LOBOC CHURCH — The ruins of the historical St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Loboc, Bohol, after it was devastated by the 7.2 earthquake last Tuesday. (AFP)

(MANILA BULLETIN) by Pinky ColmenaresL Manila, Philippines – “It’s like someone burned your photo albums – that’s what churches are to us, they store our memories.” This is how a National Committee on Monuments and Sites official described the emotion when she viewed the damaged historical churches in Bohol.

From grief, food crisis, and water shortage, now comes the loss of historical landmarks. The 7.2-magnitude earthquake that jolted Bohol early this week had damaged 22 churches there. Unlike the food and water crisis, the loss of the centuries-old churches can’t be “rescued”.

“Heritage is a non-renewable resource. When it is destroyed, it will not come back. Even memories are not enough to bring it back,” Atty. Trixie Angeles of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said from Bohol where she had just viewed the damaged churches.

Her companions from the NCCA had wept when they saw the damaged churches. Angeles said she had kept her emotions in control until she saw the rubble that was once the 260-year-old Loon Church.

“I could not hold it anymore, I cried! It’s like someone burned your photo album!” she said in a telephone interview with the Manila Bulletin. Atty. Angeles is the vice-chairman of the National Commitee on Monuments and Sites.

A group from the NCCA flew to Bohol two days after the earthquake to survey the chances for restoration and conservation.

Twenty-two centuries-old churches were damaged in the island known for its beautiful beaches and the famous Chocolate Hills. Two of them – the Our Lady of Light Church (Loon Church) built in 1753, and the Santa Cruz Parish Church (Maribojoc Church) – were totally damaged.

National Treasures

The Loon Church was bestowed the titles of National Historical Landmark (NHL) and National Cultural Treasure (NCT) in 2010. Angeles was part of the group who filed a petition to declare Loon Church – and other churches in Bohol – a National Cultural Treasure. The largest church in Bohol features two twin octagonal bell towers.

“Ah, there’s still hope!” is what came to her mind when she discovered the five-foot statue of Mary in the Our Lady of Light Church standing in the middle of a hill of rubble.

“The statue was not visible from the street level, we had to climb a pile of stones, about 20-feet high, that came from the ceiling and walls. And then we saw her, Mary’s statue at the main altar, standing there still in the glass case, around it were piles of stones,” she said.

The Maribojoc Church, which was also totally damaged, was built starting in 1767, with construction work lasting for 18 years. The structure had survived a major burning of the town during World War II.

Standing with its façade totally damaged is the St. Peter the Apostle Parish (Loboc Church) built in 1602. It is the second oldest church in Bohol and being located beside the river, the structure has survived many floods. A structure attached to the church houses the Museo de Loboc, where old statues of saints and antique religious artifacts are displayed. Many people know the church for the popular Loboc Children’s Choir.

The Loboc Church was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 1998, and later, a National Historical Landmark.

Bohol’s Oldest Church

The oldest church of Bohol, and considered one of the finest architectural landmarks in the region – the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon – suffered major damages. Its façade and bell towers were toppled by the strong quake.

The walls of the Baclayon Church were constructed in 1727. Two hundred natives built it block-by-block from coral stones taken from the sea and cut into square blocks. It houses a dungeon where natives were detained as punishment for violating rules of the Catholic Church. It has a museum which displays ancient religious artifacts and musical instruments.

“Restoration is possible for the ,” Angeles said, of the church that also has been awarded the NCE (2010) and the NHL (1995).

Surviving the quake that toppled those 17th century walls was a statue of St. Anne, Angles said.

No Choice But To Restore

Can we afford to restore the heritage churches? “We don’t have a choice. There are some things that have to be kept,” Angeles said.

She chose to send me off to start my story with a “light thought”. “When our churches fell, there was an outpouring of regret, offers to volunteer, to support restoration work. I realized that all our efforts to put the value of conservation have taken roots in the minds of people. Our efforts were not in vain,” she said.

Family Landmarks, Too

To the more recent generations, those churches were also the landmarks of family memories. Loon Mayor Lloyd Peter Lopez said “many important events in the lives of the people in the town happened in the Loon Church – weddings, baptisms, funerals, fiestas. We just celebrated our town fiesta last Sept. 8.”

