The simbahan and its related structures are not always permanent. There are many factors that have caused its destruction, abandonment and left to ruin. In the course of a town’s life, populations rise and fall as what happened in Calavite, Mindoro where the constant Muslim slave raids greatly decimated the populace.
Plagues and diseases ravage settlements and are abandoned. Volcanoes erupt thereby forcing villagers to transfer locations like what happened in Taal, Batangas where the town and the church have been relocated several times or, as popularly known, the Cagsawa ruins in Albay, covered with the lava flows of Mayon, except its belfry, in the 19th century.
Periodic flooding like that of Laguna Lake which forced the town of Pila, Laguna to transfer to its present site. There were also rivalries and jealousies and a good example is the church in Parian, Cebu City (photo above, c. 1870) which was eventually abandoned and demolished when the Augustinians at the nearby Sto. Nino instigated and successfully had it downgraded into a visita. At the height of the 1898 revolution against Spain, several churches, houses and casas de haciendas were torched.
In the 20th century, World War II had left much ruin and damage when the Americans bombed churches across the country to flush out the Japanese. The magnificent churches of Intramuros were all, except San Agustin, razed to the ground. The same thing with what happened in Cavite Puerto (like Intramuros, it has a settlement, 8 churches and other structures were enclosed within the fortification walls) where only the belfry of the Recollect church was left standing. Just like in the previous centuries, earthquakes also took their toll. The one in 1990 totally destroyed the one in Vintar, Ilocos Norte.
But one other factor that led to the destruction of churches in the last century was brought about by human neglect and indifference. The church in Opon in Cebu was bulldozed upon orders of the Dutch priests assigned there. The columned Recollect Church (current location of USJR main campus, Cebu City) was demolished when the Recollects decided to build a modern parish structure.
Fire gutted out the one in Camalaniugan, Cagayan just a month before I visited the place around 2 – 3 years ago and during that time, it was just the belfry left standing with its priceless bell, said to be the oldest in Southeast Asia (dated 1595). Progress has also contributed. Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija was submerged when the dam was built.
We are now conscious of our rich heritage now and we should make sure that what we can preserve should be preserved.