San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish

Our first stop during the Gabii sa Kabilin 2016 was the San Nicolas Parish Church in Brgy. Sawang Calero. We live in the vicinity and we think our barangay is very rich in history and heritage, but super underrated.

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In fact, after wrapping up work for the day, we went to our favorite 7-11 store across the Taboan Public Market to have some snacks before walking to the church, which is just one block away. We were very early and there was a mass going on for Flores de Mayo. There was no set-up or display yet. So we whiled our time taking pictures, eating, and talking with the people in the vicinity. We love how the church grounds were very clean and spacious. They have benches and there were people sitting minding their own business. Inside the church compound is a covered court where some people were playing basketball. Outside the church is a children’s park full of children playing.

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Rectory, this houses many offices of the church, and a canteen.
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Angels do get tired and need snacks.
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Contemporary painting depicting the acceptance of Roman Catholicism by native Cebuanos.

We choose our neighbor church as the first stop because we have not explored much of our neighborhood. San Nicolas is in an old settlement, a settlement that pre-dates the Spaniards. Here is where Rajah Humabon and Rajah Tupas ruled. The San Nicolas church (built 1584) was the first church to be built by the Spaniards and the cross in Magellan’s cross was first erected in the area (specifically near Pasil Fish Market). Trivia: San Nicolas was not part of Cebu during the Spanish time. It was considered a separate town.

We were fascinated to learn that the parish of San Nicolas included up to Carcar in the south and Opon in the north. We can only imagine how dusty their Sunday shoes were after all the walking from Carcar to San Nicolas. We think people from Opon rode bancas to go to church.

Another trivia: Tres de Abril — a long street that starts in San Nicolas and ends in Labangon — was named after the famous 1898 Battle of Tres de April led by Leon Kilat. April 3, 1898 was a Palm Sunday. And, just another trivia, we wanted to name our nephew Leon because he was born on April 3, 2014, at the Miller Hospital, which is in Tres de Abril Street. 🙂

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There were only about five young people serving as tour guides inside the church. We think they should create more interactive activities in future years to attract more visitors. But we actually also thought being only one of the few guests gave us more time to talk with the guides and ask questions.

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Statue of San Antonio (made of wood).

The San Antonio statue, according to the guide, is one of the many statues given by the Spaniards to the locals. It is made of wood.

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The original Sto. Nino de Cebu.

One of the highlights of our night at the San Nicolas church was the original Sto. Nino de Cebu. The guide allowed us to touch it. This is the Sto. Nino that is used in the fluvial and end-of-novena processions during the Sinulog week. This is the original Sto. Nino given by the Spaniards to the locals.

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Panesitos and stampita.

Before we left (which was one hour after we started the tour), the organizers gave each of us a pack of panesitos and a stampita with a prayer at the back. The panesitos are unflavored crackers, which, according to the head guide, can be used to treat ailments when you accompany it with the prayer at the back of the stampita. True enough, the panesitos saved us from hunger that night because it was another hour before we were able to finally have dinner.

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Compared to other participating sites and museums, the San Nicolas church display would be considered boring. We think they need to improve it especially because San Nicolas church and the area surrounding it was a crucial government unit before the Spaniards came. The area is historically-rich and we hope the residents realize that, be proud of it, and showcase this pride to other people. The church has been destroyed many times in the past. There are no remnants of the old church, but the feeling of heritage was very visible at our young guide’s voice. That voice should be rightfully proud — after all, San Nicolas is not just one of the oldest pre-Hispanic settlements with a formal structure of government and the site of the first church to be built by the Spaniards, San Nicolas is also the birth place of many great Cebuano men and women.

Ticket Price: P150 (free entrance to all participating venues + bus rides + kalesa rides)

Where to buy: At any participating venues

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