In the early days of the visita of Boljoon, people tell of a mysterious painting of Mary and the Child Jesus that once decorated the first ermita or chapel.
The painter and date of the painting are unknown but the subjects are visibly of European countenance. Paul Gerschwiler, in his book Bolhoanon: A Cultural Sketch, said it is entirely possible the painting was brought here by Spanish missionaries as it was common practice for them to bring along European artifacts.
It’s now stored in the Boljoon Parish Museum, located on the ground level of the rectory that is attached to the Patrocinio de Maria Church, and forms part of the town’s cultural and religious treasures.
Opened on November 11, 2006, the museum houses such religious relics as 1800 liturgical vestments and carved images of saints, teneblasan (trapezoidal candle holder), old Vesperas music sheets, Lumen Christi candle holders, altar flower arrangements made of nautilus shells (before fresh flowers used), and sacra (altar cards that serve as notes for priest celebrant).
It also displays the findings from archeological digs made just in front of its 18th century church. Artifacts unearthed during the dig include jewelry and ceramic jars, bowls, and plates of Chinese and Japanese origins. The pieces were found in burial sites that had been carbon dated in the US to between 1529-1619.
Boljoon’s museum was opened by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia with then Mayor Deogenes Derama and Atty. Edmund Villanueva, who was president of the town’s heritage foundation during celebrations marking the 407th feast day of the Nuestra Señora Virgen del Patrocinio.
Architect Melva Rodriguez-Java prepared the architectural plans and display mounts while Jojo Reynes Bersales created the exhibit design, research, and descriptions with the assistance of Serafin L. Senajon and graphic artist Joel Olivares.
Every Tuesday to Sunday
9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Built in 1842, the San Miguel Arcangel (St. Michael Archangel) Church in this southern Cebu town has served the people of Samboan for close to 200 years.
Fr. Felipe Redondo, church historian, described the Samboan Church in his book Breve Reseña published in 1886 as a building made of mamposteria with only one nave, quite unlike other Spanish-built structures of worship in Cebu which are cruciform in design.
The edifice also distinguishes itself by its bare facade, bereft of the bas relief and other embellishments present in many other colonial churches.
Except for the four urn-like finials found above the horizontal cornice that serves as the pediment’s base and the niche for the patron saint above the semi-circular arched entrance, the Samboan Church’s face is devoid of decorations.
The structure’s interior as well is characterized by utter simplicity. The indoor design is plain and uncomplicated and it is this that lends this church a prayerful atmosphere.
From being a visita of Barili, Samboan became an independent parish early on in 1784. However, the construction of a more permanent church – out of coral stones and the best of hardwood – happened only in 1842 under the stewardship of Fr. Romualdo Avila.
Fr. Redondo, who visited and documented Catholic churches in a book published in 1886, wrote that the edifice in Samboan has tile roofing and lime mortar floors. Attached to the right side of the church, he added, is a bell tower also made of mamposteria or coral stone slabs.
The structure underwent reconstruction in 1915 under Fr. Ubalde Enriquez, but there is no record of the extent of work done and the alterations that were implemented.
Visible on a portion of the interior wall are the holes that mark what was once the beams of a pulpit but has now disappeared, according to the book Balaanong Bahandi.
It added that the retablo appears to be recently painted but the woodwork is clearly of colonial origin.
According to the book, the church flooring of black and white machuca tiles done in chevron and harlequin patterns dates back to the 1930s. Still intact too is the choir loft supported by massive pillars of coral stone and lime mortar.
Since the Samboan Church was built on a plateau about 65 meters above sea level, a stairway made of flat stones and lime was built on the side of the hill in 1878 to make it easier for town parishioners coming from the coastal area to go to mass.
Called Jacob’s Ladder or Escala de Jacob, the staircase of 147 steps is still the easiest way to get to the town center from the lowlands.
Once, this Church of St. Gabriel the Archangel (San Gabriel Arcangel) in Santander overlooked the sea.
For some reason, however, the Santander Church’s orientation was changed 180 degrees so it now faces the highway with the sea behind it.
The renovation started in the 1950s and went on well into the 1970s, according to the Cebu Archdiocese Book “Balaanong Bahandi.”
If you go around back, you can still see the coral stone base of the old bell tower.
The church belfry was an integral part of Boljoon parish priest Julian Bermejo’s extensive network of watchtowers. Its bells rang to warn settlers of impending pirate raids, added the Balaanong Bahandi.
