This is a series on the different churches in various areas in the country that can be followed as a guide for the much observed Filipino Catholic Lenten tradition of the Visita Iglesia. Check out the other posts on Cebu Churches: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
This is the second part of a feature on Augustinian built churches in Cebu covering six churches all located at the southeastern side of the island province.
8 The Church of Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza in Sibonga is just beside the provincial highway a few kilometers after Carcar and precedes Argao. Like Carcar, the convent is not directly attached to the main church building.
Originally a visita of Carcar in 1690, it became an independent parish in 1830. The first structure was temporary and the current one was built and finished probably between 1868 and 1881. The convent, on the other hand was built much earlier.
The style of the church is Gothic. A high main entrance dominates the facade flanked with two massive bell towers. The decorations are quite scant and the facade simple with the rosette at the pediment the only interesting detail sporting the Augustinian seal in wrought iron.
Inside, early 20th century paintings by the famed Cebuano painter Raymundo Francia mesmerizes the visitor. The ceiling of the side aisles has a painted version of the Carcar coffered ceiling woodwork.9 The Church of San Miguel Arcangel in Argao was established as early as 1599 and formally as a parish in 1733, is one of the interesting churches in the south not only because of its age (one side entrance has the year 1783 inscribed on it) but also because of its facade that is baroque in style introduced with rococo elements. While it is just simple, relieves of birds, cherubs and flowers give it interest.
The interior too is rich with its ceiling paintings and baroque retablo while its pipe organ was brought in from Mexico.
Unfortunately, due to an uncaring parish priest, the centuries old main retablo was painted gold, one of the capilla possa, was destroyed and the ancient coral stone arch of the cemetery was torn down so that his vehicle can enter.10 The parish of Dalaguete was established in 1711 under the advocacy of San Guillermo de Aquitania. The current structure, made from coral blocks, was started in 1802.
Like Argao, the interior is richly decorated with ceiling paintings and a baroque-rococo style retablo that was added in 1802 – 1825. Two interesting details is the presence of a pair of facing tribunas, balconies located at the apse which is quite rare in Cebu’s churhces. It belfry also contains a clock, although not working anymore, another rarity in the province.
There are other interesting elements within the church grounds. A century old watchtower fronting it gives testament to its turbulent past when Moro slave raiders frequented the town. Now, this structure has been renovated. At the side of the church is also a small, probably, a mortuary chapel with bas reliefs. The coral stone arch at the cemetery is also memorable for it’s bas relief and inscriptions.
This church and that of Argao is similar in design from the form of the facade to the placement of the belltower as well as the attached convent that it is easy to confuse the two. Compared with the latter, the relieves are much simpler and fewer and the convent longer.
11 The Church of the Nuestra Senora del Patrocinio in Boljoon is one of the oldest churches in the province. The first structures were destroyed by Muslim slave raiders and the current one was started in 1783. Because of the threat of these raiders, the famous soldier priest, Fr. Julian Bermejo started to fortify this town by enclosing it with walls (the front wall was demolished by the Americans) and organized the townspeople. His series of watchtowers stretching from Carcar to Santander eventually repelled further raider incursions.12 Just a few kilometers before reaching the town center of Oslob is the small Church of San Jose Labrador in Nueva Caceres, still a part of this municipality.
It has none of the imposing and grand architecture that defines the other structures but nevertheless, its simplicity is its defining element. Originally called Ivisan, it was formerly a visita of Sialo (present day Valladolid, Carcar) in 1599, and was transferred to Boljoon in 1690. It only became an independent parish in 1877 through a superior Decree. Because of the lack of priests that time, it was administered by the parish priest of Boljoon.
This church and the convent was constructed by the famous soldier-priest Fr. Julian Bermejo, the then parish priest of Boljoon at around 1812.
Like the Augustinian built churches in southeastern Cebu, it was part of a defense network against the Muslim slave raiders. A reminder of this dark past is the presence of a watchtower behind the church which was then the corner of a defensive wall that used to enclose the church.
13 Rounding off this series, is the Church of the Nuestra Senora de la Inmaculada Concepcion in Oslob. Like Dalaguete, it is several meters from the highway fronting the coast. The current structure was started by Fr. Julian Bermejo in 1830 and was finished 18 years later.
The facade is simple in design with no elaborate embellishments except for a royal seal at the pediment and a few finials above it. Its massive belfry flanks its left. Originally, it has five levels but the topmost was destroyed by a typhoon and never rebuilt. The convent is attached at its right. Fronting the church is a small chapel and the entire complex is surrounded with it’s still original fence.