Prayers for the departed
Every day, thousands of people visit the the Basilica del Santo Niño in Cebu City. It’s the site of the oldest church in the Philippines and home to some of its most important religious relics. There’s an interesting back story to the church that involves the explorer Ferdinand Magellan and a statue of the baby Jesus that he gave to a tribal leader upon her baptism into Christianity.
Shortly after presenting the wife of Cebu’s chieftain with the statue, Magellan would meet his fate during a battle against a rival chieftain on the beach of nearby Mactan Island.
As the story goes, some 44 years later another group of Spanish explorers landed on Cebu Island where they promptly proceeded to burn down a village. As they sacked and pillaged, they came across the very statue of the baby Jesus that Magellan had brought to the Philippines four decades earlier.
Supposedly, the Spaniards built a church at the spot where they found the Niño, and that’s where the Basilica sits today. The votive candles in the picture are set outside of the church in a courtyard area where Mass is held because the crowds are too large for the church, itself.
Images by Joe Newman.