22 Feb2007


The Basilica Minore del Santo Nino in downtown Cebu is a rather well-known landmark. Besides its long history, its location beside the City Hall and Magellan’s Cross, this well-visited church is also where the Santo Nino hangs out during most of the year. One of the reasons basilica4I was in Cebu last week was to meet with some of the priests from the Basilica Minore to discuss a loan of some religious works of art and antique carvings. The Basilica Minore has a small museum on their grounds that house the vestments of the Santo Nino going back several hundred years, along with a mish-mash of antique and other artefacts. The museum also features special exhibits, the most recent one showcasing several dozen Santo Nino’s from private collections throughout Cebu and neighboring provinces. After a very brief tour of the museum and discussions with Father Dominador Besares, I agreed on behalf of my siblings and I to lend 7 religious paintings and three carved statues to the museum for a period of 1 year and they will be a part of the current Lenten exhibit which opened yesterday, I am told…

During our visit to the museum, Father Besares graciously offered to give us an “insider’s tour” of the church – taking us to areas not normally open to the public.  basilica2Of course I accepted the offer and we got to see areas behind the scenes such as the library (open to the public apparently by appointment) and tucked away directly behind the altar, which housed some interesting books dating back centuries. We also got a glimpse of the drawing room or sala of the parish priests which has a vaunted ceiling, centuries old paintings, large tables and benches, etc. where the priests read their papers, receive their guests, etc. We also got to get a choirboy’s view from the choirbox at the back of the church where I spied this artwork in progress, a nice oil painting by a priest whose hobby is to paint, and he juxtaposes everyday human scenes against a backdrop of a church setting. His easel set up near a large window in the choirbox bathed in natural light with a view to the main altar and outdoors as well, was simply a stunning location…


We also got a glimpse of this rather unusual, dark, old painting of Christ crucified wearing a rather frilly skirt, not to mention the undergarments…


Stunning, but stunning hand carved stairs and church pews that were utterly gorgeous, and oddly, featured some Chinese lions on the banisters, the work of Chinese craftsmen who worked on the wood, apparenly…


Beautiful old tiles in geometric designs, unusual native touches such as corn cobs designed into the cornices in the main church (I don’t think you can see them from the main floor of the church proper)…


A visit to both of the Santo Nino’s (the one in the glass case which folks line up to see) for public viewing and the real/original piece which is safely tucked into an area high above the main altar of the church. We also passed by the area where candles are lit for PHP1 each (several thousand candles must be lit on an average day) and which allows you to pray for something dear to you…


Before we exited to the City Hall side and got a quick look at Magellan’s Cross, on our way to buy some food, of course! Many, many thanks to Fr. Besares for the fantastic guided tour!




  1. renee says:

    looks gorgeous mm! in our cebu vacation last october, I was planning to take my family to the known landmarks but they liked the hotel too much and didn’t want to leave at all =) we’ll make sure to drop by next time =) the tiles remind me of aztec design (must be the color)

    Feb 22, 2007 | 10:33 pm


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  3. Maria Clara says:

    Magnificent architectural and wood carving works! The chandelier and vaulted ceiling of the drawing room are fantastic. I believe the holy candles generate steady revenue keeping the Basilica going.

    Feb 23, 2007 | 1:16 am

  4. sha says:

    such a gem…one day I hope i can have my “private tour”… those wood carvings are amazing!

    missing cebu very much at this moment!

    Feb 23, 2007 | 7:32 am

  5. millet says:

    those stairs and banisters are hot!

    Feb 23, 2007 | 10:12 am

  6. CecileJ says:

    Because of my personal devotion to the Sto. Nino, I always go to the Basilica when I am in Cebu. It always struck me as a gloomy church. But your pictures, MM, esp. the first one,
    are beautiful! The Basilica looks so different! You even managed to make Magellan’s Cross look a million times less dingy than it actually is. Pang-postcard talaga! Nice work.

    Feb 23, 2007 | 11:06 am

  7. MrsKookie says:

    I was just in Cebu two weeks ago with my family and it’s nice to see you talk about it here. You’re lucky to be able to see the “secrets” of the Sto. Nino church. We went on a Sunday when it was packed and we were not able to appreciate the details. Thanks for this. By the way, I saw your sign on the street when we drove around the city – the Market Manila Pit Senor sign. If it was not captured on TV, at least I got to see it :)

    Feb 23, 2007 | 12:49 pm

  8. enough with the chopsticks says:

    MM, would you know if the priest’s paintings are for sale? his concept of juxtaposing everyday people against religious icons/backgrounds is interesting.

    Feb 23, 2007 | 2:56 pm

  9. corrrine says:

    Nice photos! Stunning carvings on the stairs…lucky you!
    It saddens me that the Philippines have a lot of antiques which are not preserved and presented properly. I made a tour of Bohol landmarks and we went to this church with a small museum with centuries old church relics but not properly maintained and displayed. Sayang!

    Feb 23, 2007 | 5:22 pm

  10. manila streetwalker says:

    I love insider tours like that, especially here in the country where cultural treasures are wantonly underappreciated or if they are taken cared off, gaurded zealously from the prying eyes of the appreciating public.

    Feb 25, 2007 | 7:57 am


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