Other major historical churches that are now left badly damaged are the Assumption of Our Lady Shrine Parish in Dauis, which was built in 1697; the Most Holy Trinity Parish (Loay Church), built in 1822; the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish (Dimiao Church) built in 1750; the St. Michael The Archangel Parish (Clarin Church) built in 1924; and the St. Anthony de Abbot Church (Carmen Church), built in 1874.

The Dauis and Dimiao Churches were declared as National Cultural Treasures and National Historical Landmarks. The Loay Church was given the NHL in 2003 and was about to be declared the NCT title. (With reports from MB Research and Malou Mozo)

Palma on church restoration: People will find a way by Ron B. Lopez October 18, 2013 (updated)

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma (PHOTO WITH MICROPHONE) on the church restoration: People will find a way A Catholic archbishop believes that no less than the people in Cebu and Bohol will “find a way” to help rebuild and reconstruct the centuries-old churches damaged and destructed by the powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Central Visayas on Tuesday, October 15.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the archdiocese would shoulder the bulk of the costs and rely more on their “flock” to help rehabilitate the ruined old churches because they are only expecting “minimal help” from government.

“For us, the people will find a way to rebuild the church. It may take a long time but still the people will find a way,” Palma said in a statement Thursday.

According to assessment of Heritage Conservation Society, at least 10 churches were either severely or partially damaged by the quake. This includes the oldest churches in the Philippines, the San Pedro Apostol in Loboc, Bohol which was built in 1602, and the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, considered as the oldest Roman Catholic church founded in the Philippines in 1565.

President Benigno Aquino III has said that the government may only help in the restoration of churches due to the principle of the separation of the Church and State enshrined the 1987 Constitution.

“They (government) give an amount but not to the extent that we can say they are the ones that had the churches repaired… Not to an extent that we can say it is a big amount,” Palma said.

Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tirona, Bishops Leopoldo Jaucian of Bangued, and Jose Oliveros of Malolos said they need to check the old churches in the country to also ensure the safety of the public.

“I’ll ask them to inspect our old churches, make an evaluation and recommendation,” Oliveros said.

With their churches destroyed by the quake, local parishioners are conducting their mass outside the damaged churches. The government warns the public over possible accidents due to falling debris from heavily damaged structures.


Agusan town loses water supply after Tuesday’s earthquake By Chris V. Panganiban Inquirer Mindanao 6:50 pm | Saturday, October 19th, 2013 11 369

Left photo shows water gushing from the Maputi Spring in Agusan del Sur before the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Central Visayas on Oct. 15, 2013. The second shows a dried up well after the earthquake. The spring is a main source of water for residents in Rosario town, Agusan del Sur. CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN/INQUIRER

ROSARIO, Agusan del Sur – The spring that supplied practically the entire municipality of Rosario with drinking water dried up following Tuesday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook Bohol and other parts of the Visayas as well as Mindanao, killing up to 180 people.

The drying up of the Maputi Spring, where a World Bank-funded P47-million water system was being installed, has puzzled residents of eight of the municipality’s 11 barangay (villages) who found themselves waterless the day after the earthquake, which was felt here at Intensity 3.

Even local officials were at a loss as to why the spring dried up so suddenly when it was flowing abundantly hours before the tremor struck.

Vice Mayor Julie Chua said he suspected that the earthquake triggered major movements in the earth’s plates underneath this town, which in turn blocked the flow of water from the underground aquifer.

He said the municipal government has asked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau to look into the matter and explain the phenomenon to the townsfolk.

Chua said local officials wanted to know if there was a possibility water would flow again on its own or if something could be done to bring the spring back to life. Otherwise, the multimillion-peso water system being installed would be a total loss.

Joselito Serrano, a member of the staff at the Municipal Planning and Development Office, said the water supply project was begun in July last year by the Mindanao Rural Development Program.

Even if it was just about 80 percent completed, it had started supplying drinking water to thousands of residents of the town center and seven adjoining villages, Serrano said.

He said Maputi Spring had the potential to supply potable water to the nearly 40,000 residents of this second-class municipality.

While officials here suspected that movement in the earth’s crust caused the spring to dry up, some residents said they believed that unabated illegal small-scale mining near the Maputi Spring watershed was to blame.

They said the illegal mining activities might have disturbed the natural flow of water from underground.

Chua said MGB geologists might be able to explain what actually happened as little is known about the spring. Before the World Bank-backed water system was undertaken, no geological analysis had ever been conducted at the site, he said.

Meanwhile, residents were getting water from neighbors with deep wells, which apparently had not been affected.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved