Santo Niño Basilica and Monastery – Location: Cebu City / Built 1735 onwards / Basilica completed 1739; monastery completed 1760
The Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is the shrine of the Santo Niño de Cebu, oldest known Catholic image in the Philippines. During the conquest of Cebu by the Spaniards in 1565, one of the soldiers of Legazpi found the image in a wooden box in an abandoned house. It is said to be the same image which Magellan gave the queen of Cebu in 1521 after she was baptized. On seeing the image, Legazpi declared that the statue should be enshrined in the first church to be built in the place and that it should be called the Church of the Santisimo Nombre de Jesus. Since then the image of the Santo Niño has been in the custody of the Augustinians.
Fr Diego de Herrera, OSA, is said to have built the first church, made of wood and nipa, which was completed 21 years later. This building was destroyed by fire in 1628. A church of brick and stone was built that same year by Fr Juan Medina, OSA. This church appears in a 1699 map of Cebu. By 1729 the church needed major structural repairs. The Augustinian chapter of 31 October 1729 decided that the church be rebuilt. In 1731, Fr Jose Bosqued, OSA, informed the governor-general that the building should be demolished and a new one built on its site. Construction began but the project was suspended when the walls were found to be defective, being made of bricks that easily crumbled. (iCatholic.ph)
During my visit last February 20-24, 2022 in Cebu City, there are so many people lining up to go inside the church. Health protocol is still in place so I only visited the church on my last day in Cebu City. The church opens at 6:00 AM so I decided to go early. I also had breakfast at a nearby public market with a serving of malagkit / biko and sikwate / tsokolate.
The Sto Nino Church in Cebu City is a must-have destination when in Cebu Province. The interior is majestic and has a vast collection of “santos”. There’s even a panel with several holy host or Eucharist. Due to the sheer number of devotees to the Santo Nino de Cebu, people fill out even the vast area / plaza in front of the church. I hope I could return to this amazing church at the height of the Sinulog Festival.