promises an authentic Cebuano fiesta experience with its mouthwatering array of lechon varieties from lechon-makers coming from different parts of Cebu province and a vibrant host of cultural spectacles and performances starting today until August 12.

“We want to capitalize on the popularity of the Cebu lechon to bring awareness to small-scale and less commercialized lechon businesses. Apart from providing these businesses with the needed platform to showcase their products and help them grow, our goal is to drive tourism in this part of Cebu and eventually create more employment and livelihood opportunities for the locals,” says Graham Coates, Head of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls.

The finest Cebu lechons in one location

The Cebu Lechon Festival gathers some of the best lechon-makers in Cebu Island at the 500-seater Mactan Alfresco inside The Mactan Newtown township, giving guests the rare chance to sample and savor mouthwatering varieties of the Cebu lechon along with a delicious array of lechon-themed dishes and lechon pairings all in one place. 

Some of the locally homegrown lechon brands participating in this year’s festival include House of Lechon, Ayers Lechon, Pelyns Lechon, Augustus Lechon, Golden Cowrie Lechon Belly, Yobob Lechon, and Jojo and Mikays Lechon.

During the festival, the lechon will be sold between P400 to P600 per kilo from participating lechon-makers.

Festival-goers can also immerse themselves through the entire lechon preparation process at Mactan Alfresco’s very own Lechon Pit. Here, they can witness lechon-makers perfect their craft and see firsthand how a lechon is made right before their very eyes—from seasoning to roasting at the coal pit, to portioning and serving on their own plates. 

For an even more unique and immersive dining experience, guests can devour their lechon and chosen lechon dishes and pairings inside the comforts of colorful and iconic Philippine jeepneys stationed within the Mactan Alfresco complex. 

“This will be a very festive Filipino celebration of the renowned Cebu Lechon. We will have ‘fiesta sa nayon’ games, barrio fiesta dancers and drumbeaters, fire dancers and even belly dancers to entertain visitors and guests of the festival,” adds Coates.

 

An authentic Cebuano fiesta

 

Festival-goers can enjoy an immersive cultural experience with a variety of Cebuano and lechon-flavored activities highlighted by the Lechon Exhibit on August 9, which will feature delicious varieties of Cebu lechon from the province’s best lechon-makers. 

Highlighting the celebrations is a colorful grand street performance to be participated in by various cultural dance groups, street dancers, marching bands, and the Sinulog Festival Queen. 

A traditional boodle fight featuring participants from the annual Ironman 70.3 Philippines and lechon sellers will also be held on August 9, following the street performance, while live musical performances and a grand fireworks display that will illuminate the skies of The Mactan Newtown will cap off the festivities. 

The highlights of the celebration will happen on August 9 to 11. The weekend will be highlighted by the Lechon Fest Grand Party, where guests can feast on different varieties of Cebu Lechon, grilled meat, and seafood while being treated to cultural dance numbers and live performances from buskers, local bands and stand-up comedians. 

Guests, meanwhile, can also learn more about the Cebu Lechon and have their photos taken at the different installations on display at the venue including a lechon-themed Philippine jeepney during the entire festival’s run, or bring home souvenir items from Mactan Alfresco’s Souvenir Shop.

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Culture

Bringing Detalia Aurora’s Iconic Furniture into the Future

With more substantial roles in the family business, Paula and Vikki Rodriguez are bringing Detalia Aurora into the future by nurturing their design processes, fostering their close-knit community, and bringing passion into everything they do.

by Shari Quimbo
photography by Ezekiel Sullano

This story is taken from our archives. Originally published in Zee Digital Vol. 2 2018.

Detalia Aurora is certainly no stranger to our pages, or to the homes of Cebu’s most discerning residents. For years, the company has been in the furniture export industry, producing pieces that have become iconic in their own right—the Shellf bookcase shaped like a nautilus; the Tera wall art, which is a map made of corks; and the eye-catching Gaia chair.

The brand’s staying power is truly a testament to the talent and skill of the team behind its creations, but perhaps some credit also goes to sisters Paula and Vikki Rodriguez, who, since becoming more involved in the family business, have worked on streamlining processes and nurturing their edge in product design.

 

“We needed our company to not just evolve, but to adapt to the changing market,” Vikki explains. “It wasn’t enough for us to create new products anymore. We needed to think about more than just aesthetics. We needed to change as a whole, which involved ingenuity from design, construction, cost and market strategy. It’s a slow but steady process.”

The process began, according to Paula, with finding a way to adapt to the industry’s changing demands and expectations. “We decided to work within the company,” she says, explaining that they started working
closely with buyers to collaborate on specific collections. ìWe made sure that they will always come to us to develop new ideas and create products together.”

Then they started looking inward, with the goal of creating a close-knit working family within Detalia Aurora. “From the beginning, Vikki and I wanted a co-working atmosphere in all aspects of the company. Detalia’s biggest asset is not just design anymore—there is no more disconnect,” Paula continues. “Our company’s asset is its people, and the products we create. Creating that level of teamwork, they reiterate, is what gives them more time to work on developments with buyers.

“Material and design innovation will always set us apart from the rest of the international design market.”
-Vikki Rodriguez

Among the challenges they both had to face was surviving the global recession a few years back, which was said to have had a considerable effect on the local furniture industry. To Paula, though, it was more of a challenge than a setback.

