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Magellan's Cross in Cebu City

Before I start sharing any of my observations, I would like you to hold on for a little historical background of Magellan’s Cross. Magellan’s Cross symbolized the baptism of Cebu with Christianity. The cross’ erection on 21st of April was ordered by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan  as he reached the islands’ shores on 15 March 1521. 











Under King Philip’s (in which by the way, ‘Philippines’ got its name) regime, Magellan’s search for the Moluccas or spice islands (un)fortunately, led him to Cebu. He was greeted by the chieftain Rajah Humabon and his wife Hara Humamay who immediately swore their oaths to Christianity. They took on the names of Don Carlos and Juana. Imagine how evident our hospitality from our ancestors already.

Magellan's Cross in Cebu City
Magellan's Cross



Magellan’s Cross is a famous tourist attraction located at the heart of Downton Cebu’s busy Magallanes Street. It is in between the Cebu City Hall and Basilica del Minore del Sto. Niño. Upon walking to the gazebo, I was greeted with a number of children selling handmade souvenirs and memorabilia. There is a pasalubong shop at the right side of basilica If you want to grab some snacks. 

The cross is inside a small open air gazebo with grilled windows. The sign written just below the cross has a disclaimer to its authenticity. It says that the original cross was encased inside the existing one to preserve and avoid being cut away by devotees who believed it to be miraculous. Another theory is that the cross had long been gone after Magellan fought off with Lapu-Lapu and his men in the Battle of Mactan where he died. The thing is, according to some articles I’ve read, there was no explicit mention of the cross after the battle. For what we know, it had long been gone and destroyed.

the cross
The cross


My Visit

The history of the baptism is evidently seen in the painting above the cross. Though, I wonder if it was that easy for our ancestors to accept Christianity while they were openly practicing animism at that time. Below the cross were candles of different colors. I started noticing old ladies dressed up in red and yellow cloths holding their sets of candles. The style of their dresses hints of a simple Filipiniana attire. Each colored candle has its meaning: yellow for health, blue for travel or career, red for love, pink for happiness and green for success. These candles reminded me of the Simala Shrine in Sibonga where you chose your candles according to the things you want to ask guidance for from the Almighty.

Candles
Candles

I was able to make an eye to eye contact with one of the ladies and she asked me if I wanted to buy a candle. This made me question if I need a certain candle color for my prayers to be lifted up to an omnipotent being above? Still, in my train of thought, I managed to say no (though I really wanted to but I was so busy thinking about my question). My friend who was with me at that time bought one candle (was it blue or green) for her board examination. As soon as she paid for the candle, the old lady started singing (or murmuring) and dancing her prayers. I was not able to grasp so much on the words she uttered because it was too fast (are prayers meant to be spoken out that fast?). Her dance was almost the same as the dances I usually watch during Sinulog. It is basically a worship dance.

I stayed at the area for 15-20 minutes as there wasn’t much to do. Upon leaving, I got to question if the candles, the dancers’ prayers, the cross and the children doing some labor of selling souvenirs were ‘that’ genuine to the cross’ purpose as a symbol of faith. Not that I’m questioning my (or their) beliefs and their mode of praying because I am not a devout Catholic myself. However, there were some ironies in which my eyes could not deny. Still, I enjoy these kinds of rituals and worships as a whole. For whatever be the answers to my questions and observations, let it be for the benefit of making the religion and my visit unique.

See also: Twin City Tour in Cebu

Contributing Writer: Quennie Nikki Paring
Gratis: Around the Philippines Blog would like to extend gratitude to South Shore Tours for sponsoring a Twin City Tour in Cebu for our writer. The Magellan's Cross was one of the stops in that tour.
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