Cebu's Historic Churches for Tourist Holiday Visit in the Philippines

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Cebu’s historic churches date back to Spanish colonial times. They testify of Cebu City’s rich cultural heritage, Catholicism, customs and traditions, and the Spanish influence in Philippine art and architecture.

Cebu’s historic churches are important landmarks. They tell a rich historical story that dates back to Spanish colonial times. They tell the stories of the island of Cebu as the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines, if not in all of Asia. Pilgrims and tourists alike are transported in time through history’s vicarious waves as they visit these historical churches that dot the island of Cebu.

Cebu’s Historical Churches

Cebu’s Basilica del Santo Nino

Built in 1571, the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino is the oldest church in the Philippines. It enshrines the image of the Santo Nino (Holy Child) de Cebu, Cebu City’s patron and the most celebrated icon in the Philippine archipelago. Thousands of devotees flock to the church daily, especially during Friday novena in honor of the Holy Child. Tourists from all over the world continue to visit the church as a religious, spiritual and/or historical destination.

As a purveyor of history, the church houses the Basilica del Santo Nino Museum. The museum is the repository of historical artifacts like artworks, jewelries and “toys” presented as “gifts” by the faithful to the Holy Child. These treasures belong to the Augustinian community in Cebu City.

The Historic San Miguel Archangel Parish in Argao, Cebu

Dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, the church in Argao, in the southern province of Cebu, took 54 years to build, from 1734 to 1788. Its brass-studded portals are carved with twenty figures of cherubim and seraphim, reinforcing the church’s “angelic” artistic theme. It houses one of the fourteen remaining Spanish-era pipe organs in the country.

The church has undergone numerous renovations, the latest for its bicentennial celebration in 1988. Despite all the modernizations and structural changes, the retablo (altar) remains as the original one utilized during Spanish times.

Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish, Danao City, Cebu

Constructed in 1755, the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish is located in Danao city, in the northern province of Cebu. The church structure was originally made up of materials from sugar cane and rocks from the sea.

But during World War II a fire threatened to reduce the church into ashes. Luckily, or perhaps by divine providence, of the original construction materials, the rocks had been spared to enable reconstruction, which immediately started after the war, in 1946. The church underwent preservation, which was completed in 1985.

The belfry houses three Spanish-era bells, which are among the church’s treasures.

Santa Catalina de Alexandria Parish Church, Carcar, Cebu

The Santa Catalina de Alexandria church in Carcar, in the southern province of Cebu, was built in 1860. The façade suggests a Moorish influence, as shown by the main entrance’s recessed arch, reminiscent of Middle Eastern mosques, and the twin bell towers that looked like minarets with their onion-shaped domes.

Its domes and ceilings are coffered, the arcade separating the aisle and the nave decorated with cherub busts. The altar follows the Neoclassical style. One of the church’s remarkable features are the statues of the eleven apostles at the main entrance. Judas Iscariot stands alone on a pedestal in front of the convent.

Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church in Bantayan Island, Cebu

Bantayan Island, at the northern tip of the province of Cebu, is famous for its Holy Week celebrations, which entice whole families for weekend revelry. Among other Holy Week features, like food extravaganzas (meat and beer emphasized) and marvelous processions, Bantayan Island’s Saints Peter and Paul church attracts tourists and pilgrims alike.

Bantayan was the first parish in Cebu. It was founded in 1580 as the Convento dela Asuncion de Nuestra Senor (Convent of Our Lady’s Ascension). The church is the fourth erected. Its predecessors have been destroyed either by fire or Moro pirates. The present structure boasts of the thickest walls among stone churches in all of Cebu.

Other Churches in Cebu

Other churches in Cebu that merit attention are the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church in Guadalupe, Cebu City and the Nuestra Senora del Patrocinio Parish church in Boljoon, Cebu, which is also a National Heritage Landmark.

The historic churches of Cebu Island not only offer religious and spiritual refuge. Nor are they only places of wonder that offer visual delights. Significantly, they, too, are monuments of cultural history that guide the traveler through important moments of a people’s journey through time.

Photo by Capella Boltiador at

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Ron Siojo
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Posted on Jan 1, 2011