LA’s Filipino Catholic community had two very special dates to commemorate this weekend — the 35th anniversary of the feast of Santo Niño, the “Divine Infant Jesus,” and the ongoing celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. 

At a special Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Jan. 16, Archbishop José H. Gomez noted that, not only are these celebrations a great time to “give thanks to God for those 500 years,” but that it is also “a great moment to start thinking of the next 500 years.” 

LA Catholics at the annual Santo Niño Mass Jan. 16. (Victor Alemán)

It is beautiful to think about it and to reflect that Filipinos were here, worshipping and working in our country long before our country had a name,” he said in his homily. This “rich heritage” is part of the mission of LA’s Catholics today, he said. “Each one of us, no matter who we are, has a part to play in building up God’s kingdom of love and life.”

The feast of Santo Niño is celebrated on the third Sunday of January each year. As part of this year’s theme, “Gifted to give and share of faith,” the Mass featured pre-liturgy performances from Sinulog dangers in the Cathedral plaza, in a celebration of the 500 years of Filipino evangelization and traditions.

Sinulog dancers in traditional dress performed in the Cathedral plaza before the Mass. (Victor Alemán)

The first statue of Santo Niño was presented to the queen of Cebu in the 16th century. Moved by the innocent and kind face of the child Jesus, she converted to Catholicism and was baptized. Ferdinand Magellan planted the Cross of Christianity on the day she was baptized, and devotion to Santo Nino has spread in Cebu and across the Philippines ever since. 

In Los Angeles, the Filipino Catholic ministry marked the anniversary weekend with a food drive on Saturday at Our Lady of Loretto Church in historic Filipinotown. Volunteers from the ministry partnered with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Community Advisory Council (LASD CAC) to host the two-hour drive through event.