Damaged by 2013 earthquake, restored by faith

Eight years after centuries-old churches in the province of Bohol were damaged by an earthquake, some of them are finally restored to their former glory 

With beaches, mountains, plenty of natural attractions and perhaps the best pizza in the Philippines, Bohol is one of the most underrated provinces in the country for tourism. The tenth largest island in the country, it was inhabited by the Pintados (indigenous people who were tattooed) before the Spaniards arrived in 1521 and stayed for 377 years.

A legacy of the Spanish colonial period are hundreds of massive Catholic churches, painstakingly built out of stone as early as 1595. These places of worship were adorned with frescoes, carvings and ornate altars, making the province a must-visit among the religious, architectural students and heritage aficionados for millennia.

Many of these churches were damaged when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Western Visayas eight years ago this month, but with faith, patience and community support, some of them have been patiently restored back to their former glory.

Below, we handpick three churches that recently finished restoration and reopened during the pandemic. They should be on your list of things to see on your next flight to Tagbilaran now that we are able to travel again.

Nuestra Señora de la Luz Parish Church in Loon

Also known as Loon Church, this Spanish colonial structure was originally built in 1855 through the stone masonry construction under the Augustianian Recollect. It was considered as the “crowning glory” of the Recollect architecture in the province. After the massive disaster, it was left in rubble. One of the plans for its restoration project is to reconstruct the facade and make the rest as “memorial ruins”. But after 8 years of preserving and collecting the destroyed parts, rebuilding the original materials with new ones, and working with national and local government units, contractors, and stakeholders, the church was able to completely rise from the tragedy. The National Museum of the Philippines turned over the church to the Diocese of Tagbilaran last September 7, 2021.

San Pedro Apostol Parish Church in Loboc

Popularly known as Loboc Church, this cultural property was first built in 1734. It was damaged not only by the earthquake in 2013, but also by a typhoon in 2014. Notwithstanding the devastating events, the centuries-old structure endured the natural calamities, restored, and reopened to the faithful earlier this year coinciding with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the country. The members of the project were able to recover artifacts found in the church’s side, main retablos, and ceiling paintings. The church was turned over to the Diocese of Tagbilaran by the National Museum of the Philippines on May 16, 2021.

Sto. Niño Parish in Cortes

The church in Cortes, known for its bells and “musicality”, was built during the 19th century. Its largest bell is the second oldest in the province. Its portico and compromised foundation were among the church’s parts that were devastated by the earthquake. Before and during its restoration project, Holy Masses were celebrated at temporary churches to nurture the faith of the townspeople. During the 2020 town’s fiesta, the restored church was turned over to the Diocese of Tagbilaran by the National Museum of the Philippines on January 16, 2020.

Written by

Isabel Joana de Pano

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