IMAGES OF THE CHILD JESUS. Various images of the Sto. Nino on display at the old Antique capitol building in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique province from Jan. 16 to 31, 2023. Juan Carlos Perlas, Provincial Tourism Officer, said on Wednesday (Jan. 25) the exhibit has been put up to lure devotees and tourists in promoting religious tourism. (PNA photo by Annabel Consuelo J. Petinglay)

SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – Religious devotees are welcome to visit the province of Antique to pray and reflect before the various images of the Sto. Niño in the exhibit dubbed “Ang Balaan Nga Bata,” or The Holy Child, at the old Antique capitol building in this capital town.

Antique Provincial Tourism Officer (APTO) Juan Carlos Perlas, in an interview Wednesday, said that for the first time some 27 collections of the different images of the Sto. Niño are on display from Jan. 16 until the end of the month as part of the promotion of religious tourism.

“We encourage devotees and tourists to visit the exhibit that not only gives us religious experience but also a historical one,” Perlas said.

He added that the devotion to the Sto. Niño is one of the Spanish influences ingrained among the Filipinos.

The APTO, in cooperation with a group of devotees from the Antique Circulo de los Devotos del Niño Jesus led by Richard Magbanua, set up the exhibit during the Sto. Niño observance in the third week of January.

APTO Special Projects Coordinator Niki de los Reyes Torres said an average of 50 guests daily come to pray and reflect on the images of the Child Jesus.

“There are the devotees, students and people from different walks of life who come to the exhibit daily,” Torres said.

“The collections belong to (eight) old families in Antique who have a deep devotion to the Sto. Niño,” he added.

The de los Reyes family owns the oldest image on display which is a wooden Sto. Niño or Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes that dates back to the 1800s.

“There are also the Sto. Niño de Cebu and Sto. Niño de Romblon prototypes with the image looking like a prince with a crown, scepter and royal cape,” he said.

There are Sto. Niño de Palaboy in a poor man’s clothes that reminds the public to always practice charity; Salvador del Mundo or the Savior of the World; and Baby Jesus with a feeding bottle that depicts innocence and playfulness.

APTO is preparing for bigger religious tourism in January next year in Sebaste town simultaneous with the Feast Day of Patron St. Blaise, a pilgrimage site that is famous for healing miracles. (PNA)