A pilgrim’s progress in Cebu’s churches

DANTON REMOTO Email: danton.remoto @manilatimes.net Twitter: Danton Remoto



The Manila Times



IWAS lucky enough to be invited by the Region 7 Department of Tourism director, Shalimar Hofer Tamano, to join the Southern Jubilee pilgrimage tour of Cebu’s southern churches after Holy Week. We arrived on April 18 via Philippine Airlines and stayed at Quest Hotel. Our tour chaplain was the brilliant Father Brian Brigoli, who had threatened to ask us to confess individually. But Fr. Brian must have seen how tired we were (I woke up at 5 a.m.), as well as hungry. So he just gave us a general dispensation for our sins, and off we went to have dinner. Since it was a pilgrimage tour, everyone was supposed to undergo confession to receive the special privileges from the Holy Doors of the churches. The next morning, a group of cheerful people in yellow and red greeted us and danced as we walked to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu. It’s the oldest church in the country and home of the oldest religious relic in the Philippines. The church and convent was founded by Fr. Andres de Urdaneta on April 28, 1565 — the very day the Legazpi — Urdaneta expedition arrived in Cebu. The church is allegedly built on the same spot where the image of the Santo Niño de Cebu was found. We had a tour of the basilica and attended the openair Mass. After the Mass, we went to the Santo Niño Museum. I was awed by the golden necklaces that the devotees had offered to the church, in gratitude for favors given. There were also many beautiful statues and paintings of the Señor Santo Niño de Cebu. I fell in and out of sleep during the bus tour to Carcar City because we woke up early. We also prayed the rosary, with Fr. Brian leading the recitation of the soothing words. Carcar City is known for its historical establishments, its mouthwatering chicharon and unforgettable lechon, which we ate, naturally. Its St. Catherine of Alexandria Church is a well-preserved heritage church. It stands out from the other churches because of its Greco-Roman themed altar, Byzantine-influenced architecture, and two bell towers with a Moorish onion-shaped dome. Our next stop was Argao, which is known for its wellpreserved cabecera (town plaza) and local delicacy, torta. Mrs. Jessie Magallones’ unique torta has freshly harvested and fermented tuba as its leavening agent. One of the imposing structures inside the cabecera is the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael, which also has a historic pipe organ. The Argao Church Museum is also considered the richest ecclesiastical museum in Cebu due to its priceless collection. We then visited the imposing San Guillermo de Aquitania Church in Dalaguete. Like any other heritage churches in the region, it is made of coral stones and it faces the sea. It is one of the many remarkable Augustinian churches rich in local artistry. Its prized feature is a retablo framed by a tribuna, or raised balcony, on both sides. Attached to the church is a three-bodied bell and a huge, airy convent. We then departed for Boljoon, to visit the Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Church which is one of the two national cultural treasures in Cebu. The church is known for its wellpreserved exterior and interior structures, including the church and convent floors, altar, retablo, edifice and ceiling paintings. Our overnight stay was spent at Ging-Ging’s Resort in Oslob. I slept like a log and woke up early, again, just in time for sunrise. I had just gone through cataract surgery through my good friend, the brilliant Dr. Noel J. Lacsamana. I could see clearly: I marveled at the lines on the leaves, the blueness of the sky and the shimmering silver sea. Our next visit was to Ginatilan to hear Mass at the St. Gregory the Great Parish Church that was built in 1847. Like most churches in Cebu, it also faces the sea and is made of coral stones. It also has a belfry punched with a number of equidistant holes of similar size. Historians believe they either provided ventilation, or allowed for protective positioning of arrows and muskets to repulse the raids of Moro pirates. We then gathered at the San Pedro Calungsod Shrine on the side of the church to offer flowers and a prayer. Barangay Cabsing is believed to be the birthplace of San Pedro Calungsod, the Visayan saint, and his descendants are still living there. We had snacks at the Unchuan Farm — goat’s milk, galletas, siopao, lengua de gato — and then returned to Cebu City, where a seafood dinner was served at the excellent Parilya Restaurant in Il Corso, South Coastal Road. Our stomachs were truly happy, but our souls were happier.