Last Maundy Thursday, 17 April 2014, me and my family made the visita iglesia down the southeast of Cebu and it was an opportunity for me to visit once again Oslob Church. I’m happy to say that, from what I saw, the church, which was gutted by fire last 26 March 08 is whole again. …
I was in Oslob over the weekend to check on the progress of the reconstruction of the burned church of Oslob and was happy to find that it now has a roof so that masses can again be said at this old structure. While this is commendable development, there is still much to be done. I asked Jun Tumulak, a member of the Parish Pastoral Council and he said that the total cost needed in bringing it back to a functional church complete with it’s flooring paved and tiled, pews, windows, painting, etc. is about P35 million.
I visited the Basilica del Sto. Nino, the Augustinian convent in Cebu last 31 October to take photos around the church for a future post at my travel blog, langyaw.com. When I went out, I was surprised that the centuries old icon of the Inmaculada Concepcion (Immaculate Concepcion) of Oslob Church was just outside, encased in clear plexiglass and there were two long lines infront where people waited to come close and touch it.
While browsing through archival photos, I found two images of the old altar of Oslob Church in Cebu. These were probably taken during the late 19th or early 20th centuries. From the setup of the altar, these might have been during a major feastday or Holy Week. These two were from San Agustin in Intramuros, Manila.
Oslob has always been frequented by Muslim slave raiders but in 1813, with the aid of Fray Julian Bermejo’s string of watchtowers, the local armed militia was able to repel and capture the leader of a raiding party off Sumilon Island. This decisive event led to the formation of a new town that is now the current poblacion of Oslob. Prior to that and located around two kilometers south, are the ruins of a former fortified settlement called Daanglungsod.
Last March 28, at 1 AM, a fire broke out in the room of the parish priest in the “kumbento” or parish house of the 178 year old church of Oslob, a southern municipality in Cebu and three hours ride from Cebu City. Of the two firetrucks available in the town, one was broken and the other cannot start that the townsfolk has to push it near the church. However, despite their efforts, the fire raged on. It was only contained when firemen from the neighboring towns of Argao and Santander came in to help. After eight hours, the “kumbento” burned down.
Located front-right of the church of Oslob, just outside the perimeter stone fence and near the sea, at the intersection of Calle Aeternidad (Eternidad?) and the end of Calle Aragones, an unfinished building made of coral blocks stand. This unfinished structure was the cuartel, intended for the Spanish soldiers or guardia civil.
Facing directly infront of the Oslob church is an old chapel that is used as a prayer room. Its facade is simple. No elaborate decorations or inscriptions. It only has three pairs of decorative columns topped by tuscan capitals. on each side of the pediment are two pedestal-like finials that might have held a vase or urn before. At the center is a relief image.
Oslob is one of the South Cebu municipalities that still retains its original camposanto or cemetery with its main entrance arch, perimeter fence and mortuary chapel located at the center. It was was built by Fray Mauricio Alvarez, the same parish priest who built the belfry and the stone perimeter fence surrounding the church.
What I like about the church in Oslob is that, compared with the churches in Cebu, its perimeter stone fence is still in good condition. It has massive stone pillars marking the entrances and in two instances, the name of the streets can still be seen as it was carved on the coral stone blocks in the 19th century.
The kumbento was first started by Fr. Julian Bermejo and was finished between 1848 and 1850 by Fr. Juan Aragones who reinforced it with buttresses. In 1977, Fr. Constantino Batoctoy renovated it. It is one of the very few kumbentos in Cebu which still retained its tejas roofing like Boljoon` but some sections are already with corrugated sheets.
The belfry of Oslob church is imposing owing to its size relative to the facade. It was constructed during the time of Fray Mauricio Alvarez (1866-1881). Originally a 5 level structure, the topmost level was destroyed by a very strong typhoon during the time of Fray Gregorio de Santiago (1892-1898). Most of the bells, including the biggest one fell to the ground and cracked.
The image of the Blessed Virgin that survived in the dawn fire on Wednesday in Oslob town is the only relief image venerated in Cebu churches. But is she the Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception? According to iconographer Louie Nacorde, the image was that of the Immaculate Conception because it contained symbols which are attributes of the Virgin Mary.