So, Who Really Wrote ‘Batobalani sa Gugma’—And How and When It All Started?

Even if you can’t recall every lyric, as a Cebuano, the Gozos will always have a special place in our hearts. Like an unexplainable magnetic force, the traditional hymn of Sto. Niño draws us back to our roots, reconnecting us to our rich cultural heritage—etched with the enduring imprints of faith and love.

But how did this expression of devotion start? When did the singing of ‘Batobalani sa Gugma’ begin, and who actually wrote this hymn of love to the Holy Child Jesus? (Read on to find out.)

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Gozos or ‘Batobalani sa Gugma’

“Batobalani sa gugma, sa daan tawo palangga. Kanamo malooy ka unta nga Kanimo nangilaba…”

Usually sung during offertory, the Gozos which translates to ‘Magnet of Love’, is a symbolic expression of faith and devotion among Catholics, especially during the feast of Sr. Sto. Niño in Cebu. Sung in unison, devotees instinctively raise and wave their hands during the chorus, creating a moving display of heartfelt reverence.

As per the records of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, knowledge about the Gozos dates back to the surviving Novenario prints—with the earliest dating back to the late 18th century. The earliest one, generously provided by the Archivo de la Provincia Agustiniana de Filipinas in Valladolid, Spain, was published in 1788. This historical novenario, printed in Manila at the Seminario Conciliar y Real de San Carlos by Agustin de la Rosa y Balagtas, was written in Cebuano.

For this reason, the Gozos has been in Cebuano—its original form. But while this is true, this does not mean that the original version is the same one that devotees are singing today. According to records, the first “Gozos” was embellished and poetic in form: metered and rhymed—showcasing such fine poetic composition. The subsequent Cebuano editions of the novenario (1858, 1888, and 1908) contain the almost unchanged Cebuano Gozos.

Throughout the years, evolving in tandem with the dynamism inherent in language, the Gozos has been refined, culminating in a simplified version with a tune now widely recognized by most Cebuanos. This standardization process took place around the 1980s and was officially implemented in 1985, following a council meeting convened by the Archdiocese of Cebu. The objective was to infuse greater meaning and enduring value into celebrating the feast of Sto. Niño. This initiative arose from a recognition that the festivities were gradually becoming more focused on street dancing, sidelining the essential religious dimensions of the fiesta.

Unanimously decided to incorporate a ceremonial gesture, the waving of the hands was introduced. To make it even more uplifting to the soul, the ‘Batobalani sa Gugma’ is sung with the beautiful melodies of the harp and the heartfelt soulful rendition of the choir.

While the song’s original composer remains unknown, it is widely believed that the individual responsible for its creation was profoundly inspired by faith. Presently, the rendition heard today has been meticulously arranged and recorded by Mr. Elvis Sommosot, a former member of the renowned Cebu-based singing group from the 1980s and 1990s, known as SAKDAP. This particular version was collectively performed during the 51st International Eucharistic Congress held at the SRP Grounds in January 2016.

Yet another interpretation of the song has been crafted by Mr. Manny Lapingcao, a dedicated devotee of the Child Jesus. Adhering faithfully to the essence of “gozos,” a Spanish term denoting joy, delight, and glee, he presented a version that accentuates happiness and thanksgiving, with careful attention to the correct syllabication of the lyrics. The singer-composer is also the man behind other Sto. Niño songs like “Sto. Niño Gugma Ko”, “Pit Señor”, and “Sto. Niño Maghari Ka Karon”.

Indeed, within the vibrant spiritual tapestry of Cebuano culture, diverse expressions of faith, prayer, joy, praise, and submission to the Holy Child Jesus abound. This traditional hymn serves as a unifying thread, weaving together the hearts and souls of the Cebuanos, fostering a sense of shared devotion and cultural identity—“The Magnet of Love in the Synodal Church,” as the theme puts it.

As the Gozos continue to resonate through time, it stands as a testament to the enduring connection between the people of Cebu and their unwavering commitment to the Holy Child Jesus. “Kay sa tanang kinahanglan, Ikaw ang among dalangpan.”