by: Myrna Aquitania

Myrna Aquitania

Myrna Aquitania

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake which hit the province of Bohol on Tuesday, October 15th brought distraught to the Boholanos and Cebuanos when they learned that their historical church landmarks and national treasures were destroyed by the earthquake.

The damaged churches in Bohol were: Loay Church, Church of San Pedro in Loboc, Church of the Immaculate Concepcion in Baclayon, Church of Our Lady of Assumption in Dauis, Maribojoc Church, Loon Church and Carmen Church. In Cebu on the other hand, the churches damaged were: Sto. Nino Basilica and the Cebu Cathedral.

Loay Church, where our media colleague, Dindo Reyes was from, had a bell tower that fell. “This bell tower was a separate structure built a short distance from the main church. The exquisite church has a cruciform and two facades: the older one was built with low bas relief while the newer facade was apparently completed in the 20th century, because its upper register is in reinforced concrete. The whole ceiling was surmounted with cement statues depicting the virtues.” Like many of the other churches in Bohol, the church’s interior was painted with trompe o’eil and had biblical scenes. The altars are in Neoclassical architecture style.”

The Church of San Pedro in Loboc is the “second oldest church in Bohol, originally built in 1602 and reconstructed in 1638, after a fire gutted its original structure.” Facebook photos showed its front facade completely destroyed. Parts of its roof can also be seen in front of the church structure. Near this church is the well-known Loboc River, a major tourist attraction in Bohol.

Other facebook photos shown include the half-collapsed bell tower of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon. According to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Central Visayas, this century-old church is heavily damaged. “Its first structure made of coral stone became  the first seat of the Spanish Jesuit missionaries in 1595, while the main church’s building was built in 1717. Its museum features relics dating back to the early 16th century.” Recent historical accounts regarding this Jesuit-built church was that this was the most preserved structure among the churches in Bohol. It was declared a National Historic Treasure in 1994.

The church of Our Lady of Assumption in Dauis was also heavily damaged. The “style of the Dauis Church was influenced by both Byzantine and Romanesque architecture. On its ceiling were frescoes influenced by Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes in the Vatican, painted by church artist Ray Francia in 1916.”

Maribojoc Church also damaged, was “founded in 1768. Its construction started in 1798 and lasted for 18 years.”

In a published interview with Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medrosa, the church in Loon was “totally damaged,”  and the church in Carmen also “collapsed.”

On his facebook account, a fraternity brother of this writer, Ivan Henares who is the current President of the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) said “we join the rest of the Philippines in prayer as we recover from the damage of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Central Visayas on the morning of October 15, 2013. We mourn the loss of life as well as property.” Published reports also quoted Mr. Henares when he called the attention of government cultural agencies, particularly the National Commission for Culture and the Arts ( NCCA), National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Museum and requested them to “take the lead in restoration efforts and move as one.” Further, Mr. Henares called on “heritage professionals and experts from both the public and private sector to convene and plan the proper reconstruction and restoration of the damaged cultural properties.”

According to Architect and HCS Secretary Richard Tuason Bautista, he stated that the churches were apparently “inadequately prepared for the earthquake.”  Further, he said that “as early as the 1970’s, the church authorities have undertaken rehabilitation work through the years. Buttresses were even built, it’s just that this earthquake is very strong.”

In his assessment based on the photos of the most damaged churches, Bautista said that “the rehabilitation may not have resolved the issue of foundation.” He also noted that “aside from the facades, various late additions to or extensions of the churches suffered structural damage.” He cited the Loboc Church as the sample case being near a river. He said he “experienced seeing the church’s perimeter walls had holes with crabs inside. He also learned that he has seen crab infestation in other Bohol churches. If left unchecked, these crabs can affect the stability of the churches in the long term.”

Both HCS officials, Bautista and Henares said that the “preservation and conservation of historic edifices, wherever they may be located , should be the concern of all FIlipinos.”

On his twitter account, Ivan Henares said: “It is sad that many people talk about heritage only when it’s gone. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call for everyone.”

Residents walk past a destroyed church belfry in Tubigon, Bohol , a day after an earthquake hit central Philippines October 16, 2013.  (MNS photo)

Residents walk past a destroyed church belfry in Tubigon, Bohol , a day after an earthquake hit central Philippines October 16, 2013. (MNS photo)