Its location on the southernmost tip of mainland Cebu means it was on the frontline of the defense system put up by Bermejo in the first half of the1800s, added the book, citing its proximity to Negros, Siquijor, and Mindanao.
Bermejo’s network of watchtowers was so effective that it helped end in the 1850s the constant pillaging of coastal towns by pirate raiders.
Santander was separated from its matriz Oslob into a parish in 1898. Its first parish priest was Fr. Gregorio de Santiago.
Although relatively young compared to other parishes in Cebu, the town’s history as a visita goes back four centuries.
Back when it was still called Tañon or Tañong, it was the last of eight vicarages established under the parish of Sialo (now Valladolid), Carcar in 1599. It became a visita of Boljoon when the latter was made into a parish.
When Oslob became a parish separate from Boljoon, Tañon was placed under its administration as a visita. Its name had been changed to Santander.
Built through the benefice of the King of Spain, the Inmaculada Concepcion Parish Church in Oslob took around 17 years to finish.
Proof of this is a relief of the Spanish monarch’s seal on the church pediment encircled by text stating that “His Excellency and Most Illustrious Lord Santos Gomes Marañon made the plan for this Church which was began on the 10th of May in the year 1830.”
The construction was deemed finished after 17 years of labor on September 15, 1847.
Visita of Carcar
Oslob was once a visita of Sialo, the old name of Valladolid, Carcar, and it was one of eight created during the Augustinian Definitory of 1599, according to the book Balaanong Bahandi on the Sacred Treasures of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
It was later placed under the care of Boljoon when the latter was created as a parish separate from Carcar during the Augustinian Congress of October 31, 1690.
As a visita, Oslob was administered by priests of Boljoon. When it became a parish in 1848, Fr. Juan de Aragones was named as its first priest.
Stone and mortar church
Historian Felipe Redondo described the Oslob Church in Breve Reseña, a book published in 1886, as a structure of stone and mortar construction with tile roof. “There also used to be paintings on the ceiling of the church made by a certain Bernardino Candelario, a Tagalog who also painted the San Agustin Church in Manila,” added the Balaanong Bahandi.
Unfortunately, the Inmaculada Concepcion Parish Church has experienced one disaster after another through the years.
The very first museum put up by a local government unit in South Cebu is this facility in Carcar City.
It contains galleries featuring objects with historical, cultural and artistic relevance.
Among the artifacts displayed at the Carcar City Museum are a traditional corn milling stone, winning costumes used by Carcar contingents in numerous artistic performances and old news clippings about General Pantaleon “Leon Kilat” Villegas.
On the museum walls, visitors can see a chronology of events that took place in Carcar from the Pleistocene period up to the present.
Not only is the entrance free, there are attendants that will gladly lead visitors on a tour of the different galleries.
The building housing the museum was built in the 1900s and functioned back then as the Carcar Dispensary.
The profusion of latticework, semicircular transoms, carved barandillas and mini-canopies amid stained glass window panes sets it apart as an outstanding architectural landmark.
Construction of this structure, which is an excellent example of American-era civic architecture in the Philippines, was initiated by Mayor Mariano Mercado in 1929.
The dispensary was inaugurated by the mayor’s wife, Flora Base Mercado, in 1937 with Gov. Sotero Cabahug in attendance. It was immediately hailed a sign of the town’s progress.
On July 8, 2008, during Carcar’s first anniversary as a city, the building was inaugurated as the Carcar City Museum.
Beside the museum is a small gated park that pays homage to Don Mariano Mercado, who was responsible for many of Carcar’s beautiful landmarks.
Among these are the pool behind the dispensary, Carcar Rotunda and the Rizal Monument.
The establishment of the Santa Ana Ecclesiastical Heritage Museum was initiated by Msgr. Camilo Alia who created a Heritage Committee in 2017 to set up a repository for Barili’s cultural and religious relics and artifacts.
