Choosing to stay in the town of Baclayon in Bohol proved to be a wise decision. Our homestay was only a 5 minute jeepney or car ride from the Baclayon Church while most of the ancestral homes we wanted to visit were also very close by. So after grabbing a bite to eat at the market, we crossed the road to the first stop in our tour of Bohol's churches.
#1: The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion in Baclayon / Baclayon ChurchLike the Paoay Church in Ilocos, the Baclayon church is a massive structure built with coral stone. There is some confusion as to whether this is the oldest church in the Philippines, because although construction only began in the 18th century, ancient religious relics found in the area date back as early as the 16th century - about the time the Jesuits were said to have founded the parish.
Scenes from the Baclayon church & museum compound
I emerged from the massive turquoise-colored wooden doors into what looked like a larger-than-life impressionist painting. The warm glow from the chandeliers danced with the rainbows of sunlight that shone through the stained glass windows, highlighting the walls which were mossy with the patina of age. A red carpet was rolled out over the black-and-white-tiled aisle for the couple who had just tied the knot and were now posing with their entourage at the altar. I kept my distance, not wanting to intrude on their moment. After saying a quick prayer from the last pew, I walked up the right aisle noting the intricately carved benches pushed against the wall. The entire church was a museum piece. But there was more to see at the real museum in the adjoining building next door, so we hurried to reach it before closing time.
It was a little eerie up there, walking on a creaky wooden floor amidst all these ancient relics and life-size religious statues. But the collection was impressive! How they managed to keep them in such good condition all this time is just as impressive. I especially loved the antique musical instruments and enormous music sheets on display. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any photos, but if that helps to preserve these artifacts I'm more than happy to comply.
#2: The Church of San Pedro / Loboc Church
On our second day in Bohol, B and I hired a private car and driver to take us around. He was a very pleasant fellow who patiently waited for us at every stop we made on our road trip. After taking us to see the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers, he drove us back through the town of Loboc where we had a quick turo-turo style lunch before visiting the Loboc Church. It had been raining hard again for most of the morning, but the rain gods were smiling down at us all weekend. They seemed to squeeze the rainclouds dry each time we were in the car, and then let up when it was time to get down at our stop.
The Loboc church stands in front of a plaza, a few meters from the river that runs alongside it. It's bell tower can be found across the street, standing sentinel from closeby. Then there's that eyesore- the infamous bridge I had first seen from K's Bohol photo album. My gosh, it was real, this monumental idiocy. A bridge that crossed the Loboc river would have ran smack into the church. What were they smoking?! This lady standing next to me sure wasn't happy about it either.
The interior of the church was bathed in natural light. It was pretty, done in pastel hues of pink and blue. The frescoes on the ceiling were beautiful and a large pipe organ immediately catches your attention from the left side. The church was empty save for a couple of old ladies knelt in prayer. Aside from being the 2nd oldest church in Bohol, it's claim to fame is the world-renowned Loboc Children's Choir, a group of 30 children with angelic voices who have won numerous competitions both locally and internationally. We weren't blessed with their voices though because they were out of town that weekend. Fortunately, my friends have hired them to sing at their wedding in September so I'll get to watch them then.
Just before we left, a hearse pulled up out front and we watched silently as casually-dressed pallbearers carried a white casket up the aisle towards the altar. The grieving family followed close behind them, and the church soon started to fill with mourners. That was our cue that it was time to go. First a wedding, now a funeral. I wondered what the other churches had in store for us.
#3: Our Lady of Assumption Church / Dauis Church
I was extra excited to see the Dauis Church because, of all the churches in Bohol, this is where my good friend, A, has chosen to have her wedding in Sept. It didn't take me to long to understand why. It was a beautiful structure, as expected, a little more modern compared to the Loboc and Bacalayon churches, but it was charming nonetheless with it's cream facade. The frescoes inside were just as impressive as the ones at the Loboc church, maybe even more so. But what made this church unique, what gave it that extra oomph, was it's location.
Dauis church and grounds
#4: Sta. Monica / Albuquerque Church
Are there certain words that you find makes you smile? Or even giggle? The name Albuquerque
does that to me. I love to hear it and I love to say it, enough to make me want to go to New Mexico just so I can go around saying it even more. Like Tlaquepaque (tuh-lah-kee-pah-kee), it's so cute, so....quirky! So imagine how amused I was when I found out we had our own little Albuquerque (referred to as Albur locally) right here in the Philippines? In Bohol at that, and with it's own proud contribution to the already very impressive roster of churches on the island.
So when by chance we drove past the Albuquerque church on our way to the next destination, I asked the driver to pull over. The church is built on a low knoll just along the main highway. It's facade was unlike any that I've seen in the country. The bell tower is integrated into the structure, a bridge connects the main church to the convent, a courtyard lies between, and a series of arches ties them all nicely together. But once again, our timing failed us. The church was closed so I have no idea what it looks like inside.
The church courtyard at Albur
While waiting for B who was still taking pictures, I made some friends - a super cute bunch of local kids who willingly obliged me and my camera. After which they sold me some puto-maya (sticky rice treat) which they lugged inside a portable cooler. How could I resist their charm? Or sweet treats? So I bought one each for B, our driver and myself then thanked them as they continued on their way. Or I thought they did. I saw them watching us from under a tree, as the driver and I polished off every tasty grain in those banana leaves.
Cute little puto-maya sellers
It's amazing the number of historic churches in this province. It would take weeks to see them all and fully appreciate each one. But like our tour of the churches in Ilocos, seeing just a fraction was enough to make me even prouder of our heritage. :)
Tour driver: Jesse Deloso ; Tel. 0919-4987649 / 0921-4489881