Santo Niño Shrine and Museum

Tacloban’s Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum is one of many rest houses that the late President Ferdinand Marcos had built for his family. It was constructed for his wife, Former First Lady Imelda Marcos, as a summer palace in which the presidential family would spend in. The museum hosts several expensive art pieces, painting collections and intricate ivory carvings; all excesses from the Marcos years. 

The opportunity to visit the Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum came from an invitation by Ronnie Ramirez. It was upon his suggestion that we should make the Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum our first stop, it being the cultural highlight of Tacloban. You’ll be asked to pay two hundred pesos ($4.50) for entry fee and another thirty pesos for every camera that you’d bring. I brought my X100s with me, so that meant I had to pay extra. Upon entry, you’d be greeted by the shrine of the Sto. Niño, which was surprising considering how massive it was.

The guide started her spiel on why and how the mansion was built. The tour took around an hour taking you each room of the Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum and Heritage Museum. We found out that each room was a representation of a specific region in the Philippines. The elements that was used to make each room were sourced from the region’s native materials. One room was made from abaca, another from bamboo and others based on the region it represents. Each room had their own identity. The only constant would be a portrait of the late president and a diorama of of the first lady. The whole Romualdez Musuem was adorned by chandeliers from Czech Republic, mirrors and wine holders from Austria, and massive floor carpets from Argentina. It was magnificent showcase of the massive wealth and lavish taste of the Marcoses.

The Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum's masters bedroom adorned with Czech chandeliers and Austrian furniture.
The Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum’s masters bedroom adorned with Czech chandeliers and Austrian furniture.

It was clear that once upon a time the Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum was breathtaking. At first glance, it won’t seem that way. It was poorly maintained and some of the precious items inside were already ruined. It makes you wonder if we Filipinos have a sense of historical or cultural preservation considering that this is not the only heritage site that was in this dilapidated state.

Bong Bong Marcos's room in Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum with his collection of international and local currency.
Bong Bong Marcos’s room with his collection of international and local currency.

Nevertheless, the tour of the museum was worth the two hundred pesos that we paid for. We hoped that the proceeds went into the careful preservation of this site. I still want to return to Tacloban, specifically the Santo Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum, especially after Typhoon Yolanda. I’ve seen several photos of area after the storm surge, most of which were around the museum’s grounds. I’d like to photograph it again, with the same camera, shooting at the same angles and showing a side by side comparison.

Note: If you want to use the images of the museum for non-commercial purposes, don’t just grab it without my permission. Just send me a message, I’ll be happy to help.