MANILA, OCTOBER 21, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Ricky Lo - Having heard Mass a few times at most of them, my heart broke when I saw the pictures (and in the newscast) of the centuries-old churches destroyed (three of them totally, according to latest reports) by the killer quake in Bohol.

One of them is the San Pedro Church in Loboc town (above, left, before the earthquake), which has a well believed to contain water that can cure the sick.

It was the Loboc Church (above, right, now in ruins) that served as backdrop 13 years ago when Cesar Montano proposed to estranged wife Sunshine Cruz (above, photographed during happier times) at sunset in the vicinity of the lighthouse a stone’s throw away.

Cesar fell on his knees while the angelic voices of the Loboc Children’s Choir, under Lutgardo Labad, filled the air with romantic songs.

Down-trodden by the tragedy like his fellow Boholanos, Cesar (who has a vacation house in Baclayon town, where the church was also destroyed), is now finalizing a fund-raising concert for the quake victims and survivors. He has mobilized the likes of Noel Cabangon.

I’m sure other Boholano artists (among them Luke Mejares, Giselle Sanchez and Star In A Million winner Jerome Sala) will gladly join.

Cesar and company are planning to hold the fund-raiser at Teatrino. Hopefully, Teatrino owner Precy Florentino will give Cesar’s group a generous discount or, why not, donate the venue as her way of helping the victims.

Is it possible, Precy?

Are the bastions of our faith crumbling? PEOPLE By Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 17, 2013 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

St. Peter The Apostle Church in Loboc, Bohol. Photo by ED RAMIREZ

In 30 seconds, a split second even, life changes irrevocably.

It’s true — the only moment you are sure of is the moment you’re living right now. Who’s to tell what tomorrow will bring? Who decides when an earthquake will strike?

I know very well at least a dozen people who flew to Bohol over the weekend.

My colleagues in PeopleAsia magazine were doing a feature on the Bellevue Resort in Bohol, which was holding a triathlon last weekend. The team (composed of Beth Mendoza, Jose Paolo Dela Cruz, Joy Avila and Ramon Ruiz) flew out of Tagbilaran at noon of Monday, Oct. 14) — just in the nick of time. My husband’s niece Kirsten and her husband chef Him Uy de Baron and their daughters were also at the resort.

Kirsten and her family were by the Bellevue pool when they saw the hotel shaking and the water spilling out of the pool.

When the shaking ceased, they were ushered by the efficient staff of the hotel to an improvised evacuation center at the hotel’s pavilion. They weren’t allowed to go back to their room to change or bathe to ensure their safety in the event of aftershocks.

“When we got word from the airline that our flight was pushing through, the hotel let Him gather our things in the room. He was assisted by a porter,” Kirsten recalls.

They went straight to the airport, grateful that they were unscathed by the temblor, which killed over a hundred people and injured hundreds more.


My high school classmate Sandra Gordon Recto was with her family at the Ananyana Resort when she felt the earth shake. Luckily, she was only in the second floor and the hallway outside her room was open-air.

Still, she recalls, “I had to hold on to the railing of the balcony in order to walk straight to safer ground.” No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t even quicken her step during her “escape.”

At the Tagbilaran Airport hours later, Sandra and her family found themselves spilling into the runway when an aftershock rattled the already damaged airport terminal. When the frightened passengers finally saw their Philippine Airlines plane descend from the blue skies and taxi down the runway, they clapped and cheered.

Later, the pilots would tell Sandra it was their first time to see such a rousing welcome, with passengers actually waiting on the runway. The passengers were also relieved to see that first to disembark from the much-awaited flight was a rescue team from the MMDA.

Like Kirsten, Sandra says airport and airline staff members tried their best under the circumstances and prevented mayhem and panic among the understandably jittery passengers.


Every life lost is cause for mourning. But after we tend to the wounded, shelter the homeless and bury our dead, we should also try to pick up the pieces — literally.

Among the casualties of the killer quake were at least 10 centuries-old Catholic churches that have withstood the test of time and the challenges to the faith.

But not even a track record of centuries of standing proudly could protect the churches of Loboc and Baclayon in Bohol from (partially) crumbling. At the end of 30 seconds of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, reportedly with the strength of 32 atomic bombs, stone edifices were just dust in the wind.

I visited Bohol in 2003 and 2006, and was stupefied and humbled by its churches, especially the Baclayon and Loboc churches.

Loboc Church (St. Peter and Paul Parish)

The Baclayon Church has a museum, thanks to Purificacion Alas, a retired teacher who decided in 1970 to protect the church’s ivory statues, silver candelabras, gold altar vestments and other artifacts from looters. Constructed in 1596, the Baclayon Church was declared a National Historical Shrine in 1994. Built of coral (of Bohol’s over 40 churches, more than 30 are made of coral), the church has an adjacent rectory, which is now a school. The museum is also part of the rectory. A tour of the museum takes one through solid wooden planks that are more than a foot wide. The original gilded altar of the church now stands in the museum. The curator pointed out to me a statue of San Blas (St. Blaise), which was stolen in 1997 from the museum and returned two years ago by a conscience-stricken Manila-based antique collector who had bought it for P200,000 from an unscrupulous dealer.



The church of Loboc is one of the most beautiful in the entire province. Its history makes it the most interesting. The first stone church was built in 1602.

It was destroyed by fire in 1638 and rebuilt beside the site of the older one. This is the Loboc Church presently standing, a fine example of the Jesuit colonial architecture of the 18th century.

Loboc is famous not just for its church but also for the Loboc Children’s Choir, a choir of boys and girls from 10 to 13 years of age.

The choir has performed in Manila and abroad under Bohol-born musical director Gardy Labad. The choir was organized by Alma Fernando Taldo, with Lina Jala as accompanist. (When Boholano) Cesar Montano proposed to Sunshine Cruz, he reportedly took along with him the Loboc Choir to serenade her.

* * *

There were regular Sunday concerts by the Loboc Children’s Choir at the church’s high-ceilinged, second-floor convent, which has 16th-century murals, albeit fading and peeling with time, on its walls.

Will a quake erase history? Will it dampen the fervor of a people’s faith?

I think not.

The bastions of our faith may have wobbled and crumbled but they are a test that will make the faithful even more fervent in their worship. It isn’t easy to rebuild a centuries-old church.

“Re-building Bohol, specifically the heritage structures that we lost during the devastating earthquake, will take a long time. Due to the delicacy of the history, heritage and traditional methodologies of construction that were used to build those old structures, proper processes and meticulous care must be exercised in the whole re-building activity. Proper government agencies should be involved such as the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) and NHCP (National Historical Commission of the Philippines), in conjunction with historians, heritage conservationists and the like to ensure that they will be restored to their former glory in the correct and authentic way,” says architect Jason Buensalido.

But in rebuilding an edifice, we could be rebuilding something even more valuable.

And that a quake cannot shatter.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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