These include old statuary, liturgical articles, 19th century wind instruments, silver items, and even an old generator from England that lit up the church when there was yet no electricity in the town. The museum’s most important treasure, however, involves ancient documents and manuscripts that date back to 1805 and are still readable, and its main objective is to keep them safe from termites, dampness, flooding, and theft. Files from the 1700s had already been irretrievably lost. To make the old parish books useful, the town had these translated from Spanish to English so they would serve as reference. An official from the National Archives had identified Barili as the only place in the country where the inventory books of the past centuries can be read in English. The translations make it possible for visitors to get acquainted with the treasures of the Santa Ana Parish and Diocesan Shrine back when it was acabeza del partido (head of a religious district) in southwestern Cebu soon after its founding in 1614. Other exhibits include the memorabilia of Msgr. Cesar Alcoseba, a native son, who translated the Lord’s Prayer into the vernacular. It is now on display at the Church of the Pater Noster in Jerusalem. He was also a member of the group who translated the Bible into the “Ang Maayong Balita.”. He edited the “Lungsoranon” for many years as well. Another memorabilia in the museum belongs to his uncle Padre Juan Alcoseba, who built the present church and started the Semana Santa processions in Barili. The campanario or bell .tower is the Museum Annex and contains the larger-than-life statues of the 19thcentury Three Kings and three huge crucifixes that are taken out during Good Friday for the “Siete Palabras.” The Museum may be visited by appointment through the Rectory Office. Admission is free but donations are welcome for maintenance expenses.
Elevated as a Diocesan Shrine in 2005, the Santa Ana Parish Church in Barili has gone through several reconstruction and renovations since the first structure was erected at its present site in February 1889.
Two things set Barili apart from other parishes: it was the only one in the Archdiocese dedicated to Sta. Ana, the mother of the Virgin Mary, and the first in Cebu to be run by secular priests.
It was founded in 1614, according to the book Balaanong Bahandi, citing other historians. Writing about Barili, Felipe Redondo in Breve Reseña said the date of its creation was uncertain but the oldest entries in the parish books date back to October 15, 1748.
Original stone foundations
Fr. Juan Alcoseba, who served as parish priest from 1889 to 1910, was credited with the construction of the first structure at its current location. The first church site was near a river and would occasionally get flooded so parishioners agreed to transfer it to a safer place.
Since Alcoseba’s time, the Santa Ana Parish Church had been renovated in the late 1950s by Fr. Emilio Vicentillo, who also added the concrete belfry, and in 1974 by Fr. Francisco Boltron.
“Despite modern alterations, the church still retains its original coral stone foundations and walls which rise up to a meter then give way to the cement walls,” added the Balaanong Bahandi.
Special church features
Some notable characteristics of this church: memorial to Bishop Juan Gorordo in the church’s right side, beautifully carved statue of Santa Ana at a niche in the facade, four huge reliefs of the Evangelists in the interior corners, antique image and relic of the parish patroness enshrined in the altar at the gospel side.
The Santa Ana Parish was believed to be located in the old barrio of Giloctog. In his book, Redondo named Fr. Alonso Roman de Castañeda as incumbent parish priest of Barili when he was named Vicar Forane of the district on October 16, 1619.
With the brief time period between 1614-1619, the Balaanong Bahandi believes it is likely that Fr. Castañeda was also Barili’s first parish priest.
The museum showcases the history of Christianity in Cebu through the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu. It was opened to the public in 1965, during the fourth centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines. It was established by Rev. Fr. Ambrosio J. Galindez, O.S.A. at the convent as its first location. The current location was inaugurated in 1995.
The museum houses antique religious and other relics. The Santo Niño’s old cloaks, jewelry, and toy donations are displayed here. There are also century-old furniture, priestly vestments, and other relics collected throughout the years.
Most of the vestments are from the 17th and 18th centuries, according to Fr. Pedro G. Galende, OSA. Also displayed here are chalices, patens, ciboriums, and wine vessels, some of which are used during solemn feasts.
The museum was established to store, preserve, and exhibit religious artifacts of the local Augustinian community, particularly the treasures of the Santo Niño.
Curator: Fr. Ric Anthony Reyes, OSA
Museum Hours: Monday to Sunday (except Wednesday) 8:00 AM – 11:45 AM 1:30 PM – 4:45 PM
Registration fees: Adult P 30.00 Senior Citizen P 15.00 Student P 10.00 Children P 10.00
Known as the church of the miraculous Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu, this towering structure was built on the very site where a Spanish expedition led by soldier and explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi discovered an image of the Child Jesus some 450 years ago.
Upon their arrival in Zzubu (now Cebu), on April 27, 1565, Legazpi unleashed artillery fire, directing his men to only aim at the shore, after meeting resistance from the locals.
One of the soldiers who went ashore to clear the area, identified as Juan de Camus in church historian Pedro Galende’s book Santo Niño de Cebu, came upon a box containing the image of a young Jesus in a burnt house.
When the image was brought to him, Legazpi was said to have fallen to his knees and wept.
