The old stone church of Oslob before the fire of March 08

The old stone church at the townproper of Oslob in Cebu. It will
celebrate its 178th year from the laying of its cornerstone on
4 May 08.
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 church circa 1940 with the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Benigno
Cano, OSA
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.

The view of the church nave from the left side showing the belfry (right) and transept (left).
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.

View of the church: (left), back, (right), left side showing the belfry, transept and quadrilateral dome.
Note the buttresses in each photo. The quadrilateral dome at the crossing of the transept and nave is made of wood.
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.

View of the church from the tennis court showing the right side including the attached kumbento.
There seems to be a confusion on the fires that happened before this year’s unfortunate event. Two sources: Galende in 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.

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.


  1. So sad indeed. Thanks for all this detailed shots. Hope you include the interiors.

    Sayang and I hope that they will “restore” the church properly.

  2. i do not know where Galende got his source. But interviews with the local folks of Oslob who were born before 1942 proved that the church was not burned by Filipino guerillas or that it was burned at all in that year.

  3. jolly, that is also what I’m thinking of as I also asked around and got no confirmation of the 1942 fire.

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  5. hello there,

    my father is from oslob, cebu. migrated to makilala cotabato. he is isidro linawan valle, may somebody help me find my relatives. maayong adlaw ug daghang salamat sa creativity niining web site.

  6. Pingback: Fortified settlement ruins of Daanglungsod, Oslob | Simbahan

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  10. Pingback: Oslob’s icon up close | Simbahan

  11. wa pjud d.i nahuman ang smbahan nuh?mga pila kaha ang knahanglan nga money para mublik lng sa dati ang cmbahan?kay aku nlang byad naa ko piso dri oh….

  12. Pingback: Additional Oslob Church archival photos | Simbahan

  13. hope soon,oslob church will rebuild anew for the effort of parokyanos and never ending support and donations from a kind heated donors.

  14. hey! juancho maybe were relatives at all if ur father is from nueva caceres. u know my father is juliano vaflor valle from iligan city his father is victoriano pioquinto valle who originated in nueva caceres oslob cebu but migrated too before the second war in davao with his older brother i 4got his name?…… victoriano(oriong)his pen name as he is called in caceres,my grandma told me about him in her dying moment.i never knew my lola coz i grew up in manila not in iligan. his the yougest of 2nd or 3rd wife if im right, when he join usafe in 2nd world war up to his unfortunate death by massacre of muslim tulisanis of zamboanga sur togethere with my uncle jose and brother inlaws in 1960.iv never visited caceres nor meet my fathers relatives in cebu,by the way my relatives are the ff. families in caceres:…..penan,pioquinto,valle thats all i know. currently im working here in canada and hoping to visit caceres soon see yah bai! ok ………..

  15. by the way juancho you can see my facebook profile kennanwynnvalle ….ayo2 dha bro. godbless! 2u and ur families.

  16. before i forgot evrything once my grandma told me also that my grand fathers are the church spanish pioneers of nueva caceres san jose basilica valle and padre vicente pinan not penan…..soory.

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  20. Wow, Many times nako nakasimba ani nga simbahan and mostly sa panahon sa pyesta ni Snr. San Jose. Year 2006 ako latest bisita, sayang diay kun may nasunog nahitabo.

    Kennan Wayn Valle & Juancho Valle, actually my grandpa is Hipolito Valle Linawan and originally from Caseres Oslob too but move to Bohol. I think mg great grandma is Paula Valle, that is as far as i know.

    Hopefully on my coming vacation, adto mi Caseres kay naa paman si Lola Inday Quintin Linawan, hoping to see other relatives too.

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  22. Sir’s Keenan Wayne Valle and Juancho Valle isa ko sa mga apo ni Padre Vicente Pinan ug Pisay Valle and I am living in Cebu pero I was born in Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur ug didto nag puyo ug gilobong ang akong lolo ug lola. Pero I visited Caseres sometime with Tiyo Pepe, Luis etc. and stay sa dakong balay now owned by Te Sosing Pioquinto.
    Basin someday magka himamat ta…

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