In October 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Central Visayas, Philippines. Cebu and Bohol were the most affected provinces. Bohol suffered most of the destruction and casualties.
I was sent there to cover the aftermath. That was the second time I have been to Bohol. I must admit, the first time I went there, I wasn’t able to tour around that much. Staying there for more than two weeks, the second visit allowed me to wander around more. Some sceneries, even those partially and totally damaged by the quake, remained breathtaking.
Bohol boasts of its centuries-old Spanish colonial churches found in almost every town. Most of these churches were declared as heritage and historical treasures. According to local elders, these churches stood the test of numerous earthquakes in the past. But the recent 2013 earthquake damaged three of the most remarkable ones. One was even totally reduced into rubbles.
In time for the Holy Week, allow me to virtually tour you around these churches ruined by the earthquake in 2013. Come join me in this virtual Visita Iglesia!
1) Baclayon Chruch
This church is also known as La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church. The church was founded by the Jesuit priests in 1596, and was considered the oldest Christian settlement in Bohol.
It was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines and a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Baclayon Church was formerly included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List of the Philippines since 1993 under the collective group of Jesuit Churches of the Philippines.
Its Bell tower and Portico were badly damaged by the earthquake.
Check these rare photos inside Baclayon Church taken two weeks after the earthquake when my team was given access inside the church.
2) Loon Chruch
The Nuestra Señora de la Luz Parish Church (also Our Lady of Light Parish Church), commonly called Loon Church, was established by the Jesuits in 1753. Father Jose Garcia commissioned Domingo de Escondrillas to design the stone church which was built from 1855 to 1864.
According to Mr. Reigh Monreal of the Municipal Tourism and Culture office of Loon, the church was made of coral stones contributed and constructed by the locals.
The entire building of the church collapsed. Only the main archway leading to the church’s vicinity was left. The image of patron saint, Nuestra Señora de la Luz, was saved. But according to devotees, the image of the saint, now displayed under the shade of a nearby tree, appeared sad after the earthquake. This image is believed to be miraculous.
Nearby, there is another heritage treasure slightly ruined by the earthquake. The grand Inang-angan is a centuries-old majestic staircase also made of coral stones. Monreal says that according to historical records, the staircase was built earlier than the church. It was build to facilitate trade among the local people. It served as the main pathway that connected people from the lowlands to the Poblacion where market was found.
A walk down the stairs is like a walk down memory lane. Monreal says, “Of course we walk with history kung dito kami naglalakad. Dahl nasira siya, parang a part of us was destroyed.” (Of course we walk with history everytime we walk though the staircase. Because it was ruined by the earthquake, we feel like a part of us was also destroyed.)
3) Loboc Church
This church, also known as The San Pedro Apostol Parish Church, was established in 1602. After the Jesuits established the Christian community in Baclayon, they moved to Loboc and established a second Christian settlement in Bohol.
The church was classified as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines. It was considered for the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Philippines.
The church was severely damaged by earthquake.
Facts and pre-earthquake photos of three churches lifted from Bohol.ph .