While the province of Bohol houses one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, I didn’t expect that there will be too many churches (and even chapels) that are worth the visit. I recall one of my random conversations with a local who lives in Balicasag Island that Boholanos, regardless of their status quo, feel that they are very blessed because of their flourishing faith. Hence, they are protected from typhoons (although I think that it’s a combination of faith + mountains that shield them) and other untoward events. And it follows that there are Bible verses marked on all the tricycles in Bohol. However, we have managed to squeeze in to our schedule a visit only to a couple of immaculate and classic churches.
- DAUIS CHURCH (Church of Our Lady of the Assumption)
My visit to Dauis Church was memorable because it was the first church in Bohol I’ve stepped in. Since my good friend’s wedding was solemnized there, all the more that it will be painted in my memory.
Dauis Church is wrapped by humility. It is very straightforward on the outside, but the interior is full of character. Its architecture is a combination of Byzantine and Romanesque influences. The painting on the ceiling was done by Ray Francia in 1916. I’ve tried searching for pre-renovation photos (1970) to compare; however, I found none (yet). But whatever extent of improvements have been made, I think that its current state is remarkable because it retained its immaculate yet old look feel. I’ve seen churches which became totally different and modernized after the renovation that will make you wish for a time machine so that they might reconsider to maintain a large amount of details of the old architecture.
At the altar is an image of Virgin of the Assumption, its patron saint. There’s an interesting legend which has been passed on from one generation to the other. Its patron saint is said to possess miraculous powers. When the town was invaded by pirates, the people of Dauis locked themselves into the church. However, they soon ran out of provisions and water. Then a miracle occurred: a well appeared at the foot of the altar. This same well is still the main source of water for the people living close to the church, and, although the well is only a few meters from the sea, the water is absolutely fresh. The water is said to have healing powers.
Since we visited there for the wedding and immediately proceeded to the venue of the reception after the ceremony, I didn’t get to inspect the miraculous well which is situated at the foot of the altar (covered by a trapdoor) and the bottles of miracle water made available after tending a donation. The water, until now, is believed to have healing power.
That one Saturday in December of last year was really momentous as I, our friends and colleagues from my previous job witnessed the celebration of marriage of this beautiful couple. They sent pink balloons up there to enjoin the father of the bride who is now in heaven.
BACLAYON CHURCH (Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception)
Alright, I’d go a little showbiz. I learned about Baclayon Church and the town itself when the actor Cesar Montano proposed to (now his wife) Sunshine Cruz. (However, he was unsuccessful in his attempt to be the governor of Bohol in the most recent election). This church became more popular as it was fronting the pier – lighthouse where the proposal happened.
As you go inside, you will feel that the church is really charmingly old. How’s that for something Jesuit-built in the 15th century? However, it became a parish only in 17th century. The altar has a remarkable display of retablos.
What’s equally interesting are the materials used in the construction of the church: coral stones taken from the sea which were cut into squares block and piled, bamboo to move and lift the stones in position, and white of a million eggs to cement everything together, with a total of 200 native laborers (what a team!).
I liked that each piece inside the church speaks the tests of time and faith of the Boholanos. It entails a huge amount of hardwork to preserve all these.
We also learned, but didn’t get to see, about the dungeon which is believed to have served as the punishment area for the natives who were non-compliant with the rules of the Roman Catholic church. If that was the time of the first Spanish mission in the region, you can surmise the initial resistance of people to changes.
Outside the church, there is the shop that offers religious souvenirs and other items, including these colorful candles. And as they say, try to light a candle to accompany the prayers. (Just as the incense sticks are used by Buddhists and other believers.) Interestingly, the color coding follows the concept of votive candles. That is, when someone prays something in particular, either for himself or on behalf of someone else.
There is an old kumbento (convent) in which the second level has been converted into a museum. This is where we spent more time. They charge P25 for each visitor, which I think is very reasonable when you think of the maintenance and the things that you’ll see inside.
