(Cebu: Part 1 of 4)
My favorite brother, who just happens to be my only brother, moved to Cebu from Bacolod a few months ago. I had been meaning to visit him much earlier to help fix up his place but unfortunately never got around to it. I did finally manage to make it down to that Queen City of the South for the long weekend with a friend in tow. We almost didn't make it though. A typhoon raged on outside while we sat in the lounge of the Manila domestic airport. Rain whipped the glass windows and we couldn't see the tarmac and the wind howled angrily. I assured my friend (myself, really) that we would be alright, that most plane crashes were caused by mechanical failure and not bad weather. Whereever did I get that anyway? Some of the earlier flights were cancelled, but thankfully ours was only delayed by a little over an hour.
At last, at almost 10 pm we touched down in Cebu and soon after my brother, who answers to Woody by the way, whisked us off to Arano's where friends and food were waiting patiently for us. Even though I get to see my bro often (he comes home about twice a month) it was still see nice to him. He is 11 years my senior (he'll kill me for saying that!) but that never kept us from being very close. He takes immense pleasure in teasing me, and I indulge him. Not that I have much of a choice, really. But when he wasn't picking on me, I couldn't complain. He was good to us and a model son to my parents. And seriously, anyone who can put up with four bratty younger sisters and their quirks is a saint in my book!
So here I was in his brand new home. It was hard to believe it had been almost 8 years since my last real visit to Cebu. By "real visit" I mean not one where I was just passing through, in transit between islands. I had nothing planned for the next three days, which is a little unusual for me. I felt I didn't have to draw up an itinerary this time, thinking we would take it easy and let the wind carry us where it wanted.
Basilica del Santo Niño
To kick off this Cebu series, I thought I would start with the city's most famous landmarks: Magellan's Cross and Basilica del Santo Niño. So here is your history lesson (or review) for the day:
The city of Cebu is the oldest in the Philippines. Among it's many claims to fame are: the nation's first street (Colon), first church (Santo Niño), first fort (Fort San Pedro), and first school (San Carlos). It was here where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan suffered his fate under the sword of Lapu-Lapu shortly after his arrival in 1521, in what came to be known as the Battle of Mactan.
What you see in the picture above is the cross Magellan left behind. It is encased in tindalo wood and housed in a shrine commemorating the early Filipino Christianization and the archipelago's first encounter with the West. Nearby is the Basilica del Santo Niño which was erected by Augustinian Fathers in 1565 making it the first church in the Philippines. It was built as a home for the country's oldest religious relic, an image of the Santo Niño or Holy Infant Jesus. The statue is considered miraculous and a blessed replica can be found in practically every Cebuano household, store, and vehicle.
On this day, devotees are seen queueing up to see the Image, kneeling in quiet prayer, giving alms, and lighting candles. Outside, children beg for change while their elders hawk their wares. It was a typical day at the Basilica.
So there you have it. Isn't it pretty? Before I end this post, I'll leave you with a few more snapshots taken at this beautiful stone church.