CEBU CITY – History unfolded here Wednesday after the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino de Cebu and the pilgrim image of Senor Sto. Niño (Child Jesus) were declared as National Cultural Treasures.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) unveiled markers declaring them as National Cultural Treasures. The declaration coincided with the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the first baptism in the country.
“As our contribution in the commemoration, the cultural agencies of our country have decided to declare the Basilica of the Sto. Niño de Cebu as a National Cultural Treasure, one of the highest recognitions the State can give to a particular built heritage,” said Dr. Rene Escalante Escalante, chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
Aside from Escalante, the unveiling of the markers was also graced by Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, and friars from the Order of Saint Augustine (OSA), who run the Basilica.
The newly unveiled marker was Basilica’s fourth.
“On the part of National Historical Commission of the Philippines, we have installed three historical markers already, one for the church which was unveiled in 1941, another one for the Magellan’s Cross which was also installed in the same year. The most recent is the marker for the Augustinian order I personally unveiled here three years ago,” Escalante said.
“The Basilica Minore is also a declared National Historical Landmark in 1973, the same status as that of the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan where the Philippine Republic, the first democracy in Asia, was born in 1899,” Escalante said.
With the new recognition, the Basilica now has more heritage value. “These declarations allow the cultural agencies to appropriate funds for its conservation without violating the constitutional provision on the separation of Church and State,” Escalante explained.
The image of Senor Sto. Niño, which is highly regarded as the oldest religious relic in the country, was one of the gifts that Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan gave to Hara Humamay when she was baptized as Queen Juana.
More than 40 years after Magellan’s arrival and his death, a soldier under Miguel Lopez de Legaspi discovered the statue of the Holy Child inside a burning hut.
The site of the Basilica, which houses the Sto. Niño, is believed to be the same place where the image of the Child Jesus was found during Legaspi’s expedition.