Monday, August 13, 2007

The Cradle of Philippine Christianity

Cebu is famous for its beaches and the annual Sinulog mardi gras. However, given the folly of some lewd tourists, many Filipinos have conveniently forgotten that Cebu, first and foremost, is the root of our pride as Southeast Asia's only predominantly Catholic country.

Tourism is indeed alive in Cebu considering the number of hotels, resorts, and diving spots that dot the coastline. However, for all its old churches, history and traditions, Cebu still has to offer a world-class museum the province can really be proud of.

A step towards that direction is the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Museum of the Archdiocese of Cebu, just across the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral (which is also a few steps away from the Basilica Minore del Santo NiƱo, home of the world famous Senyor).

The museum is housed at a former convent, a classic piece of architecture reminiscent of Spanish times (to be specific, the bahay-na-bato style). The convent has seen a lot of uses through centuries of existence, all to serve the general welfare of the Cebuanos.

A tourist guide welcomed me and my wife as we entered the expansive lobby. The entrance fee is pegged at a cheap P50 (cheap considering the quality of the museum, and the addition of a very informed tourist guide).

The first floor houses the lobby, a chapel of artifacts, and an audio-visual room. To reach the second floor, one ascends a wide staircase made of mahogany, to be welcomed by ancient saints made of wood and ivory, silver chalices and other holy items encrusted with precious stones.

The museum is still a work in progress, since most of the pieces are not encased in glass, there are no surveillance cameras to monitor the priceless items on display, and documentation is still ongoing (the guide showed us an image they still haven't identified, since the donor was anonymous and didn't provide any documentation).

Cebu has so much history to offer, aside from the pristine white beaches and the myriad of colors hidden in her seas. Attention should also be given to the spirit of zeal and creativity that made Cebu the cradle of Philippine Christianity.

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