Fort Santiago

When Miguel Lopez de Legazpi reestablished Rajah Solaiman’s Manila as the new capital of the growing Spanish empire in the Far East in 1571, he also directed the rebuilding of the fallen chieftain’s wooden citadel as the headquarters for Spain’s military.

It was named Fort Santiago after the legendary Saint James the Moor-slayer (Santiago Matamoros in Hispanic).

As the city grew in wealth and prominence in its new place in the world stage, Fort Santiago also became a formidable symbol of Spanish power in the orient.

An undated photo of Fort Santiago. (Photo provided by Intramuros Administration)
An undated photo of Fort Santiago. (Photo provided by Intramuros Administration)

Foreign power headquarters

The first Spanish fort, a palisaded structure of logs and earth, was destroyed soon after it was established when the Chinese pirate Lin Feng (Limahong) launched an almost successful siege of Manila in 1574.

Spanish soldiers successfully repelled the attack, but the fortification was destroyed. The present structure was built using volcanic tuff (locally known as adobe) between 1589 and 1592. The fort had served as headquarters of several foreign powers in Philippines, including Spain (1571 to 1898), Britain (1762 through 1764 during the Seven Years War), America (1898 to 1945), and Japan (1942 through 1945). Fort Santiago was declared a National Shrine and National Monument in 1951, and has been a National Cultural Treasure since 2014.

What to check out within the fort:

Plaza Moriones
The traditional open grounds for military drill and parades. Served as an important clearing during a siege or foreign attack.

Baluarte de San Francisco Javier
Built in 1663 as part of the seaside defense of Manila. Chambers now house the Intramuros Visitors’ Center.

Reducto de San Francisco Javier
Crescent-shaped high wall built in 1773 to reinforce the Baluartillo de San Francisco Javier. Construction was part of overall reinforcement of Manila’s fortification after the successful British siege during the Seven Years War.

Guadalupe Chapel
Built in 1981 by the Intramuros Administration within the Reducto de San Francisco Javier using traditional building methods and dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Martyr’s Wall
Wall with plaque dedicated to all who were tortured and incarcerated in Fort Santiago by the Japanese military during World War II.

Moat and Bridge
This man-made canal joined the Pasig River and Manila Bay, making Fort Santiago a fortress island. The moat was filled in with earth by the early 20th century, and eventually re-dug and restored by the Intramuros Administration in the 1980s.

Fort Santiago Gate
Featured are the arms of Castille and Leon and a wooden relief of the Fort’s patron, Santiago Matamoros. It serves as the main iconic entrance to Fort Santiago.

Baluarte de San Miguel
This rampart was built to fortify the defenses of Fort Santiago from river and land attacks. Cannons facing all outward directions were originally installed on top.

Plaza Armas
The traditional open grounds for military drills and parades within Fort Santiago.

Rizal Shrine
Formerly a military barracks, it was partially reconstructed and now houses a shrine to Jose Rizal.

Originally a storage facility for gunpowder and arms before it was converted into a prison cell during the 17th century. The cells can hold about a hundred persons at most but as many as 600 decomposing unknown prisoners were found inside after World War II.

White Cross
The 600 who died in the dungeons were put in a mass grave now marked with a white marble cross.

Baluarte de Santa Barbara
Historically guarded the mouth of the Pasig River and served as the most strategic rampart of Fort Santiago. Cannons originally flanked the top, while its chambers served as storage for arms and gunpowder. The chambers have been recently converted as the iMaker History Fortress Learning Center.

iMake History Fortress Learning Center
The facility is a LEGO Education Center that aims to promote innovation, creativity, and love for Philippine heritage. The center was opened in 2018.

Falsabraga Media Naranja
Falsabraga means false wall while Media Naranja refers to its half-orange shape. This rampart served as an additional layer of wall protecting the riverside of the Baluarte de Santa Barbara.

Falsabraga Santa Barbara
Like the Media Naranja, this rampart served as an additional layer of wall protecting the strategic tip of the Baluarte de Santa Barbara.

