The affected building with the greatest Augustinian focus is the centuries-old Basilica del Sto. Niño (Basilica of the Holy Child) in Cebu. The limestone bell tower of the church, the latest version of which was built in 1735, was destroyed in the quake. It had been constructed of a material that was a porous coral-based limestone that had endured previous earthquakes, and attempts had been made to preserve it, but this time the tower did not withstand the earthquake; it crumbled and all but one of its bells fell to the ground.
Photos: One before and two after the earthquake.
The Basilica’s rector Fr. Jonas Mejares O.S.A. was celebrating mass when the earthquake struck. He said it was fortunate that the incident happened on a holiday and in the morning.”Had it happen on a Friday (devotion day) or a Sunday, it could have been worse. God is so good. Wala nahuman ang misa kay nanagan na man ang mga tawo pagawas,” he said. This typhoon in the southern Philippines caused nowhere near the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan on the Central Philippines three weeks later on 8th November; even so, the people of Cebu will remember its destruction for a long time.A formal archaelogical and architectural assessment of the damage to the Minor Basilica was completed in March 2014, and plans will now be drawn that both preserve the historical features of the building and provide safety for its worshippers. This twofold task is made more difficult and more expensive because the coral-based stone blocks originally used are not as strong as and are more pourous than modern building materials, hence blending the old with the new will be an architectural and an engineering challenge.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 kept. He added that part of the task as data management team is holding exhibits to make the public understand the specific details of the restoration project.
The restoration project involves not just the collapsed belfry but the entire basilica complex including the arches, fence, inside of the church. As a means to preserve the basilica, closing the Osmeña Boulevard side of the religious heritage site to vehicular traffic was being recommended. pushed. The Cebu heritage advocate and architect, 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.
It is hoped that repairs will be completed before the next annual Sto. Nino fiesta in January 2015. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño is the oldest church in the Philippines.