On 26 March 08, an 8 hour fire gutted the more than a century old kumbento (parish house) and church of Oslob in Cebu. What was left were the thick stone walls and belfry as well as an icon of the parish patron. This is my tribute to this beautiful and historic church with photos taken in 2005 and 2006.
Located 117 kilometers southeast of Cebu City is the town of Oslob. First mentioned in 1690, it was only a visita of Boljoon. Founded by the Augustinians, it was turned over to the Jesuits in the year 1737 but was returned to them in 1742. The original fortified Spanish settlement was located in what was then called Bolocboloc but now known as Daanlungsod, (in Cebuano, means, old town). It’s high walls and watchtowers are still standing today minus the original chapel.
The current church, located a few kilometers from the fortified settlement in what was then known as Catarman (or Katadman) in the present Poblacion (town center) might not have been possible if not for one very decisive event: the victory of Fr. Julian Bermejo, parish priest of Boljoon, and the townspeople of Oslob against the Moro slave raiders led by Sultan Goranding in the year 1813. Near the waters off Sumilon Is., the soldier priest’s fleet of local defenders aided by his string of watchtowers successfully repelled and captured the leader. Since then, these places were now peaceful and threats of further raids diminished.
Drawn from the plans of Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon, the cornerstone was laid by Fr. Julian Bermejo on 4 May 1830. The coral stone used for the walls and belfry were quarried from the seas, cut, polished and placed one on top of the other and cemented with lime from the ashes of seashells. Wood was sourced out from other places and islands while the church roof was made of tejas sourced out and baked locally from a place now known as Lulukhan. Construction of the church was not only done by the people of Oslob but townspeople from neighboring Tañon (now Santander) and Ivisan (now Nueva Caceres, Oslob) helped in building too. Because the town was not really rich and relied on voluntary labor, it was finished 18 years later in 1848.
During the time of Fray de Santiago, the belfry was damaged by a typhoon. In 1932, the tejas roof was replace with galvanized iron sheets. In 1954, the wooden flooring of the church was replaced with baldozas.
On 7 November 1955, a fire of unknown cause gutted the church and in three hours, burned everything inside except for the icon of the Immaculate Conception. The people were devastated. They decided to rebuild the church and various fund raising activities were done. One of these, the Oslob Church Reconstruction Movement Caroling Team made the rounds during Christmas. Oslobanons living or working abroad also channeled funds for the church. Up until the 80’s there were several restoration works done on the church and the kumbento.
Angels in Stone wrote that the church building was totally burned by guerillas in 1942 and was gutted by fire of unknown origin in 1955. He also mentions that the vault and dome later fell after the first fire. By the way, the Cebu Daily News article in the preceeding post takes this line. Allego, in his memorare, only mentions the 1955 fire as the 2nd cataclysm that befell the church. The first being a strong typhoon damaging the belfry during the time of Fray Gregorio de Santiago (1892-1898). I tend to go with the latter author.There seems to be a confusion on the fires that happened before this year’s unfortunate event. Two sources: Galende in
With the March 08 fire, I am very much hopeful that with the people’s faith and resolve, the church will rise again.
Posts to follow: facade details, belfry, roof, interior, kumbento, cemetery.