The revered 400-year-old image of the Child Jesus was not saved in the 70-minute fire that gutted Santo Niño de Pandacan Parish in Manila Friday.
Fr. Sanny de Claro, parish priest, made the announcement after celebrating mass at a tent outside the church Sunday morning.
De Claro said the fire, that reached third alarm damaged the church, including the pews, images of saints, and the entire convent where the Santo Niño de Pandacan was being kept.
“Nang maganap ang sunog, ang imahen ng Mahal na Poong Santo Niño ay nasa chapel sa kumbento. Napakabilis ng pagkalat ng apoy na kahit ang mga naiwan dito sa ating parokya ay walang nailigtas maliban sa kanilang suot na damit (When the fire broke out, the image of the Venerated Santo Niño was at the chapel in the convent. The fire spread quickly, and even those who were staying in the parish were only able to save the clothes in their back),” he said.
At around 10 a.m. Saturday, authorities found one of the image’s three Tres Potencias buried under deep ash with half of it already melted, the parish priest said.
Later, they also found the globe and cross that the Santo Niño was holding, its andador, and its burnt clothes. The wooden statue, dating back to the 17th century, was reportedly found by a group of children playing at the site where the church was eventually built.
Residents of Pandacan in Manila honor the Santo Niño image during the annual Buling-Buling dance festival held every third Saturday of January.
The Santo Niño de Pandacan is said to be a miraculous image that supposedly healed the sick and saved the area from disasters.
De Claro appeared hopeful and optimistic in saying that they will rebuild the destroyed church, noting that authorities retrieved other items, particularly the Sacred Host.
This was turned over to San Fernando de Dilao Parish Church in Paco, Manila for safekeeping.
He also said that some objects that are used in celebrating mass were saved from the fire.
The parish priest told the faithful that although they were not able to recover the physical image of the Santo Niño, they should continue to honor it in their life.
“Sa katunayan ay natagpuan na natin ang ating Santo Niño. Narito Siya, kasama natin, buong buo at maya maya’y tanggapin natin sa misa, at manahan sa ating kalooban (We have already found our Santo Niño. He is here with us, whole. We should accept Him during mass and allow Him to live in our hearts),” De Claro said.
“Tayo ang Simbahan ng Pandacan. Magsimula tayong muli at itayo ang timbulan ng ating pananampalataya. Tahan na. Bumangon na, mas matatag at nagkakaisa. Huwag tayong manatili sa pagkalugmok at panlulumo (We are the Church of Pandacan. Let us start again and build the marker of our faith. Stop crying. Let us get up, stronger and united. Let us not remain depressed),” he added.
The Manila City government also pledged to help in rebuilding the church.
De Claro said the sacred relics will be made available to the public soon. He also revealed that they also found the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacred Host. Both the ciborium and the Sacred Host are now under the care of the San Fernando De Dilao Parish in Paco, Manila.
“This is a big miracle. We are looking for the image, we found the Sacred Host. We were pointed to Jesus,” said De Claro.
Despite what happened, he asked the faithful not to despair as the Lord is with them.
“Let us not remain in sadness and despair. The Lord is with us,” De Claro said.
The image of the Sto. Nino of Pandacan was carved out of dark wood that is similar to the dark Mexican wood of the images of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo and the Black Madonna of Antipolo.
It was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards via galleon trade from Acapulco Mexico to Manila, Philippines.