Ilis of the Sto. Nino and the camareras

Posted on January 12, 2012


The original image of the Sto. Nino hasn’t been used during the yearly grand procession before the feast of the Child Jesus.

“The original image is fragile. We do not want an untoward incident so to speak. If you will put it simply, a great ocassion, a visit of a Pope might trigger the bringing of the Sto. Nino outside of the shrine,” said Fr. Tito Soquiño.

Soquino belongs to the Order of Saint Augustine (OSA), a congregation entrusted with the image of the he Sto. Niño. He is also the heritage expert of the Archdiocese of Cebu.

He said the original image, which is inside a bullet-proof glass case inside the chapel, is only taken out of once a year during the ilis a (Cebuano word for the changing of wardrobe of the Holy Child).

Ben Chua, a a researcher on Cebu heritage and a devotee, said the ilis takes place a day before or on the very day of the grand procession of the Sto. Niño when the image will be placed on a flower-decked carroza and brought out the Church for the solemn walk.

The venue of the ilis, Chua said, takes place either at the Grand Sala or the Library.

Only the the camareras or a selected group of women can change the clothes of the Holy Child.

In Spanish, a camarera means a chamberlain or lady-in-waiting.

The term is also applicable to someone who acts as the caretaker of a monarch’s wardrobe.

To become a camarera, Chua said one has to be an “insider” to the Augustinians.

“You have to be a friend of the Augustinians. For such a very important image, the Augustians couldn’t just allow anyone (to change the clothes of the Sto. Niño),” he said.

Second, Chua said a camarera should be “somebody of taste” and knows how to make the Holy Child look his best.

The camareras usually belong to the alta sociedad or the privileged class although it is not necessarily a requirement.

Based on his research, Chua said there was only one camarero, Jesus Royo.

He said Royo acted as guard during the ilis and was always present during the proceedings.

“So far, there has been no official camarero,” he said.

The traditional hubo or the changing of the Sto. Niño’s clothes from its fiesta wardrobe to its ordinary suit takes place five days after the fiesta celebration.

The Augustinian fathers, however, used a replica during the traditional hubo.

The original image of the Sto. Niño keeps the clothes worn during the ilis for a year.

Soquino said the clothes worn by the original Sto. Nino would be used by the replica of the Holy Child during the grand procession.

The priest said Astrid Sala-Boza is presently the camarera of the Sto. Niño.

Chua said the friends of the camareras were allowed to witness the ilis.

However, the ilis was later on made private to make it more solemn.

The camareras put off the crown of Sto. Niño first, followed by the gloves, scepter, regalia, red cape, the white dalmatica or alb, and then the layers of kamiseta.

Chua said the camareras then wipes the image and brushes its golden piena or pedestal on which the image stands.

After the image is undressed, the procedure is reversed in dressing up the image. /By Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Reporter

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