Tag Archives: Churches

Cebu’s historical Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño

Its towering facade blends Muslim, Romanesque, and neo-classical architecture, this church of the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu--which translates literally as "holy child of Cebu." Cebu's oldest Roman Catholic Church, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, also still retains the original stone texture and natural color it had in 1735. (Click on photos to view larger images.) The structure, located right in the heart of downtown Cebu City, is way, way older--it is the Philippines's oldest church, but it was made out of hard wood, mud, and nipa when it was first built by the Spaniards in 1566 on the very spot where the image of the Santo Niño, left behind by Portuguese and Spanish explorers in 1521, was found preserved in a burned wooden box. Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino Led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Augustinian priest Andres de Urdaneta, the Spaniards who discovered the image in 1565 called it miraculous, for it survived the fire that gutted the structure that housed it but had totally blackened it in the process. The image also survived the fire that hit the church on November 1, 1568. The church was rebuilt in 1602 and in 1735, then Cebu Governor Fernando Valdes y Tamon ordered that it be constructed out of hard stone-the materials were quarried from Capiz and Panay on wooden boats--on the same spot where the wooden one had stood. Work on the church was completed in 1739. Devotees light candles inside the basilicaToday, the church draws devotees, churchgoers, tourists, pilgrims, and candle and other vendors. As the church could not accommodate the growing number of people who come to hear mass in the basilica, a pilgrim center was built within the church compound and priests officiate mass in the open-air, theater-like structure. Candle vendors here are different in any other churches; in the basilica, they dance their prayers in that two-step-forward, one-step-backward rhythm called the "Sinug". This same rhythm is believed to have inspired the Sinulog dance, performed on Cebu City's streets by various groups in the Sinulog Grand Parade held every third Sunday of January. The parade is one of the highlights of the weeklong celebration of the feast of Cebu's patron saint. One other highlight is the Saturday religious procession of the images of the Santo Niño and Cebu patron saint Lady of Guadalupe. A candle vendor dances the Sinulog It is widely believed that the Santo Niño image is the same one given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521, that same year when she, her husband Datu Humabon, and several of their followers where baptized into the Roman Catholic faith. When it was found, it was burnt so bad it was hardly recognizable and its survival was considered as nothing short of a miracle. The Santo Niño image’s reputation as miraculous is buoyed by reports of basilica helpers that it sometimes goes out of its glass case to take long walks at night. They point to grass stains on the hem of its dress as evidence. The stories are dismissed as superstition but they strengthened beliefs of devotees that the Santo Niño de Cebu, “Cebu’s holy child”, watches over Cebu. More photos Click on images to view larger photographs. Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino Sto. Nino devotees basilica minore del sto. nino basilica minore del sto nino in cebu city basilica minore del sto nino in cebu city basilica minore del sto nino in downtown cebu city sto. nino church in cebu city, philippines basilica minore del sto nino in cebu city, philippines basilica minore del sto nino in cebu city, philippines How to get there The easiest way to go to the church is by taking a taxi. If you come from the uptown area, the place is just a P70-taxi ride away. If you feel adventurous, you can take a jeepney with "Plaza" or "City Hall" printed on its route signboard. Below is a map to the place. You can zoom into the map by using its navigation buttons.

Historic church of Balangiga in Eastern Samar

At first look, the structure looks like the other thousands of churches that dot this predominantly Catholic country. With one big difference: it is missing its original three bells. The loss of the church's three bells is just a chapter in a story that started in 1901 with what is now known in Philippine history as the Balangiga massacre--an incident that triggered a response so overwhelming it turned this place in Eastern Samar into a "howling wilderness". It was a Sunday morning when we visited Balangiga and the church was closed so we were not able to come inside. A marker on the wall of the church explained its role in the massacre. The structure is a replacement to the old church that was burned down by American soldiers in retaliation for the death of their comrades. (Click on photos to view larger images) Balangiga In the town plaza, a monument immortalizes the Balangiga massacre of 1901 that started when native Filipinos, reportedly forced to do labor for American soldiers staying at a garrison in Balangiga, plotted against US troops belonging to Company C of Ninth US Infantry who sailed into the Eastern Samar town on August 11, 1901. The natives were among guerilla leader General Vicente Lukban's best bolomen. While the Philippine-American war, which started on February 4, 1899, was officially proclaimed to have ended on July 4, 1902, fighting went on in some parts of the country like Batangas, Pampanga, Tarlac, Ilocos, and the Visayas. The attack on the soldiers in Balangiga by bolo-wielding natives--who hid in the church near the American garrison in the Balangiga plaza the night before the attack--happened on the early morning of September 28, 1901. The night before, women carried small coffins to church and hid inside them the cane cutting bolo knives that were used in the attack. Balangiga monumentThe ringing of one of the Balangiga bells was the signal for the natives to attack the unprepared and clueless American soldiers who were having breakfast in the plaza where they set up their garrison. At the end of the day, 48 US troops were killed, 22 were wounded, and only four unharmed. Retribution from the Americans came soon and swift. US General "Jake" Smith ordered the transformation of Balangiga into a "howling wilderness," directing his men to kill anyone old enough to carry arms and to him they are old enough if they are over 10 years old. The Americans took with them as war booty the three Balangiga church bells, including the smaller one that was used to signal the attack, when they left the Philippines. Currently, there is an ongoing campaign led by Balangiga Mayor Catalina Camenforte for the return of the 104-year-old bells to the Balangiga church. She believes the return of the bells would complete the healing and end the conflict that has strained US-Philippine relations. Two of the bells are kept at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming while the third one, the smaller bell, can be found in an American Army camp in South Korea. Our visit to Balangiga was a side trip to our Calicoan Island sojourn. For details on how to get to Balangiga and Calicoan, click here. Balangiga is three towns before Guiuan, where Calicoan Island is located. Any of the vans for hire or other modes of public transport bound for Guiuan pass by Balingaga.