Postigo de la Nuestra Señora de Soledad
A postern (small gate) used as an escape route during instances of siege or emergency, such as the Seven Years War, when Governor Simon de Anda escaped the British following this route. The public promenade, opened in 2017, historically served as a wharf for the army.

Rajah Sulayman Theatre
One of the Fort Santiago’s old military barracks converted to an open-air theater after World War II. It is the birthplace of what was then the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA).

Medio Baluarte de San Francisco
This rampart was built to fortify the defenses of Fort Santiago from river and land attacks. Cannons facing outward were originally placed atop the defense wall.

Almacenes Reales
Royal storehouses in ruins since World War II. Prominent are the surviving freestanding stone arches, a legacy of traditional architecture.

Eastern Samar

Immaculate Conception Parish Church


Basilica Del Sto. Niño de Cebu Museum

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


Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu

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.”

Church beginnings

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.

Architectural influences

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.

Pilgrim church

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)

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)


Magellan’s cross

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.

Special indulgence

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.

Historic landmark

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.

Sacred Sites Siquijor

Our Lady of the Divine Providence Parish Church

A mission of Spanish priests and laymen arrived in Siquijor from neighboring islands in 1790 and set about christianizing the inhabitants.

They went from one community to another and came upon a place that surprised them for its abundance of molawin and other local hardwood trees.

It was occupied by a settlement of Boholanos that was hostile at first but gradually accepted them. They built a temporary chapel for the sacraments and it remained that way from 1868 to its founding as a parish.

When the community’s population had grown enough to merit the attention of the Diocese of Dumaguete, it was established as a parish on the feast day of the Virgin Mother of Divine Province in 1877.

They named the place Maria and dedicated the parish to the patronage of Our Lady of Divine Providence.

When Maria was still part of Cano-an (now Larena), Cano-an parish priest Fr. Timoteo Gonzalo already laid in 1859 the groundwork for the construction of a church.

Maria’s first parish priest was Fr. Ramon Cavas but it was Fr. Pedro Corro, who served beginning in 1894, that was responsible for the construction of the stone edifice that exists today.

Fr. Ramon Alegria was credited with completing the Our Lady of Divine Providence Parish Church. He also built a new convent.


San Vicente Ferrer Parish Church

Known today as Larena, this town in the Province of Siquijor was once named Cano-an and it became a separate parish back in the early 19th century.

Since it was the religious order that started administering to communities in the early part of the Spanish colonization around the mid 16th century, many towns started out as parishes.

This was also the case of Larena, which was erected into a full parish dedicated to San Vicente Ferrer on June 14, 1836 after being a visita of Siquijor for some time. A visita is a place visited by a priest from the parish it is attached to for the obligatory religious observances.

The town of Cano-an got its current name after the late governor of the Province of Negros Oriental, Demetrio Larena.

Tabique Pampango

Once, Larena had a church that dated back to the Spanish period. Church historian Felipe Redondo, in a book published in 1886, described it as one of the churches in the Visayas made of tabique and with a nipa roof.

The tabique Pampango was the ancient Philippine version of wattle and daub construction. It was made by raising vertical pieces of wood interspersed with horizontal ones, while split bamboo is woven in the empty spaces between. Over these is laid a mortar from lime and sand. Tabique is a Spanish term that comes from the Arabic tashbik or wall and was first popularized in Pampanga.

Today’s Larena Church is of modern construction, with only the stone belfry a few meters serving as link to its distant past. Inside the church are beautiful murals on the Last Supper and stations of the cross.

The Church of San Vicente Ferrer is your last top in the Round Siquijor Pilgrimage.


San Agustin de Hippo Parish Church

Perhaps the clear water that springs from beneath a huge rock and flows to form an aquamarine pool before rushing off to sea reminded the Spanish friars of the life and times of St. John the Baptist and led them to name this place northeast of Siquijor island as San Juan.

Long before it was organized as town and parish at the same time by virtue of the Acta del Año 1863, the community was already called San Juan.

