CEBU CITY, Cebu — President Benigno S. Aquino III witnessed on Thursday the turnover of documents from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu following the restoration of the church that was damaged during the earthquake that hit Central Visayas in 2013.
The restoration initiative for the Basilica Minore and other heritage sites is part of the government’s Heritage Restoration Program, in which the National Commission for Culture and the Arts coordinates efforts with the NHCP and the National Museum.
The Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) provided additional funds to make the restoration efforts more effective.
According to the President, TIEZA provided Php5 million to fund pre-restoration efforts while the national government extended Php14 million for the actual restoration of the Basilica. Also part of the NHCP’s mandate is to restore the pavilion of Magellan’s Cross by providing Php1.3 million.
For the restoration of Fort San Pedro, another Cebu heritage site, the NHCP spent Php22 million. The Mactan Shrine was also preserved with a Php4.8 million budget.
“Ngayon po, ongoing ang restorasyon natin sa iba pang heritage sites na nasira, dala ng paglindol noong 2013,” the President said in his speech during the turnover ceremony held at the Basilica.
“Inaasahan nga nating matatapos ang lahat ng ito sa susunod na taon. Ang hangad natin dito ay masigurong matatamasa ng susunod na salinlahi itong mga gusaling bahagi ng ating makulay na kasaysayan.”
The Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is the most popular church in Cebu due to the devotion of Filipinos to the Holy Child enshrined in the edifice. Three or four church structures preceded the present Santo Niño church, whose foundations were laid on Feb. 29, 1735. The church was completed in 1739.
The Santo Niño Basilica have withstood earthquakes in the past and was restored and reinforced in 1782 and 1889. More repairs were undertaken in 1964 in preparation for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christianization in the Philippines.
The earthquake that struck Cebu on Oct. 15, 2013 toppled the upper part of the belfry and portions of the church masonry walls.
The restoration of the church by the NHCP included the consolidation of the masonry walls, other structural rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the belfry, as well as the mechanical and chemical cleaning of exterior walls. The project began on June 15 last year and was completed last Jan. 12.
Magellan’s Cross, on the other hand, is housed in an octagonal coral stone kiosk on Plaza Sugbo beside the Santo Niño Basilica. The kiosk, built in the 1800s, protects and enshrines the tindala wood cross put up by Ferdinand Magellan and his men on the island of Cebu on April 21, 1521.
The restoration of Magellan’s Cross began on Sept. 2 last year and was completed last January.
With the restoration of Cebu’s heritage sites, the government expects to boost its tourism sector. PNA/northboundasia.com