Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 10): A Visit to the Fake(?) Magellan’s Cross

A visit to Ciudad de Cebu will never be complete without seeing the city’s iconic symbols: the image of Santo Niño and Magellan’s Cross. Both of these icons were gifts of the Purtoguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the Cebuanos.

My third visit to Magellan’s Cross was about one year after the destructive earthquake in Bohol. The earthquake is so strong that it destroyed the bell tower of the Minor Basilica of the Santo Niño.

Fortunately, the earthquake didn’t destroy Magellan’s Cross Shrine. However, it still has to undergo some repairs so the whole shrine was supported by wooden braces during my visit.

Magellan's Cross Shrine in Cebu City

The Magellan’s Cross Shrine is just a walking distance from the Basilica of the Santo Niño. It is located just in front of the Cebu City Hall.

Magellan’s Shrine is very accessible to public transport. Any tourist can hail taxi cab to go here. Another alternative, particularly for those who want to save money, is by riding a multicab with a Cebu Cathedral placard.

Magellan's Cross Shrine in Cebu City

I am glad that the shrine was not closed to the public despite the fact that it is under renovation. What’s missing are the old manangs who offer prayers (for a fee) and dances in front of Magellan’s Cross. I think the cross is already off limits to them while the Shrine is under repair.

Just like in my first visit, Megallan’s Cross Shrine still has no entrance fee.

Magellan's Cross in Cebu City

Magellan’s Cross survived the earthquake but it still had to be supported by wooden braces.

The cross was erected by Ferdinand Magellan after Rajah Humabon, king of Sugbu, and his subjects converted to Christianity.

The marker at the foot of the cross says that the cross on display is made of Tindalo wood that encases the original cross that was planted by Magellan on the current spot of the Shrine in 1521.

Marker of Magellan's Cross in Cebu City

The original Magellan’s Cross was encased in another wooden cross to protect it from the elements and from people who chip parts of the cross for its alleged miraculous powers.

It is difficult to believe that Magellan’s Cross existed for more than 500 hundred years. There are many people who argue that the current Magellan’s Cross is a fake and that the original cross was destroyed a long time ago. Some even say that Rajah Humabon destroyed the original cross as a proof to Lapu-Lapu that he is no longer allied with the Spaniards.

Rajah Humabon, after the defeat of Magellan in the Battle of Mactan, feared retaliation from the victorious Lapu-Lapu. So, he massacred the remaining Spaniards to show that he is no longer allied with them. I guess that the destruction of the original Magellan’s Cross by Humabon’s men is not too farfetched.

Another proof that the original Magellan’s Cross is gone is that Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who finally colonized the Philippines for Spain, made no mention of the cross. The discovery of the image of Santo Niño was mentioned but there is no account on Magellan’s Cross. The lack of mention to an important relic such as the Cross may mean that it no longer exists.

Mural on the ceiling of Magellan's Cross Shrine in Cebu City

The mural on the ceiling of Magellan’s Cross Shrine depicts two scenes that happened during Ferdinand Magellan’s sojourn in Cebu. The scenes are the planting of the Cross and the other is the baptism of Rajah Humabon and his subjects.

Painters of the mural in Magellan's Cross Shrine, Cebu City

The mural was painted by Serry M. Josol and Jose Ma. Roa in 1965.

Unfortunately, little is known about these two painters. Even Google couldn’t provide reliable information. Jose Ma. Roa's surname is similar to the middle name of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. I wonder if the two are relatives.

There is a great possibility that the original Magellan’s Cross is already gone and that what is displayed in the shrine is just a replica. However, this does not reduce the importance of Magellan’s Shrine because it commemorates an important piece of Filipino history and the birth of our Christian Faith.


Read more of my latest adventure in the island of Cebu!
A Foretaste of Cebu in Mactan Cebu International Airport


Information for this post was obtained from the following sources:

Magellan's Cross in Cebu Living

Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 9): The Story of Rajah Humabon - King of Cebu

There is a small spot in Cebu City that I didn’t give much attention during my past visits. That spot, fronting the Cebu Cathedral Museum, finally caught my eyes when I saw a statue of Pintado.

