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Basilica, image of Snr. Sto. Niño declared National Cultural Treasures

THE National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) 2021, led the ceremonial unveiling of the markers declaring the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu and the image of Snr. Sto. Niño as National Cultural Treasures on Wednesday, April 14.

Present in the event were NHCP chairperson Dr. Rene Escalante, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles Brown, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Sec. Michael Lloyd Dino, and friars from the Order of Saint Augustine (OSA) who run the Basilica.

The declaration concurred with the 500th Anniversary of the First Baptism that took place 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,” Escalante said.

“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.

Escalante added that 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 also said the new recognition granted to the Basilica adds more value to the heritage site as these declarations allow the cultural agencies to appropriate funds for its conservation without violating the constitutional provision on the separation of Church and State.

The image of Senyor Sto. Niño is the oldest religious artifact in the country, being was one of the gifts 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, the statue of the Holy Child was discovered by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi’s soldier inside a burning hut.

It is believed that the site of the Basilica, which houses the Sto. Niño is the same spot where the image of the Child Jesus was found during Legaspi’s expedition.