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Bohol Tour » The Nostalgia and Elegance of Bohol’s Famous Old Churches

Aside from its amazing natural beauty, Bohol is also home to a numerous historical stone churches, ancient watchtowers and Spanish era convents with great frescoes. Bohol’s vibrant tourist industry brought us, together with other travelers, on quick walking trips to these sites, which is somehow, is their way of telling us some snippets of their old history. We visited four churches in Bohol – Baclayon, Dauis, Loboc and Panglao Church. The impression these churches gave me is that visiting these sites was done for bland relaxation, picture taking and art appreciation.

However, my experience of doing this Visita Iglesia, which was supposed to give me lectures of the old life, always gave me this nagging desire to search for origin, purity and silence, amidst the apparent aimlessness and whimsy of modernity. Yet, these thoughts had taken a rather peculiar turn; it seemed to me that these churches was still there, not because of hosts of other reasons, but largely to thank God for not destroying the world at the turn of the century. Yes I know, that is the profane attitude of the modern religious elite, which I am not.

Baclayon Church: The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception 

The sun was at its noon peak when we reached the Baclayon Church. The church’s open area on the left side, used as parking space for visitors was almost full- a blasphemous presence of modern things against the century old structure. I learned that Baclayon is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines - from the looks of it, I will not challenge that. The structure looks like the wall of Intramuros in Manila. Inside the church are colorful frescoes and some centuries-old relics and artifacts, which are all religious in nature.
According to Regalado Trota José, a well known art historian and author of the book "Visita Iglesia Bohol", some 200 native forced laborers constructed the church from coral stones, which they took from the sea, cut into square blocks, and piled on to each other. They used bamboo to move and lift the stones in position, and used the white of a million eggs and lime as to cement them together.

Our driver/tour guide told us that there is some mysterious phenomena happening here in the church. He showed us the supposed replica of the face of Saint Pio, the first stigmatized priest in the history of the Church, appearing in one of the pillars at the side of this centuries-old church. He said this is what continuously amazes the visitors here, so we immediately took our pictures with the supposed image as our backdrop. Well, for a non-devotee, this is nothing more than a natural anomaly.

We thought the church was closed, and we can only looked at it outside but there is an entrance via the sacristy. The church has strict policy on proper attire inside the church. According to the reminder posted on the entrance, “The sacredness on the Eucharistic celebration urges all participants to dress, manifest the importance of what they are doing.”

Don’t fret if you are on you usual tourist outfit. You can still enter the church because they will give you a large bandana to cover your voluptuous cleavage and legs – (so as not to distract the boys in their meditation.)

Church of Dauis: The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption
Located in the town of Dauis, three kilometers from Tagbilaran City, Dauis Church is truly one of Bohol's beautiful churches. Despite a semi-modern façade it has retained its Spanish architecture, with Romanesque and Byzantine influence. The interior has life-like murals painted on the ceiling. Beautiful frescoes painted in 1916 by a painter named Ray Francia decorate the entire ceiling of the church.

A local guide directed us to the enclosed well, called the Mama Mary's Well, at the foot of the main altar. She said the well is known for its healing power. According to the local history, this well originated from the Spanish era. Pirates often attacked Christian settlements and it was during one such attack that the people took refuge behind locked doors of the church. Besieged by the enemy for days, the people run out of food and water. The well miraculously sprang up and since then has become the source of drinking water for the populace nearby, especially during droughts. The water tastes truly fresh, despite the well’s closeness to the seashore.

Water from the well is available in bottles for free but you can give cash donation if you want. Your religious Mom or your Lola will love it as your take home gift (pasalubong). Just don’t forget to tell them that it is a special miraculous water. 

Loboc Church: The Church of San Pedro

We came across this church on our way to Loboc River for our Buffet Lunch Cruise. Actually the church is picturesquely located by the banks of the Loboc River. But due to our limited schedule, we haven’t had the time to explore the church and its adjacent museum.

According to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Loboc  church was built in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Jesuits, with enlargements in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Augustinian Recollects, and painting added in the early 20th century. The 17th century Jesuit church was later converted into apart of the three-level convento while the present church dates from the 18th century, with 19th century additions such as the belltower, the porticoes, and the funeral chapel. The convento is the only one in the country with three levels.

San Agustin Church and the Panglao Watchtower

The church of St. Augustine is 18 kilometers from Tagbilaran City, lying on the southwestern side of Panglao Island. The massive stone church is nestled on a plain, its back to the seashore and its right side facing a big, wide plaza which is the venue of the town’s many religious and social activities. We didn’t have the chance to go inside the church because of an ongoing funeral service.
Instead, we just checked out the nearby Panglao Watch Tower, which is a 5-storey bell tower built of cut stone in 1851. Octagon in shape and covered by a pitched roof, it is said to be the tallest of its kind in the Philippines. Well I don’t know how many are there in the Philippiines – maybe two? Ha ha.

They said from this tower, you can see the islands of Siquijor, Cebu, and Negros, and, with clear weather, Mindanao and Camiguin. Also the tiny islands close to Panglao, such as Balicasag Island, can be seen from this tower. However, the tower is in ruin now and is in dire need of repair. Based on its current state, I guess they are just waiting for its total collapse, for them to consider repairs.

There are other elegant churches in Bohol but you need extra day to visit all of it. If you are planning to visit Bohol, include a quick stop on these sites aside from the Chocolate Hills – you won’t regret it. 

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