The Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu explains the meaning of the abovementioned phrases in an article it published on its website in 2019.
“More often the people are confused or clueless of the meaning of the phrase[s] that [are] frequently said every time we celebrate the feast of Sto. Niño de Cebu,” the Basilica said.
The word “viva” is a Spanish expression like “hail” or “hurrah,” according to the Basilica. “The literal meaning of the word viva is ‘to live’ and it can be used as an expression for cheer or support. When saying out loud Viva Señor Sto. Niño-it means cheering for Jesus who is our Lord, the Holy Child.”
“Pit” is a contraction of the Cebuano word, “sangpit.” The word means “calling out loud a person or God with a particular intention. There is no exact translation for this word that could describe the Cebuano meaning of sangpit. Probably, the closest transliteration is ‘appeal,’ which means making a serious or urgent request,” the Basilica said.
The Spanish word “Señor” means “Lord.” The Basilica said: “The child Jesus is called honorifically as Lord for He has authority to all. St. Thomas, the apostle, called Jesus his ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ after touching His wounds when he doubted Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (John 20:28).”
The Basilica explained further that “it is also good to distinguish ‘señor’ from the word ‘senior.’ Senior is an English word that refers to someone seen as deserving respect or reverence because of their age, i.e., “senior citizen.”
Señor is also spelled “Senyor” in Cebuano.
National Artist for Literature Resil Mojares wrote in his book, “The Feast of the Sto. Niño: An Introduction to the History of a Cebuano Devotion,” that “at a time when there was no separation of Church and state, and religion was used to authorize state power (and vice versa), the Sto. Niño was tied to the political significance of April 28: the celebration of the advent of Spanish rule.”
Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, a Spanish conquistador (explorer-soldier), and his crew “took formal possession of Cebu” on April 28, 1565, which “is therefore the founding date of the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, an event officially commemorated in Cebu until the end of Spanish rule in 1898,” Mojares wrote.
The Basilica said that “Sto. Niño” is a Spanish phrase for “Holy Child.” “When we celebrate the feast of Sto. Niño, we are not celebrating like that of a saint declared by the church. Some people call Sto. Niño as the ‘patron saint’ of Cebu, which is also confusing. This is incorrect because Jesus is not a saint but rather our Lord, King and Savior. We celebrate a feast [in honor of] Sto. Niño to remember his infancy and childhood that He is indeed to be honored and glorified,” it said.
The Basilica also explained that “patron” in Spanish means “protector” or “defender.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ will and always be our protector. It is only fitting that Sto. Niño is patron or protector to all of us,” it said.
Sto. Niño remains the patron of Cebuanos.
The faithful, whether in despair or in a state of joy, can always shout at the top of their lungs: “Viva Pit Señor!”
Keeping one’s faith intact these days is an act of optimism, an insistence on the belief that all is not lost in a world full of uncertainties and sufferings.