“Legazpi got on his knees, wept copiously and displayed singular acts of devotion, accompanied by the religious with tender sobs of joy, giving thanks to God for this blessing…and promising to dedicate the rest of his life to make the Holy Name known and venerated throughout the islands,” added Galende, citing an entry in Gaspar de San Agustin’s Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas.
Sto. Niño founding
Soon after the finding of the image, which the group viewed as a propitious omen, voyage navigator and spiritual adviser Fr. Andres de Urdaneta founded the convent and Church of the Sto. Niño.
As the Legazpi-Urdaneta expedition started city planning on May 8, 1565, a piece of land was allocated for the convent and church buildings.
San Agustin, in his book Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas, wrote that Legazpi “donated to the Augustinians an ample piece of land for the construction of the first convent and church where the image had been found.”
Fr. Juan de Medina wrote in Historia de la sucesos that the land was “one long block on each side…is the largest in the city and the most beautiful.”
Since its founding, the church of the Santo Niño had been destroyed and rebuilt several times under different priors but always in the place where the Santo Niño was found.
Fr. Diego de Herrera, the first prior of the convent, supervised the construction of the first church and convent buildings made of wood and nipa but these were gutted by a fire that hit the area on Nov. 1, 1566.
It was during the term of Fr. Juan Albarran as prior that the current stone church was constructed. The convent’s statement of accounts stated that Fr. Albarran began construction of the actual church in 1735 while succeeding priors applied the finishing touches.
Fr. Albarran, with the help of San Nicolas prior Fr. Antonio Lopez, laid the foundation of the structure on February 24, 1735. Manual labor was provided by San Nicolas, Talisay, and, for a certain period, Mactan Island.
Five years later, on January 16, 1740, the present church was blessed and the Santo Niño statuette enshrined in its own altar.
Work in progress
Work on the church continued in the succeeding years. Fr. Albarran’s successor, Fr. Pedro Espineyra, finished the ceiling, built a wooden choir, and gilded the retablos. Between 1744-1747, all the retablos or altar pieces were polished and gilded.
In the late 1700s, a new pulpit was constructed and the China bricks of the presbytery were gilded. The crucero was set with inlaid floor and framed with molave wood.
Don Protasio Cabezas, Bishop of Cebu, donated in 1755 the first organ that was later sold to the seminary in 1885 by Fr. Gabriel Alvarez. The pulpit was ordered by Fr. Mateo Diez in the late 1880s and the side altars by Fr. Fernando Maga in 1886.
The original wooden-shell windows were replaced by present ones of iron by Fr. Diez. The chandeliers were bought by Fr. Valerio Rodrigo at the beginning of the century.
Fr. Ambrosio Otero, who became parish priest in 1818, refurbished the entire church ceiling because it was about to collapse. Fr. Gabriel Alvez, who became prior in 1890, bought a new and powerful organ.
In 1964, added the Cebu Archdiocese’s book Balaanong Bahandi, the Basilica was renovated in preparation for the 400th anniversary of the Christianization of the Philippines. It was given the honorific title Basilica Minore in 1965.
Historian Fr. Pedro Galende, in his book Santo Niño de Cebu, said the church blends Arabic, Romanesque, and neoclassical architectural influences at a “high degree of integration.”
Citing historian Rosa Tenazas, Galende said the church’s style is Baroque-Colonial while the main facade adopts the Churriguera style. The Romanesque interior is determined by the four principal arches of the transept, called “a bold piece of architecture” by experts.
The facade is of the typical classical pattern, which has two levels with each divided into three segments by shallow pilasters. A triangular pediment tops off the solid facade. The three-story church of the Santo Niño de Cebu is about 30 meters high
Sto. Niño origin
Ordered by King Philip II, the Legazpi expedition was intended to conquer new lands and spread the Christian faith.
It came some 50 years after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage of discovery to the Far East that laid the groundwork for the physical and spiritual conquest of the islands that came to be known as the Philippines.
The arrival of the Sto. Niño in Cebu via the Magellan exploration was under the aegis of Charles I of Spain with his instruction to the Augustinian order to see to the people’s spiritual conversion vis-a-vis Magellan’s temporal conquest.
The Santo Niño image that Legazpi and his men found is widely believed to be the same one that Magellan gifted to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521 when she, her husband Datu Humabon, and several of their followers were baptized into the Roman Catholic faith.
Today, 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.
GOZOS. Pilgrims pack the basilica as they sing Bato Balani sa Gugma. (Photo by Gerald Serbise used with permission from the Sinulog Foundation)
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 every third Sunday of January. One other highlight is the Saturday religious procession of the images of the Santo Niño and Cebu patron saint Lady of Guadalupe.