Rajah Humabon Monument in Cebu City

I wondered why a precious space would be given up for this statue.

I realized, upon closer inspection, that that statue is Rajah Humabon, the king of Cebu when the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, “discovered” the Philippines for Spain.

Statue of Rajah Humabon in Cebu City

Rajah Humabon, also known as Hamabar, is the king (rajah) of the kingdom of Singhapala (now part of Cebu City). He is the son of Sri Bantug and the grandson of Sri Lumay, who came from Sumatra (now part of Indonesia). Thus, we can say that the Cebuanos today are directly related with the Sumatrans.

Marker for Rajah Humabon in Cebu City

A marker, located a short distance from Rajah Humabon’s statue, contains inscription of a brief historical accounts about Rajah Humabon.

The inscription says:

Rajah Humabon was the first Filipino chieftain to embrace Christianity, regarded as the as the wisest and bravest man in the island. When Ferdinand Magellan landed on Cebu on Sunday, April 7, 1521, Rajah Humabon made a blood compact with Magellan as a symbol of their newfound friendship. Captivated by its noble teachings, Rajah Humabon was converted to Christianity. 
On Sunday morning, April 14, 1521, Humabon and his wife Humamal, and about 800 Cebuanos were baptized. Humabon was given the name Carlos in honor of King Charles V of Spain and his wife Queen Juana after King Charles' mother. 
In remembrance of the occasion, Magellan gave Queen Juana an image of the Child Jesus as a gift, while a large cross was erected to mark the baptismal site.
Inscription in the markerw for Rajah Humabon in Cebu City

The image of the Child Jesus that Queen Juana received is the same image of Santo Niño that is enshrined in the Minor Basilica of Santo Niño and is deeply revered by all Cebuanos. Meanwhile, the large cross is the Magellan’s Cross that is on display near the Minor Basilica.

The inscription didn’t mention the third gift that Magellan gave to Rajah Humabon. That gift is the Ecce Homo is the Latin for “Behold the Man”, which Pontius Pilate said when he presented the scourged Jesus Christ to the crowd.

Santo Niño Pointing at Cebu
Painting of the Santo Niño. Notice his staff pointing at Cebu.

The inscription said Rajah Humabon was captivated by the noble teachings of Christianity. I do not believe this. What I believe is that Humabon had practical reasons he made a blood compact with Magellan and why he converted to Christianity.

One reason is the miraculous healing of Rajah Humabon’s uncle. Antonio Pigafetta did elaborate on the procedures done by the Spaniards but folklore says that the Santo Niño is the one who healed Humabon’s uncle.

A more practical reason is the chieftain of Mactan, who is now popularly known as Lapu-Lapu.

I read in Eye in the Sky’s blog that Lapulapu Dimantag came to Cebu from Borneo and asked Rajah Humabon for lands. Humabon gave the region Mandawili (now called as Mandaue) and the Island of Opong (now Opon) in the hope that Lapulapu’s tribe will cultivate it. Unfortunately, Lapu-Lapu turned to piracy and attacked merchant vessels calling at Cebu which affected trade in Cebu.

I guess that Rajah Humabon was impressed with the European’s guns, cannons, and big ships. That's why he asked Magellan to kill Lapu-Lapu for him.

Battle of Mactan in 1521
The Battle of Mactan (Source: Wikipedia)

The Battle of Mactan against Lapu-Lapu resulted in the loss for the Spaniards and the death of Magellan. The newfound friendship turned sour as Rajah Humabon tried to massacre the remaining Spaniards during a feast. Some say that Humabon did this to avenge the Cebuanas who were raped by the Spaniards. I believe, however, that this is a way for Humabon to show to Lapu-Lapu that he is no longer allied with the Spaniards and thus avoiding further conflict. The Europeans who survived left Cebu and continued their journey back to Spain, thus circumnavigating the world for the first time.


Read more of my latest adventure in the island of Cebu!

Various historical tidbits for this post about Rajah Humabon came from the following sources:

Humabon’s Jesus icon returning to Cebu by Ador Vincent S. Mayol and Candeze R. Mongaya
Magellan’s gift by Jobers Bersales
Rajah Humabon in Wikipedia