Although I officially became a churchophile in October 27 of 2004 with a pilgrimage to Obando, I have been in the shadows of churches all my life. Piddig is of course the watershed that created a river of tales which after traversing Cabugao, Pasuquin and Bayombong and intersecting with the down streams of Obando in Umingan, Tayug, Santiago and Sta. Ana emptied in a magical place called Almaguer.
But before my visita iglesia were 4 magnificent colonial churches that heralded my initiation into churchography. During that time, I have always wondered why I seem to be naturally drawn to churches. I am not religious and I don’t go to church but on the road, these magnificent structures would beckon irresistibly. It would be later before I realized why.
I got the chance of visiting Bohol in July of 2003 when I attended a program conference in Panglao Island. Our gracious hosts must have realized that it will be the only chance of seeing the province for most us and dedicated one full day for a “field trip”. Chocolate Hills was of course the first destination then a trip back via the Loboc River in a floating restaurant where we got to see some tarsiers. We also went down Alona Cave (said to have been named after Alona Alegre who once shoot a movie there with FPJ) and dropped by the Sandugo Site where Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Datu Sikatuna did their blood compact. Tired but happy, we were on our way back to the resort when we passed by the Baclayon church. I insisted that we stop. My companions don’t want to but finally relented when I told them that it was where Cesar Montano proposed to Sunshine Cruz.
In 2004, I accompanied Ka Tolits Tambalo --- chair of the national farmers’ group SAKAHAN --- to a trip in southern Philippines for a series of consultations with their provincial affiliates. It was Ka Tolits’ first trip to Cebu City (mine too) and he asked me to show him around. So I found a map and walked our way to the Cebu City Museum, Pres. Sergio Osmena Museum, Casa Gorordo which is said to be the oldest house in the city, and Calle Colon which is the oldest street in Philippines. I planned the route so it will culminate in 2 magnificent colonial era churches: the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilica del Sto. Nino Minore. Nearby is what is said to be the original wooden cross planted by Ferdinand Magellan when he arrived in Cebu in 1521; and Fort San Pedro which said to be the oldest, the smallest and the most well preserved colonial era fort in the Philippines.
From Cebu, we took a brief plane ride to Bacolod City. And while Ka Tolits was having his meeting, I slipped out and found my way to the old cathedral. We had a pala-pala dinner that night on my account as my atonement for “escaping”.
PHOTOS (top to bottom):
BACLAYON, BOHOL. Before Sugbu, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi first landed in Bohol in 1565 where he made the famous Sanduguan or Blood Compact with Datu Sikatuna in what is now the town of Baclayon. Thirty years later, Fr. Juan de Torres (SJ) and Fr. Gabriel Sanchez (SJ) came back, established a Jesuit ecclesiastical mission, and built the first parochial buildings. The present church was built by the Jesuits in 1727. The Augustinian Recollects later conducted improvements (or retouching?) between 1768 and 1801 when they took over the mission.
METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL, CEBU CITY. Cebu was made into a diocese in 1591 three years before being elevated as the first Philippine city. It was one of the first 3 Philippine dioceses along with Nueva Caceres in Naga and Nueva Segovia in Lal-lo. Another church was probably built for the diocese aside from that dedicated to the Sto. Nino. This might be the 2 churches that were reported to have been successively destroyed in the early years of the 18th century. The present church was built between 1730 and 1734.
STO. NINO BASILICA, CEBU CITY. The mission of the Sto. Nino de Cebu was established in 1565 right on the day that the expeditionary forces of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the Augustinian Fr. Andres de Urdaneta set foot on the island. This makes Cebu the first Spanish ecclesiastical mission in the Philippines and probably in Southeast Asia as well. It was elevated as a city in 1594 making it the oldest Philippine city too. In 1561, a Spanish soldier named Juan Camus found an image of the Sto. Nino (that was probably a gift from Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Queen Juana) being venerated by the natives. Fr. Diego de Herrera (OSA) probably built the first church on the site where the image was found. This was razed by fire in 1566, continuously rebuilt between 1605 and 1626 by Fr. Pedro Torres, burned down again in 1628, until Fr. Juan Medina (OSA) finally replaced it with a brick-and-stones building. The church was probably damaged in 1729, defectively repaired in 1731, then probably torn down and replaced by the present structure by Fr. Juan de Albarran (OSA) in 1735. The construction was completed in 1739 with the venerated image of the Sto. Nino finally installed a year later. The church was improved in 1782 and again in 1889 by Fr. Mateo Diez (OSA).
BACOLOD CITY, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL. The mission of Bacolod was probably established by Bishop Mariano Cuartero (OP) in 1756. It was elevated as a city in 1848 making it the 4th in the whole of Negros island at that time. After being assigned to Bacolod in 1871, the Augustinian Recollects built the present church between 1876 and 1882. The church was declared as a cathedral in 1933 and underwent repairs/improvements in 1936.