Basilica Del Santo Nino, Cebu, Philippines, for Tourists and DevoteesAsia & Southeast Asia
The Basilica Minore del Santo Nino is the home of Cebu City’s beloved patron, the Santo Nino (Holy Child) de Cebu. Located on Juan Luna St., in the heart of Cebu City, the church is one of the major tourist destinations in the Philippines, attracting pilgrims and tourists from all over the country and the world.
History of the Basilica del Santo Nino
Forty-four years after the failure of Magellan’s expedition, Miguel de Legaspi returned to Cebu. After his rediscovery of the Holy Child’s image—which was given by Magellan as a gift to Cebu’s Queen Johanna after her conversion to Christianity and baptism—Legaspi, starting May 8, 1565, founded the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines. On the site where the image was discovered by the soldier, Juan de Camuz, the monastery of the Holy Name of Jesus was constructed.
In 1571 the first church was built using light materials like wood. A decade later, the foundation of a stone building was laid. The reconstruction took 27 years to finish. On May 8, 1628 fire destroyed the church.
The Present Basilica del Santo Nino
The present church, made of stone, was built in 1730, under Augustinian supervision. On January 16, 1740 the image of the Santo Nino was at last enshrined in its present home, which is the product of many renovations. In the 1960s it was again renovated, in preparation of the 400th anniversary of the Christianization of the Philippines. In 1965, the Papal legate to the 4th Centenary Celebrations, Hildebrando Cardinal Antoniutti, conferred the church the honorific title Basilica Minore.
The present Basilica follows the Baroque-Colonial style of architecture, with a Churrigueresco façade.
The Basilica del Santo Nino as a National Landmark
The Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the oldest church in the Philippines, has been declared a national landmark by Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The Basilica del Santo Nino Museum
The church houses the Basilica del Santo Nino Museum, which is open to the public since 1965. It is a major tourist attraction related to the veneration of the holy image of the Santo Nino.
The museum was established to preserve artifacts belonging to the local Augustinian community. It houses vestments worn by the Santo Nino through the centuries, other iconic images (versions) of the Santo Nino from different parts of the country and the world, ecclesiastical books, religious artworks, liturgical vessels, jewelry and “toys” given as “gifts” to the Santo Nino from devotees. The main aim of the museum is the preservation of Catholic heritage.
Religious Devotees flock to the Basilica del Santo Nino
Catholics, not only Cebuanos and other Filipinos but also international tourists who find themselves in Cebu City, seldom miss the Basilica del Santo Nino as part of a religious or spiritual pilgrimage. They gather in the Basilica for various reasons, whether for thanksgiving, for the Friday novena in honor of the Holy Child, for the fulfillment of a panaad (religious vow), or to petition the Santo Nino for various physical and spiritual needs.
Church grounds offer tourists all day long to pose and say cheese. Children run around with balloons and cotton candy. Outside, sidewalk vendors ply with their simple trade, selling candles, Santo Nino images and all sorts of souvenir items. The generous (who most of the time are the truly godly) give jobless women a certain amount of money. In return, they dance the Sinulog as a prayer offering in behalf of the kind-hearted.
Inside, the faithful light candles. They immerse in spiritual solitude. They fall in the line that leads to the glass-encased image of the Holy Child, to offer a kiss, a (hand) wave offering. Even non-Catholics and non-Filipinos find the dim-lit ambience in the church conducive to silence, meditation and prayer. Those who just want to seek temporary refuge from the vicissitudes of a hard life find solace here. For the true house of God does not discriminate. Everyone is welcome who seeks the peace—amidst life’s turbulence—from Jesus Christ.