HomeNewsPhilippines’ ‘first town’ celebrates feast of Child Jesus with thanksgiving Mass

Philippines’ ‘first town’ celebrates feast of Child Jesus with thanksgiving Mass

The San Nicolas church was built between 1787 and 1804 under the supervision of Augustinian friar Ambosio Otero

Parishioners of the San Nicolas de Tolentino Shrine in a village known during the Spanish time as “el primer pueblo de Filipinas,” or the first town in the Philippines, celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño or the Child Jesus with a thanksgiving Mass.

Monsignor Rogelio Fuentes, the shrine’s moderator, traced the thanksgiving celebration at the 457-year-old Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño to the relationship between the friars of the Order of St. Augustine and the residents of the country’s oldest “pueblo.”

“Long before the pandemic, the priests from our parish would be called to celebrate the thanksgiving Mass. Why is that? Perhaps, it is because of so many connections between the Basilica and San Nicolas Parish,” said the priest in his homily.

He reminded devotees that San Nicolas, the old settlement during the Spanish time and at the same time the first parish ever established in mainland Cebu, was founded by the Spanish Augustinian friars in 1584.

As the mother parish, San Nicolas was instrumental in creating major parishes in Cebu such as the Sta. Catalina de Alexandria in Carcar City (1617), Nuestra Señora Virgen de la Regla in Lapu-Lapu City (1711), San Francisco de Asis in Naga City (1829), Sta. Teresa de Avila in Talisay City (1836), Sto. Tomas de Villanueva in El Pardo, Cebu City (1933), Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu in Guadalupe, Cebu City (1933), and five other parishes.

On Saturday, eve of the festivities, every image of the “Sto. Niño de Teniente” from San Nicolas will have to arrive to guard the Basilica for the entire duration of the solemn foot procession of the holy image of the Sr. Sto. Niño de Cebu.

As a tradition, Msgr. Fuentes said the Augustian friars are the ones who celebrate the fiesta concelebrated Mass in honor of the Our Lady of Consolacion, San Nicolas parish’s second patron saint.

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Msgr. Fuentes, who also is serving as Archdiocese of Cebu vicar general, said he finds it proper that as the oldest of all the parishes in Cebu, the parish priest in San Nicolas would lead the Holy Mass in thanking God for the three graces – the grace of history, the grace of the celebration, and the graces that each one received from the Lord.

“In the grace of history, we have many things to thank about as we have just commemorated the 500 years of Christianity, a grace that Cebuanos are grateful to God for it is in our midst that the blessing of this Basilica and the image of the Sr. Sto. Niño gifted to Queen Juana on the occasion of the first baptism here in Cebu,” he said in Cebuano.

According to a publication, Balaanong Bahandi, the San Nicolas church built in honor of an Italian saint, St. Nicolas de Tolentino, also served as a town known before as Cebu el Viejo or old Cebu back to the time of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, 439 years ago.

The adjacent settlement up north was Villa San Miguel, the city created by the Spaniards while farther away was called Parian where the Chinese lived and traded.

The San Nicolas church was built between 1787 and 1804 under the supervision of Augustinian friar Ambosio Otero. The bell tower was added in 1812 and the parochial house in 1825.

However, the church building was destroyed by aerial bombing during World War II. The present-day church was built in 1942 and was finished in 1965.

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