How the Basílica Minore del Santo Niño bell tower collapsed


Basilica_del_Santo_Niño_EarthquakeOn Tuesday morning at around 8:12am, a tectonic 7.2 magnitude earthquake, with depth of 33 kilometers, hit the Visayas Islands which lasted for about a minute.

The quake was recorded from two to five kilometers southeast of Carmen town Bohol, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and the United States Geological Service reported.

Latest recorded casualties have already reached 155, with 291 persons injured and 23 missing.

Since Tuesday morning, the recorded aftershocks of lesser is already 815, and is expected to continue to occur until three months, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs) said.

Historic churches were among the many damaged buildings in Bohol and Cebu, one of which is the oldest Roman Catholic church in the country, the Basílica Minore del Santo Niño, where it’s bell tower collapsed last Tuesday.

Church goers were reportedly inside the basilica when Cebu was hit by the earthquake, and one of them was able to capture on video when the bell tower collapsed.

Click here for the video:

The first Basilica Minore del Santo Niño was built in 1566 by Fr. Diego de Herrera using wood and nipa in the site where the image of the Holy Child was found.

The image is the same statue given by Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of Rajah Humabon as a gift over forty years before after Humabon’s baptism to Christianity on April 14, 1521. It was found by a soldier preserved in a burnt wooden box after Legazpi razed the village of hostile natives.

The first church was destroyed by fire, and then another church was built in 1605 by Fr. Pedro Torres. He started the construction of a new church, again made of wood and nipa.

It was finished in 1626 but was again burned in 1628.

In 1628, Fr. Juan Medina started the construction of another church, on the same spot, using stone and bricks, a great innovation at that time. The construction was stopped because the structure was found to be defective – the bricks used seemingly “melted” upon contact with air.

In February 29, 1735, Father Provincial Bergaño, Governor-General Fernando Valdes, Bishop Manuel Antonio Decio y Ocampo of Cebu and Juan de Albarran Prior of the Santo Niño, started the foundations of the present church, using stone.

The stones were quarried from Capiz and Panay by an army of bancas. The molave wood came from the mountains of Talisay and Pitalo and was transported in bancas hired in Argao and Carcar. Fr. Albarran confessed that there was much difficulty in quarrying the stones.

Despite the seemingly impossible task, Fr. Albarran was not discouraged. He used white stones to make the lime, with one banca transporting some 400 pieces of stones. There was also another obstacle: the lack of chief craftsmen and officers which forced Fr. Albarran to acquire some knowledge of architecture.

A lot of help came. Fr. Antonio Lopez, prior of San Nicolas, assisted also together with the people of his district.

The residents of Talisay also did four weeks of work and Fr. Francisco Aballe also tried to help with his parishioners from Mactan.

The present chuch was completed in 1740, and is believed to have all the characteristics of a solid construction to withstand all the earthquakes. And true enough, the church withstood all earthquakes, excluding it’s bell tower which collapsed last Tuesday after Cebu was hit with 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

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