“Here’s my two cents—I believe that those who are still here in the furniture industry are those who have found smart ways to keep the business going—may it be in product or in company structure,” she shares. “Those companies we keep in contact with are those who have found their niche in their respective markets.”

The furniture industry in 2018 is a whole new landscape, and it’s something both women are excited about moving forward. “I think the Cebuano design industry has changed in a way that there are no more boundaries,” Vikki says. “Creatives, entrepreneurs and other individuals from different industries are open and excited to collaborate with each other—it doesn’t matter what field you’re in.”

Despite the changes, both also believe that what makes Cebuano furniture different from the rest of the products on the global market remains the same. “Material and design innovation will always set us apart from the rest of the international design market,” Vikki shares. “More importantly, I think the pride we have for our work also speaks for itself.”

This is also why they hope that more young design students become interested in the local production process. “I really do feel that there is a comeback and a growing interest in design for the furniture industry,” Paula shares, adding that they’ve seen a sizable increase in local internship applications as opposed to the international ones they had gotten a few years ago. “I believe the design students in Cebu are becoming more aware of the capabilities of Cebu furniture manufacturers. With easy access to information online, like websites or social media, I feel that they are able to see Cebu’s skills in handcrafted design, and appreciate the products coming out of the industry.”

“I hope this continues so more young designers are better able to work with indigenous material and promote local craftsmanship to help keep the design industry and Cebu’s handicraft industry going,” she continues.

It’s clear that both Paula and Vikki have settled into their roles at Detalia Aurora. And although they have both been involved in business operations, their passion lies in creating.

Having once been design students themselves, Paula and Vikki have settled into—and are relatively thriving at—their roles at Detalia Aurora. At the core of their efforts, though, remains the passion for the business their family has created, and for the art of production.

“I’ve always been interested in the industry, although when I was younger, it was not particularly about design,” Paula shares. ìI was intrigued by the development, innovation, craftsmanship and materials that Cebuano furniture manufacturers were developing on a global scale. I knew I wanted to take part in it.”

“I wanted to be part of the process,” Vikki agrees. “I saw it as a challenge to create, and creating something
goes beyond design. It’s imagining the possibilities but understanding the physical limits.” She adds, “I saw how proud my parents were of this business and I saw how hard they worked for it. I saw how everyone in the company worked hard for it, and I still see that today. I am grateful to be in that community, and to contribute as best as I can.”

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Culture

Express Your Passion at the Newest Creative Space, The Core

Where do people express their passions? Ask around Cebu’s creative community, and you might get a couple of mixed answers, depending on their passion. But you will realize one thing: that there are barely any proper spaces for creatives to let their passions loose.

MDF Productions continues to inspire us into doing what we are passionate about in a space that they call The Core, a place where passionate souls can be comfortable enough to release their energy and express themselves freely and uniquely.

Not long ago, the opening of The Core was celebrated, showcasing talents that inspired people to take a leap and do what they love. Of course, the facilities of the multifaceted community space was the star of the show with its basket weave sprung floors as the main attraction, designed to provide safety for all physical activities.

“The suspension gives a bouncy feel which softens the impact of landings,” says Margo Frasco, the woman behind the creation of The Core. “The floors absorb shock and lessens the tension and stress on the knees and ankles. Thus, prevents injury and helps in preventing further damage to the knees and ankles which mostly occurs later down the line as we age,” she adds.

Other than the basket weave sprung floors, other facilities that are available for use when utilizing the space are their bluetooth Bose speakers that is lapel ready. They also have mirrors that span 33 feet and are 7 feet high, with curtains that transform a rehearsal studio into an intimate area for non-physical activities.

The Core currently offers wellness classes such as zumba, yoga, meditation, pop dance, karate and dance jam for the kids but Margo has bigger plans for The Core in the future.

“I’m planning to add a cultural class that focuses on the Philippine culture and a high intense self defense class,” she shares. The wellness classes are taught by licensed trainers and certified instructors namely, Heno Rey Chin, Espie Esperanza, Jeff Dan Barrientos, Almie Tabal and John Joeffrey Dabatos Jr.

The space may be designed for physical activities, but it caters to any expression of art. Margo adds, “We blacked our walls and covered the door, windows and mirrors to transform a rehearsal studio into an intimate area for seminars, conferences, workshops, discussions and art exhibits.”

With the diversity of the space, surely, The Core would be able to spark some energy into bringing people to do what they love. “I believe that an avenue with the right facilities plays a vital role to anyone who wishes to hone their passion. The Core aims to be that avenue,” says Margo. “Drop by The Core and share your talent with the community. We have the space, you got the grace,” she encourages.

“My vision for The Core is a multifaceted community space that welcomes all walks and colours of life,” says Margo when asked how the idea of The Core embodies her character as a person. “I discriminate against no one. I believe everyone is equal and that we should always respect everyone’s decision. Everyone has the right to make their own decision,” she explains.

The Core envisions a lifestyle for Cebuanos that inspires individuals to freely express themselves through their passion. “My advice to myself is to just start and stick to it,” Margo says. “It’s hard in the beginning but all that effort pays off at the end,” she adds.

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