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Ancient icon to return to Cebu

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cebuawait the return of a centuries-old wooden bust of the crucified Christ called “Ecce Homo” from Manila.

“Ecce Homo” means “Behold the Man” or “Here is the Man,” alluding to the statement of Pontius Pilate in the Gospels when he presented Jesus to the crowd.

The bust is supposedly one of the gifts of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellanto Hara Amihan and Rajah Humabonafter they were baptized Christians in 1521.

Spanish Augustinianfriars brought the image to Manila in 1965 after the Augustinian Filipino province separated from the Spanish province.

The bust has since been kept in the San Agustin Church museum in Intramuros.

“There was a request to return [the sculpture], and our brethren graciously acceded to our request,” said Augustinian friar Tito Soquiño over the weekend.

He said the image will be transported next week to Cebu, where it will be met by Augustinian friars and devotees at the airport.

The sculpture was found in Cebu on August 20, 1572, the day Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi died in Manila.

Spanish soldier Juan de Castilla reportedly found the image inside a coffin while he was digging for the foundation of a house he was building.

The coffin contained the remains of a person identified as Raxa Carli, the Latin translation of Rajah Carlos, the name Humabon took when he was baptized a Christian.

“I am very happy that what belongs to Cebuano heritage is back among us,” said Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, chairman of the Archdiocesan Commission on Worship.

“I grew up venerating that image,” he said.

Iconographer Louie Nacorda said the return of the image to Cebu is important to Philippine history because it signifies the return of a priceless icon where it truly belongs.

“On the spiritual level, its return and public veneration means an additional Christocentric devotion to the Cebuanos,” he said.