Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Old Church of Basey in Samar

The town of Basey in Samar is known for its caves and rock formations in the Sohoton National Park. On the same park is the Panhulugan Cave, an ambush site during the Filipino-American War, when the Filipino guerillas were chased by the Americans after the Balangiga massacre. The Guinness Book of World Records recognize the Basey town for creating the longest "banig" or woven mat.

The above St. Michael Archangel Church of Basey adds to the colorful history of the town. Built by the Jesuit priests on the late 17th century, it is one of the most beautifully preserved church in Samar. It was transferred to the care of Augustinians in 1768, then to Franciscans in 1795. It served as meeting room and theater during the Japanese occupation, then a relocation site during the American liberation.

The church sits on a hill that overlooks the Golden River and San Juanico strait, making its strategic location as natural watchtower against invaders. There are remnants of fortified walls on its perimeter, perhaps it doubled as a fort to protect the local people from Moro pirates as well.

It has two floors, but it is not discernible when looking at its facade, something that is uncommon on colonial churches. Unfortunately, it was closed during my visit, so I was not able to see its murals of biblical characters on its ceiling. The adjoining belfry is a later addition in 1846, according to its wall engraving.

Going around the Basey downtown for tourists without their own wheels can be done via pedicabs (bicycle with sidecar), with fare of Php 4/passenger. For long trips, habal-habal (motorcycle) can be hired for negotiated fare. An ingenious feature of their motorcycles here is an improvised roof with bamboo frame. See the photo below.

Another century-old church added on my list of nice churches in the country. :)

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