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Cebu lies in the heart of the Philippine archipelago and serves as the ideal gateway for tourists to more than 7,100 fascinating islands of the country. A visit to Cebu presents a pleasant discovery of its rich history, multifaceted culture and captivating people. It provides a glimpse of the country’s glorious past, with a number of preserved historic relics standing until today. Apart from its popular heritage sites, Cebu is endowed with a wealth of inviting, natural attractions that engage visitors in various activities. It boasts of white sand beaches, pristine waters and rich marine life fit for diving and snorkeling, as well as verdant mountains, mysterious caves and challenging trails for mountain trekking, spelunking and other outdoor sports activities. Cebu is also home to a vast array of products that are at par with the world’s best. But more than these, Cebu offers distinct warmth of the people that sets Cebu apart from other tropical destinations. Cebuanos, known for their hospitality, friendliness, industriousness, resilience and deep sense of patriotism, are gracious and friendly hosts. Come and experience life in Cebu, the Queen of Southern Philippines.
The Santo Niño was long considered to be the patron "saint" of Cebu. However, the Santo Niño is a representation of Jesus Christ as a child. The Catholic Church in the Philippines sets the Holy Child as an example of humility and as a celebration of the Incarnation. Many Cebuanos do not consider the Christmas Season over until the Feast of the Santo Niño. With this in mind, in 2002, the Archbishop of Cebu, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, declared Jesus' mother Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe to be the principal patroness of Cebu. This upset some Santo Niño devotees, who felt that the declaration "demoted" the Holy Child. However, the declaration is consistent with Catholic thought requiring a patron saint be a human saint who has gone to his or her heavenly reward and who prays to God on behalf of the living, rather than a divine being himself. Since the Holy Child is a representation of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, he cannot, as God, be considered a patron. In that sense, Cardinal Vidal's move was to actually install a patron saint for Cebu.
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More than just the meaning of the word is the significance of the dance. Historians now say that Sinulog, which is of pagan origin, is the link between the country’s pagan past and its Christian present. Let’s trace its history.
Historical accounts say that before Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan came to Cebu on April 7, 1521 to plant the cross on its shore and claim the country for the King of Spain, Sinulog was already danced by the natives in honor of their wooden idols and anitos. Then Magellan came and introduced Christianity. He gave the Santo Nino (image of the Child Jesus) as baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon who was later named Queen Juana. At that time, not only the rulers were baptized but also about 800 of their subjects. Unfortunately, however, shortly after the conversion, Magellan went into a reckless adventure by fighting the reigning ruler of Mactan, Rajah Lapulapu, with only a handful of men. He died in the encounter. That was on April 27, 1521.
The remnants of Magellan’s men were however able to return to Spain to report the incident and the possibility of conquest. It took 44 years before a new group came and started the formal Christianization of the islands. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived in Cebu on April 28, 1565. His ships bombarded the village and in one of the burning huts, one of his soldiers named Juan Camus found inside a wooden box the image of the Santo Nino lying side by side with native idols.
Historians now say that during the 44 years between the coming of Magellan and Legaspi, the natives continued to dance the Sinulog. This time however, they danced it no longer to worship their native idols but a sign of reverence to the Santo Nino which is now enshrined at the San Agustin Church ( renamed Basilica Minore del Santo Nino). Of course, through the years since 1521, the dance was a small ritual danced by a few in front of wooden idols or before the Santo Nino. In fact, at the Santo Nino Church where the image is consecrated, only the candle vendors could be seen dancing the Sinulog and making offerings. During the Santo Nino fiesta which falls on the third Sunday of January, children dressed moro-moro costumes also dance the Sinulog.
Pedro Calungsod is said to have been born circa 1654 in Ginatilan, Cebu, or possibly in southern Leyte, in the Molo district of Iloilo, or even in Loboc, Bohol. No matter which of these was his actual birthplace, Calungsod’s ecclesiastical provenance is certain because the entire Visayas was under the old Diocese of the Most Holy Name (Cebu), which is now an archdiocese. In the 1600s, the diocese conducted missionary work on islands near the Philippines, like the Ladrones Islands of Guam, which were later renamed the Mariana Islands. At the time, the Ladrones were in fact part of the old Diocese of Cebu. When he was around fourteen years old, Pedro Calungsod was sent to the Ladrones as a catechist and sacristan. Along with a Spanish Jesuit missionary, Blessed Diego Luís de San Vitores, the seventeen-year-old Calungsod was slain there in the Tumon Bay area on April 2, 1672, by natives who distrusted the missionaries. Their remains were thrown in the sea, never to be found.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebu (Our Lady of Guadalupe of Cebu) is honoured as the Queen and Patroness of Cebu. The miraculous image of the said marian attribute is enshrined at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebu in Cebu City, Philippines. Sometime in the year 1880, Ricardo Ramirez, a wild chicken trapper who lived in the forested area of what was then Barrio Banawan (now Barangay Guadalupe), in the course of his trapping activities, saw a light flashing from a cave known as "langub na duha'y baba" (cave with two mouths) near the river called Sapang Diyot in Barangay Kalunasan in Cebu. Surprised by what he saw, Ramirez called the attention of the other trappers who were near him but when they looked, they could not see anything. Ricardo decided to investigate the source of the light inside the cave. He got inside and saw that the light flashes came from an image of Our Lady. The image was standing atop a naturally formed rock, beside which a slow drip of water cascaded into a basin shaped rock on the floor.
The Minor Basilica of the Santo Niño or Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is a 16th century church in Cebu City in the Philippines. It was built purportedly on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño, a sculpture depicting the Holy Child Jesus found by Spanish explorers in 1565 preserved in a burned wooden box which was left behind during the 1521 Magellan expedition. The church of Santo Niño de Cebu was founded by an Augustinian priest, Andrés de Urdaneta on April 28, 1565. The first church structure was built out of earth, hard wood and nipa in 1566 ordered by Friar Diego de Herrera. In 1735, Fernando Valdés y Tamon, the Governor of Cebu, ordered the church to be constructed of hard stone, which was built in the same spot were the previous church stood. Construction was completed in 1739.
Built in 1972, the Cebu Taoist Temple is located in Beverly Hills Subdivision in Cebu City. The temple was built by Cebu's substantial Chinese community. With an elevation of 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level, the temple is a towering, multi-tiered, multi-hued attraction accessible by three separate winding routes.The Taoist temple is open to the worshipers and non-worshipers alike. A ritual among devotees is where one prays to the gods to grant one's wish. The ritual includes washing of hands, going inside the chapel barefoot and dropping two blocks of wood. If the blocks of wood are both face up then one could make a wish. If not then it is not yet the time for one's wish to be granted and one has to come to the temple some other time.
The temple is the centre of worship for Taoism, the religion which follows the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Zi. Another ritual among Taoist devotees, which is done during Wednesdays and Sundays is the climbing of its 81 steps (representing the 81 chapters of Taoism scriptures) to light joss sticks and have their fortune read by the monks. The entrance to the temple was a replica of the Great Wall of China.
© Chris Lou Ibonalo
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