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Asia Pacific Augistinian Conference

Minor Basilica in Cebu reopens

In recent times the centuries-old Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño (Basilica of the Holy Child) in Cebu has been closed for fourteen months after the damage caused by an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude in the southern Philippines on the morning of Tuesday, 15 October 2013. The basilica was finally given official permission to re-open on Christmas Eve 2014.

Fr Jonas Mejares, OSA, the Basilica’s Rector, announced to the church-goers that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has given their clearance via a letter received by the Basilica Rector on 23 December 2014. The letter detailed that the opening of the church to the public will follow the regular schedule from 5:00 am until 7:00 pm every day, and Masses inside the church will however start on 29 December 2014, with some limitations initially.

Caption: The Minor Basilica before the earthquake and immediately after it.


The Basilica was closed to the public on the day of the earthquake on 15 October 2013 after the belfry was toppled down. Since then, it has undergone durability checking and minor repairs by government safety and historical commissions in cooperation with engineering experts and the Augustinian Friars of the Basilica Minore with Frs. Jonas Mejares, OSA and Harold Rentoria, OSA. Rentoria was working closely with the said groups as he is the Chair of the Augustinian Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu’s Augustinian Cultural Heritage and also at present, a Chairman on Cultural Heritage of the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts.

Caption:  In early 2015 the bell tower is not yet restored.

The church, as a National Cultural Landmark in the Philippines, is protected by government laws which explains why there was a meticulous undertaking of the restoration of the bell tower, which was the part of the Basilica that suffered the greatest damage. The limestone bell tower of the church, the latest version of which was built in 1735, had been destroyed in the earthquake. It had been constructed of a material that was a porous coral-based limestone that had endured previous earthquakes, and attempts had been made to preserve it, but this time the tower did not withstand the earthquake; it crumbled and all but one of its bells fell to the ground.

The re-opening of the Church on 24 December 2014 has allowed for its use at the maximum time each year, i.e., during the days leading to the feast day of the Sto. Niño in January 2015. This year the feast has special significance, however, being the 450th anniversary of the finding of the statue of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child) in Cebu, and also the 450th anniversary of Augustinian presence in the Philippines. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño is the oldest church in the Philippines.

The website of the minor basilica is http://basilicasantonino.org.ph  and the website of the Augustinian Province of Cebu is http://osacebu.org.ph
 

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