Cebu News

Basilica restoration runs until next year

Jessa Agua - The Philippine Star

CEBU, Philippines - Devotees visiting the Miraculous Holy Child Jesus during this Sinulog will continue to see the ruined belfry of the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

The belfry fell when a powerful earthquake jolted Central Visayas on October 15.

Authorities yesterday announced that the completion of the restoration efforts will be in time for Sinulog 2015.

Next year is also the 450th year of the discovery of the Sto. Niño image locally termed as "Kaplag" and the 50th year of the basilica.

"The intention is to finish in due time for 2015 celebrations," Fr. Harold Rentoria told the media during yesterday's press conference held at the Pilgrim Center.

Rentoria is the chairman of the Commission on Cultural Heritage of the Augustinian Fathers who are managing the basilica.

The restoration design for the fallen belfry will be made available in March which will be presented before the executive committee and the multi-sectoral management team, which supervised the restoration efforts.

A detailed engineering study is also being prepared by a team of experts.

Architect Michael Manalo, director of Escuela Taller, said a conservation master plan will be followed. The master plan is guided by a data provided by experts in the fields of archaeology, engineering and architecture.

Determining the actual value of significant religious structures in Cebu will be done by Escuela Taller's Academics and Workshop coordinator Carmen Bettina Bulaong and her team.

"We will be conducting several interviews. Identifying the cultural significance will determine how to reconstruct the structure," Bulaong said.

Escuela Taller, tapped to get on board in restoring the damaged religious heritage site in Cebu, was also involved in the restoration of Intramuros and other key heritage sites in the country.

Professor Eric Zerrudo, director of Center for Cultural Property and Conservation of Environment in the Tropics, said they intend to create a data access hub where necessary information vital to the restoration project will be banked.

Zerrudo said part of their task as data management team is holding exhibits to make the public understand the specific details of the restoration project.

Rentoria explained that the restoration project involves the entire basilica property and not just the collapsed belfry.

"Restoration includes the entire basilica complex including the arches, fence, inside of the church," he said.

As a means to preserve the basilica, closing the Osmeña Boulevard side of the religious heritage site to vehicular traffic was pushed.

Cebuano heritage advocate Arch. Melva Java of the Preservation and Heritage Research Institute Workshop said that the 2009 Heritage Act provides that historic sites must have a buffer zone that minimizes traffic vibrations.

Apart from heritage and church people, the city government is also considering the move with a pedestrian ordinance now pending at the City Council.

Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella authored the proposed ordinance, which undergoes public hearing this month.

Mayor Michael Rama, for his part, said he is in favor of the move. - /LPM (FREEMAN)

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