After chasing the waterfalls in Biliran, I went back to Tacloban City for my late afternoon flight back to Manila. Since I still have an hour to burn, I decided to have a side trip to one of the most visited tourist spots in the city. The Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum is one of the 29 presidential rest houses that the late President Ferdinand Marcos built during his term. It is said that former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos had it constructed as the first family’s residence in Tacloban City.
Upon entering the shrine, a chapel will greet you on the ground floor. It is dedicated to the Sto. Niño, a representation of the infant Jesus Christ which is also the patron saint of Tacloban. You will feel like you're entering a church; with the narra pews and the altar welcoming you.
The Italian-imported ivory image of the Sto. Niño is encircled by lighted diamond-patterned glass. Images of St. Remedios stands to its right, and St. Vincent on its left.
On both sides of the shrine, elevated by 2 to 3 steps from the floor are 13 guest rooms. Each room has a variety of concepts representing the different regions of the country. Each with a diorama of the life story of Imelda. Tacloban and Leyte per se is almost synonymous with Imelda. She was born and raised here, hailed as the "Rose of Leyte", and eventually became the First Lady of the Philippines.
There are also several living rooms and a huge dining area. The concept here is like the coconut palace in Manila where materials used were mostly from the said fruit.
On the second floor, there is a huge ballroom where a painting of the former first lady is the centerpiece. Larger than life chandeliers and photos of the first family hung on the walls.
You can also find here the tastefully decorated bedrooms of the first family. One for each member, with additional rooms for their bodyguards and baby sitters.
You will also be mesmerized with their wide collection of antique Chinese jars, priceless art pieces, paintings of noted Filipino artists, Italian sculptures, furnitures, a wooden bas-relief of the legend of "Si Malakas at si Maganda", a multitude of antiques from around the world and more. It was indeed a symbol of extravagance and luxury.
After the tour, I've realized that the Sto. Niño Shrine is not a really shrine. A shrine should be a place for pilgrimage and worship. Needless to say, this is just a mansion that screams majesty, flamboyance and ostentatious lifestyle of the first family.
Still, it’s an interesting site to visit as it tells a lot about the past. It’s well worth the entrance fee for a guided tour. Definitely, a must-see when visiting Tacloban City.
Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum
Address: Real Street, Tacloban City
Contact Details: (053) 321-9775
Schedule: Monday to Sunday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (No Lunch Breaks)
Flat Rate: PHP 60.00 per head for a minimum of 3 persons
Student Rate: PHP 30.00 (Prep to College Students with valid ID, Minimum of 5 students)
Camera: PHP 30.00
Video: PHP 200.00
Tip: If you're going there solo, you will need to pay for the whole amount for the minimum of 3 persons. But to save on cost, you may wait for other tourists to arrive and join them in their guided tour.
This is part of my solo weekend adventure in the province of Biliran last September 3-4, 2011. Dubbed as "undiscovered paradise", I was able to see great sights and panoramas such as waterfalls, islets, hot spring and rice terraces. Biliran is the 35th province on my list and this weekend adventure is my 9th solo trip. A side trip to Tacloban City, Leyte (my 36th province) is an added treat for this great weekend adventure.
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