The Cathedral Museum of Cebu is housed in an imposing bahay-na-bato located in the downtown area in close proximity to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. As it is the ecclesiastical museum of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cebu, it showcases religious architecture and artifacts from the region.
The structure itself can be considered a museum piece. Although no factual information regarding its construction can be found, according to Balaanong Bahandi: Sacred Treasures of the Archdiocese of Cebu, it was probably built by Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon during the mid-1800s. No records are currently available as the archdiocesan archives burned along with the Cathedral and the original Archbishop’s Palace during the trial bombing runs of the U.S. forces in September 1944.
Bishop Marañon was a known church builder. He is credited for designing the Metropolitan Cathedral and various other religious structures in the province of Cebu including the churches in Oslob and Naga, Argao’s bell tower and Sibonga’s convent.
The Cathedral Museum was initially used as the Cathedral Rectory, or as a convent for the priests, before it was used as a campus for the University of San Carlos. In the years before it was transformed into a museum, it was also used as a cooperative store and as a temporary chapel while the Cathedral was undergoing a renovation. The bahay-na-bato is actually one of a few existing structures in the downtown area that survived World War II.
The museum building is a fine example of a bahay-na-bato. This particular architecture is based on the bahay kubo using more durable materials other than the traditional bamboo and nipa or sawali. Its posts are made of hardwood trunks to support the wide hardwood planks used as flooring for the second storey. The second floor has wooden walls and has wide windows, which are made of wood and unique Capiz shells. Before the structure’s roofs were changed to galvanized iron sheets, it boasted of a pitched roof made of “tejas” (baked clay tiles).
The Cathedral Museum re-opened in November 2006. Many of the items that the museum has on display are from the Spanish colonial era.
When you visit the museum, do not be surprised if you find an area where the floor has been excavated. The hollowed space will reveal several layers of flooring. One of which is made up of the distinctive coral stone blocks, which are commonly used materials for old churches built during the Spanish era. You will also find a display of artifacts unearthed in the museum’s vicinity encased in glass, near the hollowed out floor.
You will then be led towards the first exhibit area, which is also called the Msgr. Virgilio R. Yap Memorial Chapel. This area contains the "Carmen collection." The items on display are from the parish of Carmen, which is a town located in the northern part of the Cebu province. It has a pre-Vatican II altar with a tabernacle, several gradas and altar panels, readings written in Latin, and numerous other altar embellishments. The memorial chapel is also frequently used for other special exhibits.
A wide staircase leads to the upper floor, which holds several galleries. The first gallery has photographs and illustrations that depict the growth of the Catholic faith in Cebu. The second gallery contains the memorabilia of His Eminence Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal, which include some prayer books and notebooks. Notable items in the collection are a sample ballot that the college of cardinals use to elect a new pope, vestments worn by Cardinal Vidal during his Episcopal ordination, and a ring, which was given to him by Julio Cardinal Rosales, his predecessor.
The third gallery showcases how churches were constructed during the Spanish era. The exhibit includes photographs and actual materials used in building these churches. The fourth gallery is an exhibit featuring the saints. Among the collection of statues from various parishes is the image of St. Joseph at his deathbed. At the fifth gallery, visitors will see a variety of religious vestments, monstrances, cruets, chalices, ciboriums, and other items used during the Eucharistic celebration and other Roman Catholic sacraments. If you’ve ever wondered what a priest’s bedroom looks like, then wonder no more as the sixth gallery is a sample of one.
If you wish to pay a visit to the museum, the building is located at Manalili Corner P. Gomez Street, Cebu City. You may also give them a call at (032)412-3455. Museum tour fee is Php50 per person and the whole tour may last for about an hour.