FEAST OF THE STO. NIÑO DE TACLOBAN, PATRON DE LEYTE
While in the Cebuano-speaking end of the Archdiocese people are celebrating the fiesta of Ormoc with the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, on the other end, Taclobanons and people from other parts of the province are gathering by the thousands to take part in the celebrations of the feast of the Sto. Niño of Tacloban. This celebration is one of a kind, as the celebration of the Christ Child usually falls on the third Sunday of January in the liturgical calendar of the Philippines. This peculiarity follows the local tradition of the finding and the arrival of the image in Tacloban on June 30, 1889. In 1888, the members of the confraternity of the Sto. Niño of Tacloban decided to prepare for the upcoming town fiesta. The present image of the Christ Child was sent to Manila to be repaired and to have a new set of vestments. These having been done, it was shipped back to Tacloban on board the steamer Luzon, which unfortunately caught fire off the coast of Romblon. In the midst of the confusion, members of the crew mistakenly jettisoned the crate containing the venerable image out into the sea. The loss of the image venerated and loved by the Taclobanons was great, so much so that that year, no celebration was held.
Six months after the loss of the image, however, sometime in May 1889, news from the military governorate of Mindoro came to Tacloban, reporting the sighting of a crate labeled "Sto. Niño, Patron han Tacloban". This piece of news mobilized the Hermandad Han Sto. Niño to send a party to retrieve the image, which the resigned Taclobanons had already given up for lost. The image finally arrived at the port of Tacloban on the 30th of June, 1889. Tradition tells that it did arrive while the city was suffering a cholera epidemic, and that this epidemic waxed and waned as soon as the image was taken off the boat that carried it back to the Tablobanons who have so anxiously look forward to its return. Since then, the feast of the Holy Child has been held on this date, making it peculiarly Taclobanon. Thousands upon thousands would flock to it, especially during its feastday, to pay homage to Christ through his image as a child, reportedly miraculous.
The devotion and the protection of the Sto. Niño was extended to the rest of the province of Leyte by the Bishop of Palo, Bishop Teotimo Pacis. By virtue of a decree dated June 1, 1967, the Sto. Niño was decreed the Heavenly Patron of Leyte, and its celebrated was raised to the rank of a feast for the whole diocese.