Viewing Catholic Heritage at Cebu Cathedral Museum – Part I

The City of Cebu is not only the first Spanish colony in the Philippines but it is also the first Catholic outpost in the archipelago. It is in this city that Christianity took root and spread in the Philippines and the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. That is why I believed that my visit to the “Queen City of the South” would be incomplete if I didn't take a closer look at its rich Catholic heritage.

I visited Cebu Cathedral Museum to learn more about Cebu and its Catholic heritage. I was not disappointed and I saw a lot of interesting things, especially the antique items that always excite me.
Cebu Cathedral Museum

Cebu Cathedral Museum is just few walks away from Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. It was built in the 19th Century and escaped destruction during the Second World War. It served as a convent, school of University of San Carlos, cooperative store and temporary chapel. It now houses various pieces from the Spanish colonial era collected from the different parishes in Cebu province.

Museum tour fee is just 50 pesos per person. The whole tour is about an hour. The tour guide will take visitors to the Msgr. Virgilio R. Yap Memorial Chapel, then to the second floor of the museum, and lastly to the garden at the back of the museum building.
Cebu Cathedral Museum flooring
Different layers of the museum's flooring.

The tour began at the area where the different layers of museum's flooring are shown. The different layers show how the museum evolved. The first layer is earth, which was then covered by flooring made of coral stone blocks common in Cebu during the Spanish period. Coral blocks are common building materials during that period and they are used in old churches, like the Danao Church.
Cebu Cathedral Museum unearthed artifacts
Artifacts unearthed in the vicinity of Cebu Cathedral Museum.

Msgr. Virgilio R. Yap Memorial Chapel

The tour then proceeded to the chapel, which houses the so-called “Carmen Collection” that came from the parish of Carmen, Cebu. The centerpiece of the Carmen Collection is the wooden altar that was plated with bronze.
Cebu Cathedral Museum pre-Vatican II altar

Notice that the altar is different from the one used today. This is a pre-Vatican II altar, which was used during the time when the priest had his back on the people and faces the tabernacle most of the time during the mass similar to the one shown in this picture. It is the time when the priest spoke only in Latin during the mass. Placed on the altar are the tabernacle, which has no consecrated host; crucifix; and candle holders, which are all made in bronze.

Looking at that older altar made me imagine the old Latin mass being held in front of it during the past. I believe that this altar should be preserved and then be used in the future when the old Latin mass made its come back.

Also, on the altar are readings, written in Latin, which are read by the priest during the mass.
Cebu Cathedral Museum - Latin readings

What caught my attention is the peculiar looking box that looks like a confessional.
Cebu Cathedral Museum - priest's Sedan chair

Our tour guide said that the box is a carrying-chair, or sedan chair, which is used by the priest during emergencies. This carrying-chair is suitable when the priest is needs to go to a person who is on the verge of death.

There also antique images of saints that are displayed inside the chapel. Some of the saints that I recognized are Saint Martin de Porres and Saint Augustine.
Cebu Cathedral Museum - antique images of saints
Cebu Cathedral Museum - Saint Francis of Assisi
Image of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Notice that the hands of Saint Francis are missing. The reason for this is that thieves sliced off the hands because they were made of ivory. Other images inside the chapel suffered mutilations from the hands of thieves. It is sad that many people only care about money and ignore the priceless value of artifacts that are important for the nation's history.

The chapel also contains memorabilia from Blessed Pope John Paul II when he visited Cebu in 1981. Showcased are the garments worn by the blessed pope during his visit:
Cebu Cathedral Museum - Blessed Pope John Paul II's garments
Cebu Cathedral Museum - Blessed Pope John Paul II's hat

The popemobile used during his 1981 visit was also preserved and is located in Cebu Cathedral Museum's garden.

Those are the museum pieces inside Msgr. Virgilio Yap Chapel. I will talk about the other areas of the museum in the next post, so please stay tuned.

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  1. I'd love to visit Cebu one day. =)

  2. Ang sama namn talaga ng mga magnanakaw na yan o pati kamay ni St. Francis dinale! Dyan pala nakalagay yung memorabilia ni Blessed Pope John Paul II!

  3. Interesting! I would love to go there...!!!

  4. Average Jane

    Hope you visit Cebu in the future.


    It's all about the money, money money, kaya wala silang pakialam kung historical na item pa ang sirain nila. Mga magnanakaw nga talaga.


    Hope you get the chance to visit Cebu.

  5. Oh! So that box is not for confession of sins! Haha!

  6. wow ang ganda naman dito Ish.. very historical indeed... I think the box is for confessions right? para makapagconfess yung tao na malapit na mamatay para mapunta sila sa langit? tama ba ako? hehe
    thanks for sharing Ish

  7. Foong and Bluedreamer

    It is not a confessional box. It is a sedan chair or a palanquin used by priests when they are traveling due to emergency situations. This box is attached to two poles and is carried by two persons (one at the front and one at the back).

    This mode of transport is perfect in part of the Philippines that have no paved roads during that time.


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