While non-flash photography is allowed in some museums, they strictly implement a no photo taking policy in Baclayon’s. This photo of the santos (images of saints) were taken before we went up to the museum. If you are not used to stepping in to very old houses, you will probably get a little shock of the occasional creeking of the wooden floors as you walk (aka tip toe). You will be unmindful of that, anyway, as you get to see the several artifacts and hundreds year-old religious relics. The most unforgettable pieces for me were the books with carabao skin covers, lyrics sheets written in Latin, and ivory statues. With these gems in the museum, it is understandable that they prohibit the photo taking to avoid further theft. It was recounted that a stolen image of St. Blaise, the patron saint for ailments of the throat, was returned by a buyer who hailed from Metro Manila two years later. If you were the antique buyer, will you do the same?
(The moment we exited the museum, my itchy hands managed to click my trusted P & S camera’s shutter once just to capture the church’s view from there.)
I think that Baclayon church itself is already a museum. However, I suggest that you visit the museum for a wider appreciation of the history and the legacy of its founders and everyone else who were involved. Just a warning though, there is a dress code in the church and in the museum. I don’t know how strict they are in implementing this because no one interfered with my entry although I was wearing shorts (apparently, we dropped by there the same day we visited the Chocolate Hills and the freaky cute tarsiers). However, I noticed that the other visitors were handed a scarf/cloth to cover themselves.
If you will visit Bohol and you are fond of old churches, try to allot ample time to see the (at least) 32 beautiful Catholic churches which have their own charm.
0 thoughts on “The beauty of old churches”
Haven’t been there, but Bohol is definitely a must-go-see for me.
.. i was able to visit all the old churches in ilocos back in the late 90’s when i was assigned to work there, the one’s in bohol that you posted are stunningly beautiful.
.. i have a flight ticket to tagbilaran this coming july on my next days off, i hope i’ll make it to visit bohol (i often get lazy) and will certainly check out those old churches. 🙂
Don’t miss the July flight!
ang ganda nung dauis church. parang medieval ang dating! 🙂
wow! ang ganda naman ng church nila doon. parang ang sarap ikasal don ah. hehehe.
good your site is up again.
hayyy missed this. was to be in bohol this week kaso can’t leave due to deadlines for april 15. hayyy. ang ganda ng Dauis church. and the photo of the bride and groom hehehe i know them :p
wow, Dauis Church is beautiful! i’ve been to Baclayon Church but not in Dauis. the facade and the interiors are gorgeous. one more reason to revisit Bohol.:p
Hi wits! Love you photos, as usual 🙂 Too bad I missed seeing Dauis church when I was in Bohol. Hopefully we can go back soon. Btw, did you see the statue of San Lazaro in Baclayon church’s musuem? Haha. It totally freaked me out.
Yes, I noticed that. But maybe I was too piqued by others that it was too late to notice that it was freaky. Haha.
The Nomadic Pinoy
At the time of our visit, they did enforce the dress code in Baclayon church so my sister had to “rent” a shawl since she was wearing sleeveless shirt. Which I completely respect – after all, we are visiting a house of worship.
On our way back to Amorita, we did pass by Dauis church since my mom wanted to see the miraculous well. However, there was an ongoing Requiem Mass so we didn’t bother going inside.
They also asked my cousin to cover her arms.
wow to Dauis church! very beautiful facade. not the usual actually. havent seen that church yet. first to see it here.
so impressive, both churches are. these are the kind of churches that are so lacking in california. i hope the churches remain as they are. love this post.
32 churches! Bohol must be big… all the more I want to visit…and light a pink candle =)
although i wasn’t raised a roman catholic, i adore catholic churches. not only do these churches have the mind-blowing architecture, but it is a quiet place for meditation and prayer. i would like to visit some of these wonderful churches one day!
beautiful churches . those darker shots inside the church are really pretty. Love the balloon shots too 🙂
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that was all stunning!! how i wish I can go to ilocos someday…really relic 😉 nice photos by the way!! 😉