Where is the Original Santo Niño de Cebu now?
According to accounts, Magellan gave the image to Juana after the natives were baptized. Magellan was later killed while battling Lapu-Lapu and his men in Mactan.
Chua’s research revealed that during the colonial period, the image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu was painted black. Many parts of the country venerate darkly hued icons, such as the Black Nazarene of Quiapo, Our Lady of Good Voyage in Antipolo, and the Virgen de la Regla in Lapu-Lapu City. Even in Europe, dark Marian images are venerated. Yet there are no conclusive findings accounting for the dark Sto. Niño de Cebu.
In her book published by the University of San Carlos, Rosa Tenazas recounted that Fr. Leandro Moran, OSA, told her that it was a certain prior of the convent of the Santisimo Nombre de Jesus who painted the image black in the early 19th century. Was this done to draw the image closer to the people? This is one of the many speculations fueling a need for a scholarly study.
During World War II, a bomb fell on the Sto. Niño church (now the Basilica) but did not explode. The image was found, unscathed, hanging near the altar.
The Augustinians brought the image to the convent of the Redemptorists for safekeeping. An Augustinian priest asked a Belgian nun of St. Theresa’s College to wipe clean the face of the image. According to Chua’s research, part of the black paint was scraped off, revealing the original fair complexion. When the image was returned to the church after the war, the Augustinians commissioned anthropologist Dr. Mimi Trosdal to restore the image to its original color. A camarera (caretaker) appointed to change the vestments and clean the icon, Trosdal told Chua she scraped off the black paint of the Sto. Niño de Cebu and restored it between 1948 and 1949.
Because of the original icon’s antiquity, only replicas are used during the fluvial parade and the foot procession held a day before the Sinulog Mardi Gras. Security comes to play also as the original image is adorned with precious stones and jewelry.