The “Hubo” ritual, or the undressing of the Sto. Niño image, takes place five days after the Grand Sinulog Parade held every 3rd Sunday of January.
Hubo is the Cebuano word for “to undress”. During the mass, priests ceremonially remove the festival garments of the image, bath the image in water laced with perfume, and don the image with ordinary vestments. According to Catholic tradition, the change of garments to less decorated ones symbolizes spiritual change within a person. The order of removal is as follows:
2) orb and scepter
6) inner clothing
The bathing of the child Jesus also has significant meaning. When the image undergoes bathing, it symbolizes purification and cleansing to “renew ties with God”. The water used to wash the image is then referred to as “holy water.” However, many devotees try to ascribe the said water with magical and miraculous powers, to the disapproval of priests. According to the clergy, the holy water ought to bring adherents to a spirit of prayer, not heal any ailments and cure diseases automatically.
The new, ordinary garments are also used to elicit prayer. Every piece of clothing is taken to signify an event of Jesus’ life, and a prayer is recited for it.
Catholic Cebuanos believe that just as the Sinulog festival closes the Christmas season, the Hubo mass also closes the week-long fiesta and opens the Lenten season. In the past, the Hubo ritual was held behind closed doors by Augustinian friars and select women. After the public learned of the closed ritual, the church finally made the ceremony public in 1990. Any church or parish is permitted to hold the ritual if it wishes to.
Be one with the Cebuanos as they celebrate the “HUBO” mass ritual at the Basilica del Sto. Niño, at 4 a.m. on January 22, 2010.