Santo Niño de Pandacan: Pandacan's Mighty Protector

Santo Niño de Pandacan
The history of Pandacan is intertwined with the history of their miraculous patron, the Sto. Niño de Pandacan who is so dear to the hearts of everyone and has inspired legions of devotees. This dark image of the Child Jesus has done many prodigies through the centuries that the link between him and the people of Pandacan will always be inseparable.

The image

Believed to be more than 400 years old, the image of the Sto. Niño of Pandacan is carved out of dark wood. This wood is strikingly similar to the dark Mexican wood of the images of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo and the Black Madonna of Antipolo suggesting that like the latter two images, the Sto. Niño de Pandacan was brought to the Philippines by the Spaniards via galleon trade from Acapulco, Mexico to Manila, Philippines.


In the early 1600, the miraculous black image of Sto Niño was found by little children playing in the field near a carabao wallow surrounded by Pandan plants. The place was then called Pandanan which means "pandan plantation". The Spaniards mispronounced the name thus changing it to Pandacan The spot is near the present Sto. Niño shrine at the right side of the Parish Church.

Since Pandacan at that time was still part of the parish of Sampaloc, the elders of Pandacan had the image enshrined at Sampaloc Church. After some time, however, the image inexplicably disappeared from Sampaloc only to be found in the same place where it had been first seen in Pandacan. When it was brought back to Sampaloc church, it disappeared the second time only to be found on the very same spot where it was originally discovered.

Believing that the miraculous image wanted a home in Pandacan, the elders of the barrio, together with the Franciscan Priests of Sampaloc, decided to build a Visita to enshrine the image. The Visita was constructed on the very spot where the Holy image was found.

The Miraculous Spring

The story about the well came about, when the first visita was being constructed. In the exact location they’ve discovered a living spring to which the well of Sto. Niño de Pandacan was created. Indeed the water is miraculous; that in May 9, 1837 a woman with the name Dña Josefa Andrade was miraculously healed from her sickness after taking a bath from the water from the well.


In 1896, the Spanish authorities learned that Pandacan was the meeting place of the revolutionaries. Pandacan was decreed to be ruled under the “Juez de Cuchillo,” meaning the town would be bombed. When the cannons were brought in Nagtahan and aimed at the church, a small child was seen on top of the cannon. The commander, dreadfully struck, suspended the almost certain annihilation of the parishioners.

In 1911, Fr. Silvino Manalo placed the Santo Niño at the church tower’s window facing the maddening fire approaching Pandacan. The wind changed its course and Pandacan was saved from a great conflagration.

On December 18, 1941, the late parish priest Rev. Fr. Teodoro Francisco, fearing the possible explosion of Pandacan due to the oil tanks and depot ignited by the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USSAFE) before retreating to Bataan, tried to secure the image of Santo Niño but it could not be removed from its pedestal. The feared explosion did not happen and Pandacan was once again spared.

The Buling-Buling Festival

The Buling-Buling Festival is a religious and cultural event celebrated in Pandacan every third Saturday of January, in honor of their prodigious patron. It is a festival of street dancing where its people, Pandaqueños who are well-dressed in traditional Filipino costumes, dance along the streets of Pandacan accompanied by marching bands. In 2005, it was adopted as Manila’s official cultural dance identity.

The cultural dance, Buling-Buling, comes from the Filipino word “buling-buli” which locally means well-polished or well-prepared signifying something or somebody well-groomed for an event or occasion. This is manifested in its colorful celebration with graceful and well-practiced dance movements and detailed indigenous costumes.

According to the narrative of historian Mendoza (1979), the street dance festival first began in 1800, decades after the establishment of the town’s parish church. In those days, only the ladies in Pandacan participated in the street dancing. Beautiful ladies are chosen for their ability to sing and dance well, as they will sing and dance along the streets accompanied by guitars or an orchestra. And while they do so on the way to the church, young men throw them coins, flowers, and confetti from the roadside. Everyone is joyous.”

When the Second World War broke out, lives changed including the Buling-Buling which ceased to be practiced by the people. It was only in the late 1970s when the Samahang Sining at Kalinangan ng Pandacan, founded by Ricardo B. Mendoza, initiated the revival of the colorful dance festival. Since then, it has been instituted as a kind of ritual by men and women who dance to the accompaniment of musical instruments such as guitars, bandurias, orchestra, and marching bands.

Pista ng Sunog

Every Third Sunday after Easter, the Pista ng Sunog is also celebrated to commemorate the miracle of the Child Jesus saving Pandacan from a destructive fire that will completely destroy the area. The image is brought out in a solemn procession, to bless every home or establishment that the procession will pass through. The procession will be halted to a house and the poem "Tula sa Sunog" is delivered by a young girl from chosen families.

Many miracles and healing of the sick were received and witnessed by the faithful because of their fervent call to the Most Holy Child Jesus and the water from the well of the Holy Image. Devotion to the miraculous image of Sto. Niño de Pandacan grew and became so popular, captivating the heart of everyone. He in turn showered his devotees with graces and became its protector from peril.


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