National Geographic : 2012 Oct
convert the nation, making this single wooden statue, housed today behind bulletproof glass in Cebu's Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the root from which all Filipino Catholicism has grown. Earlier this year a local priest was asked to resign a er allegedly advising his parishioners that the Santo Niño and images of the Virgin Mary and other saints were merely statues made of wood and cement. "If you are not devoted to the Santo Niño, you are not a true Filipino," says Father Vicente Lina, Jr. (Father Jay), director of the Diocesan Museum of Malolos. "Every Filipino has a Santo Niño, even those living under the bridge." Each January some two million faithful con- verge on Cebu to walk for hours in procession with the Santo Niño de Cebu. Most carry min- iature Santo Niño icons made of berglass or wood. Many believe that what you invest in de- votion to your own icon determines what bless- ings you will receive in return. For some, then, a berglass or wooden icon is not enough. For them, the material of choice is elephant ivory. I press through the crowd during Garcia's Mass, but instead of standing before him to receive Communion, I kneel. " e body of Christ," Garcia says. "Amen," I reply, and open my mouth. After the service I tell Garcia I'm from National Geographic, and we set a date to talk about the Santo Niño. His anteroom is a mini- museum dominated by large, glass-encased re- ligious gures whose heads and hands are made of ivory: ere is an ivory Our Lady of the Ro- sary holding an ivory Jesus in one, a near-life- size ivory Mother of the Good Shepherd seated beside an ivory Jesus in another. Next to Garcia's desk a solid ivory Christ hangs on a cross. Filipinos generally display two types of ivory santos: either solid carvings or images whose heads and hands, sometimes life-size, are ivory, Smugglers failed to get this contraband past Kenya's law enforcement, but the animals are still gone. Small tusks indicate that young elephants were poached. Investigative reporter Bryan Christy's January 2010 story, " e Kingpin," exposed wildlife tra cker Anson Wong. Documentary photographer Brent Stirton's March 2012 "Rhino Wars" won a World Press award.