Just before his death on the beach of Cebu, the famous explorer Ferdinand Magellan presented this small sacred figure to the Cebu chieftain’s wife Hara Amihan to celebrate her and her husband's conversion to Christianity. This beautiful carved wooden figure of Belgian origin accompanied Magellan from Spain to the Philippines. It is recognised as the first and oldest Catholic symbol in the islands.
In 1521 Magellan was killed by angry locals, and the baby Jesus statue disappeared until 1565 when it was discovered in a wooden box. On this place, the oldest church in the Philippines—the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño—was built. Since then the statue widely venerated as miraculous by Filipino Catholics. The statue got a Canonical Coronation on April 28th,1965 by Pope Paul VI.
The image is famous and is one of the most beloved and recognizable Filipino cultural icons. The Feast of Santo Niño is held in Cebú on the third Sunday in January, followed immediately by the Sinulog festival, celebrating the conversion to Christianity. Locals stage parades and enjoy music and dance. Magellan’s death is re-enacted in Cebu every April.