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 by some as superstition but they strengthened beliefs of devotees that the Santo Niño de Cebu, “Cebu’s holy child,” watches over Cebu.
Photo of the church taken at about 1915 to 1920. The cathedral’s tower can be seen at the far end. (Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos)
In April 1521, a Spanish armada led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan came to Cebu, which expedition chronicler Antonio Pigafetta recorded as Zzubu, while searching for the Spice Islands or Moluccas.
Cebu at that time was led by Rajah Humabon. Magellan was able to convert Humabon, his queen, children, and his subjects to Christianity. They were baptized by Fr. Pedro Valderama, a priest who accompanied the expedition. Humabon was given the Christian name Charles after the king of Spain.
Magellan’s cross in 1965.
Putting up of the cross
During the baptism, Magellan ordered that a great cross be put up in the town square.
“A large cross was set up in the middle of the square. The Captain General told them that if they wished to become Christians as they had declared on the previous days, they must burn all their idols and set up a cross in their place. They were to adore that cross daily with clasped hands, and every morning after their custom, they were to make the sign of the cross (which the Captain General showed them how to make); and they ought to come hourly, at least in the morning, to that cross, and adore it kneeling,” Pigafetta wrote.
National Artist and Cebuano historian Dr. Resil Mojares wrote in his book “The Feast of the Santo Niño: An Introduction to the History of a Cebuano Devotion” that it was the practice of Spaniards to plant crosses on land they “discover” to mark possession for the crown and signify divine presence.
What happened to the cross?
Magellan was killed in the Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521. What remained of the fleet regrouped and chose new leaders to continue with the voyage. Magellan stipulated in his will that on his death, his Malay slave Enrique who served as translator of the fleet should be freed. The new leaders of the expedition, however, refused to set him free. A loud argument ensued after which Enrique was reported to have left the ship.
Pigafetta said that Enrique went to Humabon and plotted against the Spaniards. On May 1, Humabon invited the Spaniards to a feast, promising them gifts and jewels to bring to the king of Spain. A quarter of the crew went, including the new co-commanders Juan Serrano and Duarte Barbosa. Pigafetta was also invited but did not attend because he was still nursing injuries from the Mactan clash.
During the meal, the Spaniards were massacred. Those who remained in the ships quickly escaped.
“Simultaneously, before the ships had cleared the harbour, amid cries of jubilation from the indigenes, another party of them was tearing down the great Cross which Magellan had erected. What the leader had achieved during weeks of careful and patient work came to naught in an hour,” wrote Stefan Zweig in his seminal book Magellan.
“Magellan’s cross was torn down when the Cebuanos turned against the Spaniards three weeks later,” Mojares wrote in his book.
The cross of Rada
In 1565, the Spaniards returned to the Philippines under the leadership of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. They planted another cross, made of bamboo and measuring five fathoms.
“It is credited to the Augustinian Martin de Rada and has been called the cross of Rada,” wrote Mojares. He said Rada was known as the Apostle of Cebu because of his evangelization work here.
The cross of Rada was reputed to be miraculous because it “did not suffer the least lesion” in a fire that destroyed houses around the cross on November 2, 1565.
“Augustinian prior Juan de Albarran, during the construction of the current church complex in 1735-40, built an enclosure around the cross. In 1834, Santos Gomez Marañon, the Augustinian bishop of Cebu (1829-40), had an octagonal temple built to protect the cross from the weather and devotees who, regarding it as miraculous, were accustomed to chip away splinters from it as relics,” Mojares wrote. “The “original” cross is now contained in another hollow hardwood cross set in the middle of a stone altar inside the kiosk.
Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon granted the Magellan’s Cross plenary indulgence who those who pray before it every Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on September 14. The indulgence is gained by praying one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory to the Father for the intention of the Holy Father in Rome.
Symbol of Cebu
Cebu City Hall now uses the cross as a symbol and the chapel’s image can be found in the city seal. Many other Cebu-based government and non-government organizations use Magellan’s Cross in their seals and logos.
The cross is a popular tourist attraction together with other Cebu historical landmarks like the Fort San Pedro, built by the Spanish conquistador who came some 40 years after Magellan, and the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, considered the oldest church in the Philippines.
Within the vicinity of Magellan’s Cross are Cebu guitar vendors and shellcraft and woodcraft displays. The products are popular with the locals and tourists.