Hence, the choice of San Augustin de Hippo as patron over the more logical St. John is also a bit confusing. It might be due to St. Augustine’s standing as “holiest among wise men and wisest among saints” or because the first San Juan parish priest, Fr. Nicanor Araniega, was an Augustinian but — whatever the reason — the town celebrates its traditional fiesta every August 28.

Old belfry

Fr. Ramon Eraso replaced Fr. Araniega as parish priest in 1864 and he began construction of the town church and convent. The opening of a four-kilometer road to the north and another 13-kilometer stretch to the south was also credited to him.

The St. Augustine de Hippo Church has undergone full renovation and the only evidence left of the old stone structure is the belfry.

It is however among the six churches visited by pilgrims who go on a Round Siquijor pilgrimage.

Village of Macapilay

Before it was even called San Juan, the community went by the name Macapilay. Folklore says Capilay was the name of the ruler of the village when the Spaniards first arrived in Siquijor island. He and his wife were said to be the first to seek baptism.

Its establishment into San Juan town and parish in 1863 concluded negotiations between the gobernadorcillos of Siquijor and Lazi. Don Francisco Ortiz represented the politico-military Governor of Cebu Don Miguel Creus y Campos and acted as moderator.

Worded in Castilan, the Acta del Año 1863 delineated the present territorial boundaries of San Juan. It was signed by the concerned parties on Oct. 24, 1863 and ratified by Governor Creus on November 6 that same year.

Negros Oriental Sacred Sites

St. Augustine of Hippo Parish Church

Around a decade after it was established as a town separate from Dumaguete in 1837, Bacong became a parish dedicated to St. Augustine of Hippo.

Christianity, however, was introduced in Bacong centuries before by Spanish Augustinian friars back when it was known as Marabago and administered as part of Tanjay Parish.

Marabago was located in the interior highlands seven kilometers away from the current location of the town. Lured by the bounty of the sea, the people moved down to settle along the coastal plains.

When Bacong became a parish in 1849, Augustinian Recollects in charge of the community started the construction of the stone church that exists today and completed it in 1883.

Bacong etched its name in history as the birthplace of that legendary revolutionary Pantaleon Villegas, also widely known by the nom de guerre Leon Kilat. His monument can be found in the town plaza just beside the church.

Style rarities

The St. Augustine of Hippo Parish Church features a few differences from the usual building style of the period. Portions of the church and even the convento are made of bricks, a departure from the usual coral stone blocks used in similar structures throughout the country.

In places where coral stone was used, and it’s very noticeable in the church belfry, the builders used L-shape masonry. This technique and the bell tower’s caracol-type stairs are unique among Philippine churches.

Church historian Fr. Pedro Gallende, in his 2007 book on Philippine church facades, also took note of the finely cut stonework of the bell tower and its material that wasn’t of the “ordinary white coralline type.”

Study in contrasts

According to Galende, “The tower and the church facade are a study in contrasts: the tower with the charm of bare masonry work and the church with the smooth plaster finish.”

He also described as outstanding the use of the painted friezes in the main altar, considered the oldest in the region.

The church in Bacong, declared a national cultural treasure in 1972, also houses the oldest and one of the few remaining pipe organs in the Philippines. It was purchased from the organ-building family of Roques Hermanos Constructores in Zaragosa owned by brothers Juan and Manuel. Made in Spain, the instrument was shipped to Bacong and installed in 1894.


Lazi Convent

The San Isidro Labrador Parish convent was patterned after the “balay na bato,” a residential style introduced by the Spaniards in the Philippines.

Fr. Toribio Sanchez, who took over as Lazi parish priest in 1882, laid in 1887 the cornerstone for what later became the largest convent in the country and throughout Asia.

Construction of the Lazi convent happened less than five years after its church was erected. Lazi became a parish independent from Siquijor and dedicated to San Isidro Labraror in 1857.

Typical of Spanish architecture of the period, the convent had walls of huge coral stone slabs at the first level. This gave way to hardwood panels and wood stubs in the second level.

When it was completed in 1891, it served as the summer house of Augustinian Recollects assigned in the region.

The convent measures 42 by 38 meters and houses the Siquijor Heritage Museum. Inside are religious artifacts and historical displays.