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Beyond Faith: St. Joseph’s Cathedral and Belfry, Romblon

In Search of Paradise - 

The Island Province of Romblon is situated at the very heart of the Philippine Archipelago. Known the world over for its world-class quality marble, Romblon has maintained its natural landscape of tropical rainforest, rugged mountain terrains, white sand beaches, and clear pristine waters amidst the influx of advanced technology and modernization. Romblon is rich not just because of nature’s bounty, but also in its cultural and traditional heritage. Its people are known to be religious, warm and fun-loving. A great testament to these are the year-round festivities in the province; vibrant, colorful, and full of passion.

The Church is an assembly of people professing their faith and worship regardless of the place and religion that one practices. It is a place of solemn prayer in the light of both the good and bad times. Though it is quite ironic that most would just point out to a building or structure that they identify themselves with when asked which Church they go to, sometimes having strong faith is all that matters to get through life’s endless tribulations.

A 15th century basilica in the Municipality of Poblacion, Romblon was declared as National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines under the National Heritage Act of 2009 by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and the National Museum of the Philippines. Saint Joseph Cathedral and Belfry was constructed through the combined efforts of artisans in that era headed by the Augustinian Recollects.

A masterful work of art, the main structure was formed using materials such as stone bricks, limestone and coral blocks which are abundant natural resources of the province. In combination with the stained-glass windows, religious paintings, a Byzantine altar, Baroque-style retablos, marble
blocks and antique icon collections, one cannot dismiss that eerie feeling of being in the colonial times; something which seems to emanate from the structures themselves. The intricate carvings on the pillars and altars serve only to highlight the revered images of the saints and of the Blessed Mother Mary; but none seems to shine the most other than the Señor Santo Niño de Romblon.

This image of the Child Jesus has been venerated for centuries by locals and devotees alike. Why? If you lived among the locals and asked around, you would hear countless tales of miracles both big and small; running from the time the Señor Santo Niño de Romblon was crafted, up to the present time.

From stories of old, Augustinian friars commissioned master craftsmen to replicate the image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu and was to be brought to Madrid thereafter. The galleon transporting the image made a stopover at Romblon en route to Spain. However, the ship was kept at bay from leaving the port by a storm; forcing them to bring the image of the Child Jesus to the local church. After offering Holy Mass, they prepared the image for boarding on the galleon, but lo and behold! They cannot budge the relic and became rooted in its place. The people saw this as a sign that the Santo Niño has chosen Romblon and its church as his new home.

Another account relates how Romblon was saved from bombing of Japanese planes during the 2nd World War. It was said that the Señor Santo Niño called forth a cloud-cover over so thick that the Japanese pilots failed to locate the province on their bombing mission. On the present day, Romblon
was on the path of destruction of Super Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan), only to veer away and change its course, thus saving the province and its people from tragic devastation.

The Belfry (bell tower) outside the church is undeniably a structure of the foregone era. Also built from stone bricks and coral blocks gathered in the surrounding area, it proudly contains the original old copper bell used during its construction between 1640 and 1726.

St. Joseph Cathedral and Belfry is just one of many heritage sites that are rich in history and tradition which the Province of Romblon can offer. To maximize your future stay on this island paradise, try to plan ahead and schedule your vacation wisely like January’s Biniray Festival in honor of Señor Santo Niño de Romblon, for a fun-filled and memorable holiday!

In Search of Paradise is a travel documentary highlighting the exotic places, heritage sites and travel destinations in the Philippines. Its aim is to provide a distinct view of man’s architectural masterpieces, as it is embraced by nature’s finest. The views presented herein are facts from the actual travel experiences by the author, interviews from local residents, and other documentation (historic or otherwise) about the chosen topic. It gives every reader a fresh and genuine insight that is unique on its own. Discover the beauty and grandeur of the Islands of the Philippines. Give us your thoughts about each article.

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