First Baptism in Cebu

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The spread of Christianity began in the Philippines with the First Baptism in Cebu and with the subsequent cult following of the Santo Niño de Cebú. The first baptism in the Philippines took place in Cebu in 1521 in honor of the Santo Niño. Rajah Humabon, the ruler of Cebu, together with his wives and subjects, were the first indigenous group to be converted to Catholicism.

After the first baptism, Cebu became the cradle of Christianity in the archipelago and the Philippines became one of the largest Christian countries.

The Discovery of the Philippines

On 16 March 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator, discovered the Philippines while his expedition was trying to find their way to the Spice Islands or Moluccas. Magellan’s ships docked at Homonhon located at Eastern Samar. The Spanish navigator discovered that Homonhon was uninhabited and was rich in gold. However, Magellan heard of an even more prosperous city nearby and so, his ships then sailed to the Gulf of Leyte to Limasawa Island.

The First Baptism in Cebu

Rajah Humabon, together with his officials and Rajah Kolambu, the chieftain of Limasawa, went aboard Magellan's flagship, Trinidad, when it landed on the shores of Limasawa. Magellan shared the Christian faith with the Cebu officials and kept extolling things about Christianity. It made the rulers eager to convert to Catholicism.

On 14 April 1521, a week after Magellan docked at Limasawa, the first baptism took place. Rajah Humabon was baptized as Carlos, named after Spanish King Carlos, while Rajah Kolambu was baptized as Fernando, named after the brother of the Spanish king. Rajah Humabon’s wife, Hara Humamay was given the name Juana, named after Joanna of Castile.

Magellan and the two rajahs also made a blood compact or sanduguan to honor their first treaty of peace and friendship. Furthermore, Magellan honored the conversion of Reyna Juana by giving her an image of the Child Jesus or popularly known as the Santo Niño.

Magellan’s Cross

Main article: [[Magellan's Cross]]

The first baptism signified Rajah Humabon and his subjects’ conversion to Catholicism. To symbolize this important event in the propagation of Christianity in the Philippines, Magellan planted a large cross in Cebu. Records state that Magellan planted a large wooden crucifix to mark Europe and Catholicism’s first contact with the islands.

The 500-year-old cross is now housed inside a small chapel or kiosk located across from the [[Cebu City Hall]] along Magellanes Street, beside the [[Basilica Minore del Santo Niño]]. A mural—done by Jess Roa and Serry M. Josol—can be found on the ceiling of the ornate Spanish pavilion that depicts Magellan erecting the cross. Magellan’s Cross is within a short walking distance from other historic sites of Cebu including [[Fort San Pedro]] and the [[Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral]].

The original cross brought by Magellan is encased in a ''tindalo'' wood cross that stands at the center of the chapel. This was done to protect the original cross from devotees who, believing the cross to be miraculous, started chipping off pieces of it. This is the second most venerated religious relic in Cebu, next to the [[Santo Niño]].


The Arrival Of The Spanish history and timeline”.‘’Insight Guides’’.(Accessed on 10 February 2021).

Magellan's Cross”.‘’Atlas Obscura’’.(Accessed on 10 February 2021).

Tenazas, Rosa C.P. ‘’The Santo Nino of Cebu’’. 1965. San Carlos Publications, Cebu.

Gutierrez, Lucio O.P. “The Christianization of the Philippines: Myth and Reality.” 1976. ‘’Philippiniana Sacra’’. Volume XI — Number 32.



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