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Bacolod Cathedral, San Sebastian Parish » Old Architectural Respite in Bacolod City Center

Bacolod Cathedral
On our visit to Bacolod City, we spent an afternoon at the serene and beautiful Bacolod Cathedral. I find it amazing how old churches can drain away the stresses of the day especially for tourists and residents alike. Old churches are also living pieces of history where you can hear echoes of the area’s past. 

Therefore whenever I travel, I always step through an old church if there’s a chance. It is always amazing to be vaulted back into important chapters of a city’s history.   

You can have a quick glimpse of the past of any place in the Philippines by visiting its Cathedral and churches. Bohol’s old churches clearly reflect the province’s elegance while Paoay Church bespeaks of how Batac endures earthquakes.

The imposing Cathedral of San Sebastian or most commonly known as the Bacolod Cathedral, with its old grandeur is a clear hint that this city is the seat of power of Negros Occidental Province. However, the Recollects who build this cathedral believe that the beauty of San Sebastian Cathedral is not a showcase – it is all for God.

Bacolod Cathedral Tower
The Cathedral's slender belltowers greet you as if enticing you to drop by to this historical piece of art.

According to them, this cathedral symbolizes unity and selfless generosity of the people of Bacolod. The hacienderos donated properties to the Church. The local folks volunteered to lift stones and bricks. The artisans, Filipinos and Chinese, offered the best from their talents – people gathered working for one goal. Such is the magnificence of this cathedral.

Unity creates beautiful things.

History of the Cathedral of San Sebastian

In the Recollect tradition, “It is proper that we show forth our love in the cleanliness and polish of those places where He chooses to reside in order to be with us, our Altars and Churches… for even though in all these we be poor, yet in this and for this let us be rich; let there be nothing in the Church that does not show forth with splendor the painstaking love of those who serve in it…
-Forma de Vivir – The Way of Life, I-

View of San Sebastian Cathedral from Bacolod Public Plaza

“The imposing Cathedral of San Sebastian was the handiwork of Fr. Mauricio Ferrero, O.A.R., the parish priest of Bacolod (1871 – 1899; 1902 – 1910). The original church was constructed in 1825 by Fr. Julian Gonzaga (parish priest – 1818 – 1836). The old church was made of wood and galvanized roofing.

The Church’s historical marker reads:

“Originally a Church founded by Bishop Mariano Cuartero, O.P. Cornerstone laid, 27 April 1876. Inaugurated 20 January 1882. Fray Mauricio Ferrero, first parish priest. Became a Cathedral, 23 June 1933. Repaired and improved, 1936, by Msgr. Casimiro M. Lldoc, D.D., first bishop, 1933-1951.”  
Heritage features:

Bacolod Cathedral Picture
The coral stone church, now covered with a thin layer of cement, is classical in temper. The slender bell towers flanking the façade give an eastern European look to the church. 

Cathedral Wooden Entrance

The entrance to the church is through a portico composed of three arches of equal dimensions. Flanking the main door is a statue of the church builder Fr. Ferrero. 

Bacolod Cathedral Old Interior
Old Interior of San Sebastian Cathedral: wooden retablo mayor, ornate ceiling, octagonal marble columns, rose windows, twin pulpit, marble holy water font, massive side windows, and decorative chandeliers.
San Sebastian Cathedral New Interior
Cathedral Ornate Pillars
New interior of the Cathedral
The church interior is simple and chaste, its pleasing appearance comes about because of the pleasing modulation of arches and pillars rather than ornamentation. This feeling is accentuated by the unadorned gray faux vault, minus the figures painted by Lago.

Cathedral Old Bells

It had one medium-sized bell, until Fr. Roman Manuel Locsin donated a huge bell and later Fr. Mariano de Avila donated another one when he became a parish priest in 1863 after the death of Fr. Locsin. Fr. De Avila’s bell was installed in the tower when cathedral was constructed in 1876, but lowered in 1969 when the towers were reconstructed. It was never returned there. In 1976, the Sugarlandia Lions Club of Bacolod constructed a special belfry where it hangs today with the small bell purchased by Fr. Ferrero.

San Sebastian Altar
The church was renovated in 1969. That same year, the pipe organ was removed, so was the silver altar and the ceiling paintings by Don Isidro Maria Lago, a painter in the Royal court. The main altar was simplified. The over decorated altar that was common sight during the Spanish times was removed, and a larger than life statue of San Sebastian was enshrined.

Bacolod Public Plaza

Another notable landmark located in the heart of the downtown area of Bacolod City across the San Sebastian Cathedral is the trapezoidal Bacolod Public Plaza.

Bacolod City Public Plaza

The park provides a refreshing and relaxing atmosphere, making the city breathe, since it is surrounded by numerous tall trees, ornamental plants and decorative fountains.

The plaza was constructed in 1927 as a place for recreation, political, spiritual and cultural activities. This is also the place where the famous annual Masskara Festival is being held.

Baocolod City Public Plaza Gazebo

At the center of the park is an elegant gazebo. Upon close inspection, I noticed the inscriptions along the sides of the roof, which I recognized as the names of famous Western classical music composers Beethoven, Wagner, Haydn, and Mozart.

Respite from your tiring city tour

The City of Bacolod keeps on moving forward and soon city life will be fast-paced too like in Manila. Let’s just hope they will continue to protect and preserve architectural edifices like the San Sebastian Cathedral to remind visitors to consider taking a quiet historical stop to this city's solemn place and also to stop-by at the refreshing Bacolod Public Plaza. 

The place is truly an old architectural respite in city center.

» Bacolod Cathedral. Heritage Conservation Society
» Jaazeal Jakosalem, OAR, "Old Interior Photo" Photo Documentation of San Sebastian Cathedral (Art in Architecture, University of Negros Occidental Recoletos, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines)
» Archivo Recoleto de Filipinas, Quezon City, Philippines
» Modesto P. Sa-onoy, A Brief History of the Church in Negros Occidental (Bacolod City: Bacolod Publishing House, 1976) pp.63-66.

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