The annual festival of the Santo Nino at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca will be held Saturday beginning with a Mass at 5 p.m. Immediately following the worship service will be a host of entertainment activities in the church gym.
The event is open to the public, and everyone is invited. The day's activities are the culmination of the novena, or nine days of prayer, leading up to the fiesta.
A yearly event since it was launched eight years ago by the newly formed Santo Nino Ministry of St. Anthony, the occasion is a religious tradition that began eight years ago. Previous years' entertainment presentations included musical and folk dances featuring the Filipino culture. This year, the organizers said the post-liturgy celebration will see a variety of games in which the visitors, including the children, will have the opportunity to be involved.
At the heart of this spiritual tradition is a statue called the Santo Nino which is believed to be miraculous. Known as the oldest Christian artifact in the Philippines, historical records indicate that the original statue was given as a gift by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon and his chief consort on the occasion of their baptism in 1521. That original image is described as a dark wood statue which measures approximately 12 inches in height and carved in the Flemish style depicting the child Jesus. It is dressed as that of a Spanish monarch bearing imperial regalia that include a golden crown, a globe, scepter, fine vestments and jewelry, many of them coming from devotees over the centuries.
A replica of this statue is at the center of the St. Anthony of Padua celebration. It is an image that originally came from the Philippines and was donated by Penelope Doria Mansalay to the Santo Nino Ministry. Along with the Santo Nino statue on display is that of Our Lady of Fatima.
Those who plan to attend the Mass on Saturday may bring their own statues and images of the Santo Nino to be blessed before the end of the worship service.
St. Anthony of Padua is located at the corner of Fremont Avenue and East North Street.