The Cathedral Museum of Cebu: Faith, History and an Old Friend

“My relationship with things antique started when I was young”, Gerard Desquitado reminisced the days when he first served as an altar boy in Bantayan, his hometown. More than a score after, he is now living his dream as an in-house curator/tour guide in the Cathedral Museum of Cebu located near the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral downtown.

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Mr. Gerard Desquitado standing in front of the Cathedral Museum of Cebu

Gerard and seven others run the operation of the museum under the directorship of Father Bryan Brigoli of the Archdiocesan Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church (ACCHC). “What many people don’t know is that choosing artifacts to display in a museum is a critical process”, Gerard said while sitting on a beautiful piece of handcrafted wooden bench in one of the galleries of the museum. “You cannot just bring in anything older than fifty years old, place it in a glass encasement and whip up some story about its origin. A group of specialists has to take into account several factors before deciding to display the artifact or not”, he added. Apparently, submitted items are scrutinized and decided according to their aesthetic value, origin and relevance. A museum artifact has to be visually interesting. It should bear some hints to the artistic mindset and craftsmanship of the time. It also needs to tell a story about the past, and it has to be relevant. Museums choose their niche and they stick to it. The Cathedral Museum of Cebu showcases the religious past of Cebu.

The Cathedral Museum of Cebu

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The museum stands along P. Burgos Street, Cebu City.

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The Museum is an artifact in itself being built in the 19th century. It was designed by Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon — who was also responsible for designing several other churches in Cebu. It was first a rectory, then became a school and now a museum. It is undergoing restoration currently and it is meticulously done in order not to damage its historical integrity.

The Galleries

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This is the receiving hall of the museum.
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This flight of wooden stairs leads to the second story of the museum where more artifacts are displayed.

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Gerard toured us to the galleries of the museums. For more than two years of working as a guide, he has had his fair share of funny moments when guiding a tour. He has had guests asking if the artifacts were old. “Duh, what do you think museums are for?”, he muttered under his breath, of course — don’t worry, he is a professional. It is of utmost importance to follow rules during the tour. The artifacts are definitely hands off as they are delicate, and even the softest of touch may cause irreversible damage.

First Gallery: Msgr. Virgilio Yap Memorial Chapel

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These wooden panels once served as walls to a pulpit years before Vatican II.

This gallery displays traditional Church furnishings such as pulpits, altar panels, vestments, among others. These antique pieces are pre-Vatican II. This was when priests celebrated Tridentine Masses with their backs to the people. You can also see a carriage called orimon which was used to transport priests during processions and other important church activities. The orimon was often carried around by men on foot. It is interesting to note that most of these artifacts came from the parish of Carmen, Cebu.

Second Gallery: The Founder’s Gallery

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All these artifacts tell a story about the retired archbishop of Cebu, His Eminence Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal.

This gallery displays memorabilia of Archbishop-Emeritus Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal. Photos. Medals and certificates in school. Vestments. Letters. You can even find there the ballot he cast nominating Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) to papacy in 2005. This gallery is solely dedicated to tell (or to attempt to tell) the life of the good Cardinal.

Third Gallery: De Cal y Canto

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A panorama of the old Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral as viewed from one of the windows of its convent back then.

This poetic Spanish phrase literally means “of lime and song”. Idiomatically speaking, however, this may mean being firm, being able to last through years just like how limestone buildings and great songs do. In this gallery, a panoramic poster of the old Cathedral surrounds the pieces of limestone, mortar and other materials used in building stone churches back in the day.

Fourth Gallery: A Gathering of Saints

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I do believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

This is, well, a gallery full of statues of saints. There are those that are made of lime, wood and ivory. These statues are amazingly detailed that on a lightless night they can definitely make your hair stand on end. I don’t know about you but I will definitely pass on an opportunity to be alone with these icons of worship after dark.

Fifth Gallery: Regalia of Worship

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The Holy Mass revolves around the story of the turning of bread and wine into the saving Body and Blood of the Christ.

You may find ciboria and chalices gilded in gold, silver and steel in here. There are missals and songbooks on display as well. This gallery is simply a tribute to the Holy Mass.

Sixth Gallery: The Priestly Life

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This is an attempt at giving people a glimpse on how the ordained live his daily life. There is even a sample bedroom of a priest displayed — or, at least, it is what it is trying to portray.

Seventh Gallery: A Walk Among The Bells

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This is actually outdoors. You have to get out of the museum and head to the backyard. There, among the trees, do stand proud several bells which have defied the tests of time. And, they come with names too according to which saints they were dedicated to on the day they first rang.

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Gerard was generous enough to spare us some of his time and indulge us in some informative conversation. As it turned out, Gerard just came from a restoration drive sanctioned by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). He went to Dalaguete checking on the restoration of the ceiling paintings in the Parish Church of San Guillermo. This drive started after the big earthquake hitting the Visayas which destroyed the magnificent churches in Loboc and Baclayon in 2013.

Gerard happily shared his experiences in those trips. He said that the most rewarding experience out of the trip is seeing life again in those faded and aged pieces of art.

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Gerard in one of his excursions to the churches in the south. He dubbed this “buhay kisame”. This photo is taken from his Facebook profile.
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Photo courtesy of Gerard Desquitado.
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Photo courtesy of Gerard Desquitado.

“It was a good start but we still have much to cover”, he exclaimed. The museum is accepting donations in funding the massive restoration project which they are working on.

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The museum is also an amazing venue for events such as weddings, parties, among others. You may call 412-3455. For walk-in visits, entrance fee to the museum is Php 50 per person only. Please share. By doing so, you are already contributing much to the cause. 

 

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