The Home of the Santo Niño and Its Many Trials and Triumphs

The Basilica is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Cebu, with a history worth remembering.

In the heart of downtown Cebu, the city’s oldest church stands tall. Its history precedes itself, rising from the ashes many times throughout the years. For almost half a millennium, it has kept the image of the Santo Niño in safe hands. The iconic open space has hosted many major masses, and is the backdrop of the biggest festival on the entire island.

The Basilica Minore del Santo Niño is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, dating back to when the Spaniards arrived to spread Christianity among the Filipino people. Under the supervision of the Augustinian convent, it has stored the original image of the island’s patron for half a millennium.

History and Construction

The convent was established during Miguel Lopez de Legaspi’s arrival in the Philippines on April 28, 1565. His expedition companion Fr. Andres Urdaneta became the first leader. With plans to urbanize the city, they sought a place to store the miraculous image of the child Jesus.

Many devotees visit the Basilica to pray to Santo Niño.

A chapel made out of wood and nipa became its first temporary resting place. A church and monastery made out of the same light materials was made in its place six years later. However, a strong fire destroyed the structure, prompting the convent to make a more robust reconstruction.

The use of heavier materials gave hope for the church’s comeback in 1575. With the help of devoted volunteers, the new structure was up and running, but eventually, tragedy struck the convent again. Another huge fire in the neighborhood on March 8, 1628 razed the structure.

The third structure finally replaced the light materials with stones and bricks. Its construction was halted when the roof of the facade collapsed. It turns out that the building was defective as the roof “melted” when it was exposed to the open air.

With the help of the neighboring towns, the new structure of the church was finally finished on February 29, 1735. This fully stone structure has held strong for so many years and is arguably the pinnacle of all the many churches in Cebu.

However, the Basilica dealt with tragedy again in 2013. A strong earthquake rocked Central Visayas and collapsed the church’s bell tower. The structure was rebuilt a few months later, and soon it was welcoming faithful Cebuanos back again.

Present Day

Its longevity has made it in consideration for the oldest church in the Philippines, let alone Cebu. It has hosted many special Catholic moments in the country. Its official website calls it “the center of pilgrimages, the symbol of faith of the Filipino people,” as well as “the place of birth and socio-political development of our nation.”

The facade is taken from many architectural designs that are popular among other churches in Cebu.

The facade of the church is a blend of multiple architectural features, such as Muslim, Romanesque, and Neo-Classical. It is preserved in its natural color and original stone texture, conveying an air of simplicity.

You can visit the Basilica to see the patron’s original image. This 12-inch image depicting the Child Jesus is very familiar to avid travelers and locals in Cebu. It is said to have survived a large fire when Legaspi and Urdaneta arrived on the island. Its miraculous history has made it an avenue for many faithful Catholics to pray and light candles. A Santo Niño prayer can also be found on their official website.

The candle lighting area is filled with many devotees praying the Santo Niño prayer, hoping for safety everywhere they go.

The church is one of the most famous heritage sites in the city. Situated right in front of it is the equally famous Magellan’s Cross. Here, you can find the Christian cross that Magellan and his companions planted to signify the Cebuanos’ conversion to Catholicism.

This is also the venue for most of the events of the Fiesta Señor, the church-related activities of the renowned Sinulog Festival. This makes January one of the busiest times for the church with all the activities that they hold.

The Basilica has hosted many events, including the Fiesta Señor during Sinulog.

This starts with a procession at dawn, followed by a nine-day novena. During this time, churchgoers perform the Sinulog dance and scream, “Viva Pit Señor!” after every mass. Other activities include a foot procession, where the image is brought to the streets, usually welcoming thousands of devotees who have come to participate.

Another event is the Traslacion, wherein the image is being transported on the road from the Basilica to the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City and the Birhen sa Regla Parish in Mactan Island. The image is then brought back to Cebu City through a fluvial procession the day before the main festival.

On normal days, there are many devotees that attend the church masses. Whether it is within the church or the wide open space of the quadrangle, it continues to welcome hundreds of devotees every day. Both tourists and locals try to find time to visit the image within the church and touch it to pray for blessings.

Public transport is a good option to get here. Downtown Cebu is one of the busiest areas, with jeepney routes going all around the city. You might even get the chance to travel to other tourist destinations after visiting the Basilica.

The Basilica del Santo Niño is arguably one of the most famous Catholic churches in Cebu because of its history and grandeur. Many visitors come to witness the miraculous image, while others attend the many festivities during the Fiesta Señor. After everything that the church went through, it currently stands as one of the most famous tourist spots in the Philippines.

