Monday, September 5, 2011

Bohol's Century-Old Churches

Being one of the first islands occupied by the Spaniards who brought Christianity as a tool to enslave the Filipino people, Bohol is among the Visayas provinces that possess many old churches in the country. 

I've read a story that Boholanos fed and treated the American soldiers well, so that they will spare the Bohol churches from air strikes, when they flushed out the Japanese forces. If Manila have done the same, the country's capital city could have avoided being flattened by US bombings toward the end of the war in 1945.

The first century-old church we visited in Bohol is the neo-gothic style church of Our Lady of Assumption in Dauis, Panglao island. Built with coral stones, lime, and egg white in 1863-1879 under the supervision of Recoletos priests, it was said to be a miraculous church. 

During an attack of Moro pirates in the town, the townsfolk were entrapped inside the church for their safety, but without any provisions. Then water gushed out from the altar's floor to provide drinking water to the people. The well is still there, producing water up to this day.

Unfortunately, my digicam had lost its battery power by the time we arrived at Dauis church. So the church photos were taken with a camera phone, without much optical zoom and lighting options. Aggravated by a wide rotunda with trees fronting the church, I was not able to get a front whole picture of the church's facade. Below are the photos of the church's front and right side, using 2 scene options.

The dome and the rest of church's ceiling still has colorful paintings by Ray Francia and Canuto Avila in 1923. Must have been very difficult to paint a large area with your head tilted upwards, while fighting acrophobia (fear of heights) at the same time.

The church's nice solid wood pulpit, standing from the floor and not attached to the wall, unlike most old churches.

The miraculous well with drinkable water, according to the church staff who claimed that they regularly send the water samples for laboratory tests. People can get the water free in bottled form, yet donations are also welcome. This water is said to have curable properties.

On the back of the church is an older watch tower built in 1774, to warn against pirates and invaders. The sculpted year and coat of arms is still clearly visible after almost 300 years.

Second church we visited on our second day is the Shrine of San Vicente Ferrer in the town of Maribojoc. The parish was established by Jesuit priests in 1767, then passed to Recoletos priests who had overseen the construction of the current coral stone church, between 1852-1872. 

Below is the facade of the church, with hint of baroque style, but this side is visible only from the inner barrio road and a small community on its left side. To get these front views, I have to enter the church's gate on the left side from the main road.

This is the church view that is visible from the main road. The entrance on the right side of the dome serves as the entrance on ordinary days.

The convent and clock bell tower were built between 1877-1898. It would have been nicer if the clock is still working up to this date. Some stones on the back of the church are starting to peel off, showing that restorations have to be done to preserve the church.

Maribojoc church has large neo-gothic retablos on the main altar which were repaired in 1934.

This church also has nice ceiling murals, depicting the various biblical stories. They were painted by Ray Francia as well on 1930.

They have an intact pipe organ awaiting repairs to become playable again. It was situated on the choir loft along with the old religious artifacts of the church, but I was not able to access the second floor.

The oldest and most beautiful church I've seen in Bohol is the Immaculate Conception Church of Baclayon. Jesuit priests officiated the church's construction on 1727, before its turnover to Augustine Recoletos in 1768.

Like the old churches built to double as a fort against Moro pirates of their time, the church also has massive 1-meter coral stone walls with buttresses, for additional support and "stairs" to the church roof.

The belfry at first looks attached to the church, but its not. It was constructed during the Recoletos' era in 1777. With its height and position fronting the Mindanao sea, it also served as a watchtower. These are west and east views of the church's bell tower.

On weekdays, visitors can access the church from the tabernacle then the adjoining room to the convent (now a museum) which we did not entered anymore. The adjoining room showcase some of the church's old artifacts. 

Aside from its age and well-preserved structure, the church is famous for its dramatic altar, especially when the lightings enhance its aesthetic appeal. The sanctuary has 3 large wooden baroque-racoco retablos, intricately carved and well-preserved.

Above the pulpit on the right side of the dome is the church balcony, where the rich illustrados and Spanish officials hear the mass, separate from the masses. Its one of the best preserved balconies in an old church, in fact the first one I saw in person. 

The only remaining ceiling mural of the church is at the top of the altar. The rest of the church's ceiling has some shades of the light blue paint, proof that there used to be ceiling mural on the whole ceiling, but were later removed as they start to peel after almost 300 years.

The church's floor still has the original colored tiles from Europe when the church was constructed, brought through the galleon ships. 

Their still operational pipe organ assembled in 1824 is the third oldest in the Philippines, after the pipe organs in Las Pinas and San Agustin churches in Manila.

A chronicle of the church's officiating priests since 1727 until 1945.

Outside the church is a small and low lighthouse to guide the fishermen on the mangrove beach area. School children happily consume their packed lunches on this mini-park under the shade of trees. A relaxing and envious sight, than a typical lunch at home or at the office.

The last church we visited is the Santa Monica Church in Alburquerque, a tongue-twisting name of a town after a Portuguese seafarer. Its relatively new as it was built sometime in 1868. Its uniqueness among the old Bohol churches is its lone belfry, built on top of the church's structure at the middle of the main entrance.

Sadly, the church have obviously undergone modern renovation on its front pillars and on its roof. If they have more money and used the same ancient materials (e.g. lime, egg white, molasses, zinc/lead roof sheets, etc.), they would have preserved the church's charm and identity. The church was closed when we arrived, so we were not able to see the church interior, which also has ceiling mural done by Ray Francia.

A bridge connects the church to the convent, crossing a small courtyard. When taking a photo from the convent side, the bridge's posts create an illusion of a continuous wall. 

We went to Loboc river for the lunch buffet cruise afterwards. I would like to see the Loboc church as well, but we've ran out of time.

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