St. James the Apostle Parish Church
St. James the Apostle Parish Church

Like all municipalities in Cebu, Compostela has the same religious values of the rest of the island, having gone through several centuries of Spanish rule. The oldest structure that remains visible in the town is the parish church. Its July 25-annual fiesta in honor of Sr. Santiago de Apostol (St. James the Apostle) holds the Compostelanons together as one family under one parish built in 1866. The Spaniards, from whom Compostela followed its religious ways, were also the ones who gave the town its name. 

It is said that the name Compostela was suggested by a Roman Catholic friar, Father Jose Alonzo, who came from the town of Compostela in northwestern Spain. The town of Compostela in Spain was where the remains of St. James de Apostle were found. St. James was one of the apostles and was the first one who became a martyr. He died in AD 44 afer he was stabbed with a sword by the king. He became a patron for pilgrims and it is said that for centuries, the Spanish army rode to battle with the cry “Santiago!”

Among the legends surrounding St. James is the belief that he once brought back to life a boy who was hanged and had been dead for five weeks. When the boy’s father was informed about the miracle, the father dismissed the story as pure nonsense, saying his son was no more alive that the roasted fowl on his table. At this, the cooked bird reportedly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away. 

Compostela in Spain is known for its being a destination for pilgrims who want to see the tomb of St. James. Pilgrims do the “Way of St. James” both as sightseeing and for religious purposes. 

Here in Compostela, Cebu, Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal declared in July 2007 the Compostela Parish Church as an Archdiocesan Shrine, which means that it is also a pilgrim site.  “They don’t have to go outside the Philippines or outside Cebu anymore because there is already a shrine here,” Vidal said in declaring the St. James the Apostle parish church in Compostela town as Cebu’s own “Santiago de Compostela.”

Vidal in 2007 had issued a decree of conferment for our own pilgrim site, the Santiago de Compostela de Cebu. Like in Spain, those who will visit the Compostela Church on specific days will be granted “plenary indulgence.” Pilgrims could also receive “spiritual benefits” if they walk at least one kilometer to the shrine, although the sick and the physically handicapped could just do the “procession” in a vehicle and still receive the “spiritual blessing.” 

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