“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
Being the oldest city in the country, Cebu boasts not only of old houses and centuries-old forts but also a cacophony of religious landmarks. With the country being predominantly Catholic, the Basilica Minore of Sto. Nino lies at the heart of the city. Thousands of tourists are drawn to the city each year during the Sinulog festival, all to celebrate the patron of Cebu.
Sadly, last year’s earthquake in Bohol destroyed much of the bell tower of the basilica. The church closed its doors to ensure the safety of everyone, but continues to celebrate the mass on the platform in front of the church previously used only during the festival. But if you’re there just to see the centuries-old basilica, you could take a glimpse at the side of the church. Although you will only see the altar, it’s still a grand one. Pilgrims can still visit the statue of the Sto. Nino near the pocket garden at the side of the church.
Amazingly, another iconic attraction of Cebu is the Taoist Temple. Located in Beverly Hills (yes it’s Beverly Hills!), this silent refuge is overlooking the Cebu city. Be forewarned though, the management is quite strict to visitors entering the compound. In fact, a guard even handed us a list of rules applicable to all visitors, including a prohibition to turn your back against the religious statues (which was understandable) and another one to prevent you from climbing the sculptures and statues (seriously, people do that?).
A landscaped garden welcomed you into the complex, with a pathway seemingly patterned after the Great Wall. A statue of a dragon stood nearby, and at its back stood a mighty and grand pagoda. Contrary to my previous visit, the Taoist temple now have guards in each temple just to ensure if you violate any of the guidelines. I must say that kept the solemnity of the temple grounds, although it projected quite a cold reception.
You can go a floor lower or one higher, but we didn’t bother since I was with a group consisted mostly of elderly women. The vibrant colors of red and green radiated across the grounds and the structures. If you’re a believer, you can use the wooden blocks available at the main temple to get an answer to a question you have. They say that worshippers use these blocks as guides in making very important decisions in life.
As we were about to call it a day, Kuya Dodong, our driver for the day, brought us to another religious shrine, the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod. San Pedro Calungsod, a native of Cebu, was canonized in 2012 and became the second Filipino saint. SM Properties decided to construct a chapel dedicated to the saint near a land development it’s currently making – the yet-to-be largest mall in the country.
From afar, the building looks like domino pieces standing in a line and you would probably wonder if it was actually a chapel. Its modernity is exuded in clean lines and neutral colors. It’s very quiet inside…maybe for now, but when that mall opens I doubt it will ever be. Unlike the Basilica Minore, there’s only a handful of visitors – perhaps largely due to the unfamiliarity of its existence, or more because of its inaccessible location.
Whatever belief you may have, there’s always some place you can commune with your Creator in Cebu. Whether you’re a believer or not, you can simply marvel at the architectural wonders of these places and see the cultural impact they have on Cebuanos.
Until next time…happy travels!