THE Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum in Tacloban City will reopen on December 8, one month after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the city, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) announced on Friday.
PCGG Commissioner Richard Amurao said the shrine’s reopening is the Commission’s way of helping Tacloban get back on its feet since tourism is one of the city’s major industries.
Amurao expressed confidence that the reopening will help contribute to the revival of tourism in the city. He said part of the proceeds from entrance fees will be used to support the government’s relief, rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts.
Last year, close to 35,000 people visited the Shrine, which is a two-story building located along Real Street with a floor area of more than 2,000 square meters.
Considered as one of the most frequently visited tourist spots in Tacloban City, the Santo Niño Shrine houses a vast collection of priceless art pieces, antiques, Chinese jars from Ming dynasty, collection of religious Russian icons, ivory figurines, paintings of famous artists, a life-sized figurine of Limahong, Czech chandeliers, Austrian-style mirrors, wood carvings, and other items in brass and native materials including walls and ceilings in narra chips.
The Shrine also has a chapel located at the main entrance, which highlights the image of Santo Niño, wherein a liturgical mass is held once a year during the fiesta of Tacloban City.
At the second floor is a grand ballroom (a replica of the one at the Malacañang Palace) with a huge wooden octopus-like chandelier at the center and clusters of Italian furniture sets. It is said that during its heyday under the Marcos regime, the Shrine could rival the then Malacañang Palace in its grandness.
Amurao also stressed that the Shrine stood out as one of the few structures in Tacloban City least affected by the super typhoon. He said the Shrine incurred minimal damage partly because of preparations made by the PCGG by reinforcing the building’s doors and windows before the super typhoon struck Tacloban City.
Owing to the special place that the Shrine has in the hearts of Taclobanons, there was no report of any looting of the collections found there.
Amurao said their personnel in Tacloban City, despite their own horrible experiences from the typhoon, immediately made an effort to clean the Shrine of mud and debris in time for its re-opening this weekend. Neil A. Alcober