Contractor to finish belfry before Sinulog
By the time Cebuanos and pilgrims celebrate the feast of the Child Jesus next month, the Basilica del Sto. Niño in downtown Cebu City will have a complete bell tower.
Fr. Jonas Mejares, rector of Cebu’s oldest church, said the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) will formally turnover the bell tower to the Augustinian fathers on Jan. 23, 2016.
“That means they (NHCP) are very confident that the restoration of the belfry will be finished before that date. In fact, the contractor told me that they are doing their best to complete everything before the year ends,” he told reporters.
The restoration work was done by 401 Development and Construction Corporation after they won the bidding in the middle of the year.
Reconstruction work, supervised by the NHCP, began in July.
After evaluation and inspection, Mejares said experts decided not to return all the coral stones from the old bell tower that collapsed during the 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15, 2013.
Instead, the contractor is using cement as a foundation of the new bell tower. The concrete walls and beams are clad with coral stones so it will closely resemble the old belfry.
“The inner part of the new bell tower is modern. But its outer features will look the same as the old one,” Mejares said.
While the basilica’s facade will be restored to its original design, he said not all seven bells will be reinstalled.
“The biggest bell will no longer appear on the tower. It shall be removed because it poses risks during earthquakes due to its weight. Only the six smaller bells shall be reinstalled there,” Mejares explained.
Mejares said he was happy with the restoration work.
The same contractor restored the churches of Santa Barbara and Miag-ao in Iloilo.
NHCP appropriated less than P20 million to restore the basilica’s bell tower.
Mejares said Sto. Niño devotees sent financial donations for the reconstruction work. The money was also used to rehabilitate the entire basilica, including the fences.
The basilica is the home of the centuries-old wooden image of the Child Jesus which was given as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Queen Juana in 1521.
The original church was founded in 1565, but the current structure, which is made of coral stones, was finished not later than 1739.
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