Bautista, Julius, Figuring Catholicism: An Ethnohistory of the Santo Niño de Cebu, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2010
This book is about a statue of Christ as a boy worshipped by millions of Filipinos from all walks of life. Today the Santo Niño – said to be the same wooden figure brought to the islands by Ferdinand Magellan at the moment of his 1521 “discovery” of the Philippines – is enshrined in a bullet-proof glass case in a Basilica that hosts throngs of devotees during its Friday novenas. The author combines ethnography with historiography and discourse analysis to study how our most prevalent assumptions about the figure are produced and disseminated. What ideas have sustained such assumptions after all this time? How did the figure become such a popular “national” treasure? To what can we attribute the Santo Niño’s appeal outside the official doctrines of the Catholic faith? This book looks at historical documents, popular songs, news articles, poems, and oral accounts to address such questions. In doing so, the book describes the contours of a “figured” Catholicism as the context in which we can think about the Santo Niño in ways we have not done before.