A Day at the Southern Cebu Heritage Trail

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I should probably be shuddering right now while I write this post about religious heritage sites in Cebu. No, I'm not an atheist but my mom fondly calls me an erehes because I haven't gone to church lately. I was once a devout Christian though, raised and taught under the auspices of our Church, but I happen to have other things in my mind after I moved out. October 13 was an exception. And my mom has nothing to do with it.

I packed my gears once again to visit some of Southern Cebu's religious heritage sites, together with some of the city's finest photographers (me excluded) for the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk event, spearheaded by Dan Brian GeronaMichael Ocana, and the rest of the Istorya.net Photography Club (IPC).

Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church
Our first heritage site stopover was the Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church, which was built in 1859 under the leadership of Father Antonion Maglano. The church, with the Greko-Roman inspired architecture, sits proudly on top of one the hills in the "heritage city" of Carcar.

At first, we thought it was closed but we were able to go inside from the side of the church. Some say that the church was also inspired by Islamic architecture but I did not see any resemblance of it inside or outside the church either but this one is truly different from the other churches we visited. Probably because of the chicharon.

Tip: If you happen to visit this church, drop by at Carcar's rotunda and buy the famous Carcar chicharon

Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church
Our next stop was the little town of Sibonga to visit the Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church. I've been passing this church every time I go somewhere down south (usually to Dumaguete City) but this was my first time to go inside the church premises.

The church was built around 1846-1868 but it was only in 1881 that it was finished under the leadership of Father Enrique Magas. From the outside, it looks like it was built using stacked "lego" bricks but the inside is far more different. The ceiling has a huge, well-preserved fresco painting depicting various biblical scenes. Gave me goosebumps.

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist
Our last stop in the morning was the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist located in the hilly part of Simala, Cebu, where people from all walks of life go on a pilgrimage to pray to the miraculous Blessed Virgin Mary. Some say that they got cured from their sickness while others say that if you pray fervently, your prayers will be answered. 

I guess that explains the number of people I saw when we arrived at around 11 in the morning.

I don't know much of the church's history but it seemed to have been built only recently. From the outside, the entire church grounds looked like a theme park to me. Some parts in the church grounds are undergoing construction — a castle, I heard, and a few extensions to the main structure — but once you go inside, the church transforms from the flat, concrete structure to a golden place of visual treat filled with people. 

The left photo above shows a common sight inside Philippine churches — people praying and of course, those who can't live without their cellphones.

Saint Michael Archangel Church
After we had our lunch at Carmen's Carinderia in Argao, we headed to our next stop, Argao Plaza, where the Saint Michael Archangel Church stands for more than two hundred years. The rococo inspired church was built in the 1780s during the time of Father Francisco Espina.


We didn't have the chance to go inside the church since there was a funeral going on so we spent our time taking shots around the plaza and the famous bell tower that stands at the side of the church but just like the man in the casket, we had to move on.

Tip: When you go to Argao, be sure to take home their famous torta  de Argao. 

Nuestra Senora Patrocinio de Maria Church
Our next stop was the Nuestra Senora Patrocinio de Maria Church in Boljoon. A little history about this church: it was built in the 1780s shortly after the Augustinians took over when the Jesuits abandoned Boljoon due to the lack of personnel. 

The church was built from solid stones and the original tiles made of clay can still be seen inside the church. The ceiling of the church also has intricate paintings (as seen above) and at the right side of the church hall is the baptistery (center photo), which has a painting of what appears to be a Filipino being canonized by the Church — perhaps Pedro Calungsod?

Beside the church is the old Escuala Catolica (Catholic School), which was built in the 1940s. Disturbing to think that children were housed in this structure beside the priests but it was for the children's convenience, who were to take their communion in the church. Really.

Immaculada Concepcion Church and Ruins
Finally, our last stop was the Immaculada Concepcion Church in Oslob, which was built in 1830 by Father Julian Bermjeo. The church was burned down three times, more recently in 2008, but much like every Oslobanon and their faith, it continues to stand over the years.

Right across the church (R-photo) is the Cuartel, built by Don Marcos Sabandal for Spanish armies but was halted during the arrival of the Americans in 1899. Its construction was built using coral stones that came from the remnants of the old church bell tower. 

Tip: You can watch the beautiful sunset at the shoreline, which is a few meters away from the Cuartel, then you can catch the Cuartel light up and glow in the evening. 

Cebu has a lot of churches in store for those who want to go on a religious heritage trip. To reach these churches in the southern part of Cebu, you can hop on a bus from the Cebu South Bus Terminal. 

That's 6 churches in 1 day. Good Lord, I guess my mom will be proud! Even if we're not Catholic. 


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