A Hand to Hold

I was raised by my grandparents. They told me that if I sent out happy thoughts into the universe, God would be very pleased and would send his angels to always protect me. When darkness looms, I hold their hand and angels would be singing “Gloria in excelsis Deo” in my mind to hush the imagined fears of a white lady’s steps as it crackles over the wooden floors or the flapping of a Wakwak’s wing as it brushes through the trees outside our moonlit window.

But as I grew older, my fears aggrandized – not necessarily turning into Tikbalangs inhabiting a Balete tree but new fears that haunts the same way in the night. Abandonment, success, failures, responsibilities, pain, relationships, rejection, enemies within…Death – specially, death.

In November of 1992, my grandfather agonized in his death bed. He suffered more to see my tears over the slow numbing pain he had to endure. I held his hands the same way he held mine at night when I was a little girl. His hands have aged not like the hand that clasped  mine as we walked over the “taytayan” (wooden bridge) at Sikatuna on Friday afternoons sending our merry ideas to the heavens.

His hours of death moved slowly as we held tight. I loudly prayed for a miracle pill that would get him off the pain while he silently pleaded that I grow stronger in faith despite how life treats me. We sang the Anima Christi together because we have always known that suffering is the music of prayer.

When the time came, Lolo Tingting had the most peaceful resting smile that peered right through me. He had a beautiful death that made me feel alive despite the plethora of emotions. And at that very instant, at the face of death, I became certain God is real. And I also believe that He sent angels to hold Lolo’s hand and that they left me a healing spell when my heart broke into pieces.

This is the reason why I light candles, write letters, pray and dance for the Sto. Niño every year. This is the story that started my devotion. I found a hand to hold – HIS. I would go to the Basilica of the Sto Niño to find the reassurance of His Love like many others who have found solace, peace, blessings and mercy. I talk to him. I pour out my soul to him. I feel a caboodle of deep and delightful rush everytime I say my prayers to him.  A sense of strength, triumph, vitality, healing and purpose all in one. It makes me want to go through life bare skinned, frail and banged up because ironically it is in these times that I feel more connected to him. There is grace in the kind of suffering that never blames and complain. He has showed me not to be afraid of death anymore and that He has an overshadowing presence over any of the fears that lurks in the dark. I know there is a ‘promised land’ that keeps all of us hopefuls inspired.

When everyone is asleep. I walk up to our Sto Niño altar at home. I hold his hand (the one that holds the scepter) and we do our slow dance. I thank Him for the many blessings we have received and for the angels that watch over our little family. And most specially for giving us Mother Mary.

Faith is an intimate personal journey. Our devotion is our Gift. Everyone has a story to tell. We see Heaven in different ways.

Lolo Tingting went to Sacred Heart church on Sundays walking the streets of Sepulveda alone because Lola Carling prayed her litanies in the comfort of her room. Lola was holding on to the beads of her rosary while praying in her bed never to awake again.


No matter how we profess our faith, it is the unwavering belief in powers unseen and unheard of that allow us to unveil our desperate vows. Each of us has a spiritual quest. We meet one another in our pilgrimage to real faith and joy.

For 17 years, Filipinos in Auckland who venerate the Sto Niño come face to face each year. We come together with the same hope that we cling to. We take our own beautiful life stories and prayers with us, as we pay homage to the Senyor who have sent us so many miracles, both large and small. For 10 days, we whisper our prayers to our dearest one. We break through the walls of detachment and come together to join our hands and dance to the rhythm of ONE single BEAT, for ONE PRAYER – A thanksgiving prayer from within each of our hearts. Viva Senyor. Pit Senyor. Viva Senyor. Pit Senyor.

Years from now, my children are going to ask me why we dance for our Sto Niño. My dearest one, the beat of the drums is a call for devotees to come together. The trumpets are played to summon the heavens to listen to our chanting and pleadings. And the dance is our emotional prayer for one another that the Child Jesus will continue to grant our prayers in the year ahead. The candles signify the burning desire of our hearts to please him. The Sinulog will remain the precious identity of the Devotees of Senyor Sto Niño.

Batobalani sa Gugma, sa daang tao palangga *waving hands into the heavens pleading*. (Our Lodestone of Love, Who is loved by so many. Here we are, please answer our prayers.)

May we always have a hand to hold as we dance in prayer and thanksgiving for our Dearest Senyor Sto Niño.

Chichi Abadingo

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