Indeed, the oldest church on the island will continue to welcome faithful believers for years to come.

Other posts

Cebu Sinulog Festival

Generally, Filipinos never fail to observe festivals, and Cebu takes theirs to the next level. After celebrating New Year’s Eve, Cebuanos participate in a monthlong celebration in honor of Sto. Niño. This is the renowned Sinulog festival. Held every third Sunday of January, the Sinulog festival is celebrated by dancing,

Read More
Three colorful chairs at the shore of the Mactan Newtown Beach

Experience Mactan Newtown Beach and Its Soothing Waters

Lapu-Lapu City has many beautiful beaches. Its numerous resorts and island hopping activities have made waves all throughout Cebu. One of its most famous is located in the city’s premier business center. With a good location, budget friendly rates, and a ton of exciting activities, Mactan Newtown Beach is a

Read More
Charlie's Cup, the Newest Balamban Tourist Spot

Charlie’s Cup, the Newest Balamban Tourist Spot to Visit!

Charlie’s Cup is a cafe in Cebu that offers a cool and refreshing vibe thanks to its cliffside location. The Cebu Transcentral Highway (TCH) has become one of the island’s best spots to check out the newest and most interesting cafes and restaurants with breathtaking views. The long, winding road

Read More
SM Seaside shopping mall’s famous cube

Where to Go for the Ultimate Shopping Experience in Cebu

Enjoy shopping in Cebu on your next visit. Shopping in Cebu is at another level. Anywhere you are in the metropolis, make no mistake that a shopping mall is just around the corner. Whether you are looking to buy souvenirs, shirts, accessories, or food, shopping malls in Cebu have it

Read More
The Cebu City Hall, the venue for the celebration of the Cebu City Charter Day

Cebu City Charter Day

Cebu City Charter Day commemorates another year of Cebu being considered a city. While the world recognizes February for Valentine’s Day and different concepts of love, Cebu City, the Visayan region’s Queen City of the South, embraces its cityhood, heritage, people, and economic growth within the same month. The 24th

Read More
Sinigang, a popular Filipino comfort food

Discovering Filipino Comfort Food

Try any of these Filipino comfort food when you’re feeling under the weather. When you’re feeling down in the dumps or a little under the weather, there is always that one dish that your mother makes that would always perk you up. There are also those types of meals and

Read More



Cebu Insights Logo (Island)-03-03

Seeking to learn more about Cebuano culture, or wanting to know what to do once you arrive, Cebu Insights is the travel guide for you in Cebu!

Contact Us

See other Articles

Here’s Why Cebu Road Trips Are Always Fun and Memorable

Most Cebuanos love going on road trips all around Cebu. Cebu is a haven for road trips. Traveling to the many tourist spots in the countryside – whether north or south – includes getting to witness other breathtaking attractions that make the journey all the more worthwhile. Though road trips

Feast on Filipino Street Food at Carbon’s Sunday Market

The Sunday Market at Carbon offers a long list of scrumptious Filipino street food. A new Carbon Market has arrived, bringing a fun food park aesthetic that everyone in Cebu has come to love. This much anticipated revamp aims to make the oldest market in Cebu an even more stellar

Cebu Province Junks Face Masks for Both Locals and Tourists

Those traveling within Cebu province are no longer required to wear face masks when outdoors. You will begin to see fewer people wearing face masks in the towns within Cebu Province. The Cebu Provincial Government has removed face mask protocols in open and well-ventilated spaces in areas under different districts

Lantaw SRP Opens to the Public since Typhoon Odette

You can now visit the iconic restaurant known as Lantaw SRP at IL Corso. Typhoon Odette will go down in history as one of the worst storms to hit Cebu. Residents endured a scarcity of water and electricity for several weeks, and more than a few tourist spots and restaurants

How You Can Get Free Rides on Jeepneys and Buses in Cebu

The national government is letting passengers avail free rides on jeepneys and buses. Want to hitch a free ride to the city? Public transportation may be dirt cheap, but what if you don’t have to pay at all? What if you could get on modernized jeepneys or buses without worrying

Chateau de Busay | A Serene Ambiance for Social Gatherings

Chateau de Busay is a popular venue for social gatherings, especially weddings. Chateau de Busay hosts some of the most extravagant wedding receptions in Cebu. It uses its peaceful ambiance and high-end facilities to create a one-of-a-kind experience, which is made possible due to its location in the mountains of

Scroll to Top