The Santo Niño de Leyte Shrine along Commonwealth Avenue is a very inconspicuous edifice, located in overgrown grassy lot, right beside the towering Iglesia Ni Cristo Lokal Ng Commonwealth (Church of Christ Local Parish of Commonwealth). Erected in 1981, the shrine was established by natives of the province of Leyte, who had migrated to Quezon City.
The shrine is dedicated to the Santo Niño de Tacloban, miraculous image of the Christ Child, who is the patron saint of the province of Leyte. In the shrine is a replica of the Santo Niño (Holy Child), whose devotion started in 1768, when Augustinian priests from Cebu took over the administration of the faith in Tacloban, after the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Philippines. The city of Tacloban was first called Kankabatok, after the natives of the area, and the locality was renamed after the taklub (crab catching pens) in the area. As for the creation of the image of the Santo Niño de Tacloban is not documented, it was patterned after the Flemish made Santo Niño de Cebú, which the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-521) had given to Rajah Humabon and his wife Hara Humamay, when Magellan landed in Leyte, in 1521. The miracle of the Santo Niño de Tacloban came from an incident when the image was lost at sea in 1888, while the image was being transported back to Tacloban after it was restored in Manila. During the months of absence of the image, the town of Tacloban was stricken by a cholera epidemic. As the people suffered, news of a crate labeled “Santo Niño, Patron han Tacloban” floating of the shores of Mindoro. And in June 1889, when the Tacloban officials retrieved the image and returned it to Tacloban, the cholera epidemic miraculously disappeared, and thus enforcing the people’s devotion to the Christ Child.
The chapel of the Santo Niño de Leyte was designed by Arch. Jorge Ramos, as approved by then First Lady Imelda Romuáldez Marcos (born 1929), who was also hailed from Leyte. The chapel is a simple open-aired structure, with wrought iron gates that both act as protection for the sacred images, as we as an aesthetic accent to the building. However, the exact beauty of the structure cannot be appreciated, as a galvanized sheet roofed hall engulfs the façade. This extension hall was built to accommodate the many worshipers who come to the shrine, while a newer concrete office was erected at the back.
Arch. Jorge Yatco Ramos (born 1937) graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, and was catapulted to international fame, as he designed many of the public edifices during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, during the 1970s and 1980s. However while fresh out of college, Arch. Ramos experimented with various form of designs and materials; where he even collaborated with the National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva, on the locally made Ang Tibay Shoes, while both were still starting out. Ramos took inspiration from the traditional cultures of the Philippines, which he incorporated into his designs, such as incorporating the okkir floral motif of the Maranao people in the structural forms of the Quiapo Golden Mosque (with Arch. Felipe Mendoza, 1976), the conical Fale house of the Ifugao people in the Baguio Convention Center (1978), the Spanish era Bahay na Bato house in Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino (1981), and the cascading Payaw rice terrace of the Ifugao with GSIS Building (1982), which he garnered the Passive Solar Award, at Knoxville International Energy Exposition, USA. One of his most noted and innovative works is the Philippine Heart Center, which was inaugurated on Valentine’s Day, 1975. On the inauguration day, Arch. Ramos release his book “Malakas at Maganda”, which was dedicated to Pres. Marcos and the First Lady Imelda. In 1983, Arch. Ramos received the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan, from the City of Manila. 1984, Arch. Ramos emigrated to the USA, where he practiced for more than 20 year, until his return to the Philippines to work with the Japanese architect, Kenzō Tange, on the Discovery Primea, which was completed in 2013. The partnership with Tange for the Discovery Primea led to Ramos establishing the Wishwood Development Corporation.
Presently there is a movement among the devotees of the Santo Niño de Leyte Shrine, to elevate it to a parish, with the building of a new church. Although no construction has started, the fund raising and appeals to the Diocese of Novaliches has already begun. And based on the initial designs, the new parish features the Baroque style that was prevalent during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines (1565-1898), which reminds the faithful of the historical significance of the Santo Niño de Tacloban.