Forty six years after it was brought to the San Augustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, the four century-old bust of the suffering Jesus Christ known as the “Ecce Homo” or “Behold the Man” came home to Cebu yesterday.
Encased in glass, the ivory sculpture believed to be the one given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Rajah Humabon in the 16th century arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport at 2:30 p.m.
Augustinian priests and devotees welcomed the image which was placed on a red pickup decked with red anthuriums and white orchids. The bust was transported to the Plaza Independencia in downtown Cebu City where it was greeted by Sinulog dancers.
A foot procession then headed towards the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino where the image was originally kept from 1572 to 1965.
As the bells of the basilica pealed, hundreds of devotees applauded and waved red and yellow flaglets as the Ecce Homo was brought inside.
“Since it was found in Cebu, it should stay here. It will remain in Cebu which is the sanctuary of Catholic faith,” said Rev. Fr. Eusebio Berdon, OSA, Prior Provincial of the Santo Niño de Cebu Province.
In 1965, the image was brought to the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila. The Cebu Archdiocese through Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal worked to recover the valuable image.
The Ecce Homo was originally founded with human remains believed to be that of Rajah Humabon on Aug. 20, 1572.
In an interview last week, Vidal said he was happy with the image’s return to Cebu as a continuation of Cebu’s cultural heritage.
The Ecce Homo “marked the beginning of Christianization in the Philippines,” Vidal said.
Negotiations for the return started two years ago. Fr. Berdon said Augustinian counterparts in Manila decided to return the Ecce Homo to Cebu City for public veneration.
Yesterday, a re-enactment of the discovery of the Ecce Homo was done before the start of a Mass officiated by Rev. Fr. William Araña, OSA, Regional Superior of the Augustinian Vicariate of the Orient.
Fr. Berdon read a document which attested that the image was found in Cebu and brought to Manila during the Fourth Christianization of the Philippines in 1965.
The image had a wooden crown of thorns around its head. However, the crown of thorns appeared brittle, prompting the Augustinians to remove it.
The crown of thorns was replaced with a potensiya (a Tagalog word for power or potency) or a wooden crown representing three rays of the sun.
With its return to Cebu yesterday, the Augustinans restored the crown of thorns around the head of the bust of Jesus Christ.
The face and head of the original Ecce Homo is made of ivory. It’s body, however, had to be changed to wood after it was destroyed.
“It’s very delicate. When we restored it, we had to use wood from Spain. We also sought the assistance from an expert museum curator,” Fr. Berdon said.
For now the Ecce Homo is placed in a glass urn in the main altar of the basilica for public veneration.
Plans ahead call for building a marble niche with bullet proof glass to secure the image.
Aug. 20 has been desiganted the feast day of the Ecce Homo, said the basilica rector Fr. Rodolfo Bugna, OSA. Starting next year, the image will be brought out of the Church for a solemn procession.
In his homily Rev. Fr. Asis Bayao, rector of the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, said the Ecce Homo should remind the faithful about Jesus who suffered and died on the cross for the salavation of all.
“Ecce Homo” is Latin for “Behold the Man,” the words spoken by Roman official Pontius Pilate when he presented Jesus before the crowd.
Cebuanos see a wooden replica brought out every January during the feast of the Sto. Niño. The bust accompanies the fluvial parade of the Holy Child down the Mactan Channel.
“The image is a fitting reminder that Christ did not remain a child but grew up to be the suffering servant who conquesred death by rising on the third day,” said Msgr. Cristobal Garcia, chairman of the Commission on Worship.
In history accounts, the Ecce Homo was presented to Cebu’s chieftain King Humabon who was known as “Carlos” after his baptism. The ivory bust was found in Cebu on Aug. 20, 1572, the same day that Miguel Lopez de Legaspi died in Manila. It was found on the chest of a rajah believed to be Humabon.