Visits to Bohol’s churches are a common activity in Bohol especially during the Lenten season. The most visited is the Baclayon Church which is the oldest church in the province and one of the oldest in the Philippines. It is the town’s main attraction!
Ever since I was small and at every visit to Bohol, I passed by the Baclayon Church on the way to my Dad’s place in Guindulman or to my Mom’s at Mahayag, San Miguel. You would hardly miss the dark, imposing structure looming at the side of the road in the municipality of Baclayon.
Only recently was I able to visit or enter the Baclayon Church and now my mind set was different. I have grown, and I now appreciate art, artefacts and their value. So the chance to visit this famous church in Bohol was a go-go and a cause for excitement.
At close quarters, the church is huge, blackened by centuries of moss and dirt. It is made of blocks of coral stones said to have been hauled by 200 slaves through forced labour and cemented together by millions of eggs and lime.
Lying alongside the road is the bell tower, likewise made of coral stones with a rooftop. Although it adjoins the main facade of the church, it is a separate edifice and does not cover the front facade.
Three arches with huge wooden doors, estimated to be 20 feet tall and very wide, grace the front facade. Coming directly from the brightly lit outside world and going through the huge door at the centre, the church interiors looked dull, dark and gloomy.
It was the first impression I got although that changed after my eyes adjusted to the interior light and slowly noticed the sunlight streaming from the stained glass windows. The varied colourful reflections filled the church and were breathless to behold.
From the door, one sees the rows of pews obviously made from hardwood and a tiled floor. Afar off, the altar looks magnificent with multiple levels reaching up to the ceiling. At a closer look, it was the more beautiful! The six arches of the altar with one at the top displays some saints that I cannot identify. Surmounted on the main altar though is the Jesuits’ emblem and motto “Ad majorem Dei gloriam.”
A pipe organ that dates back to the 19th century is high up on one side yet it is not functioning anymore. The choir and organ loft though have intricate designs and looks attractive.
Come to think of it, why not visit the church yourself? At your own perspective, a visit to the Baclayon Church and its museum would be more rewarding. Besides, Bohol is loaded with heritage sites and home to one of the world’s wonders: the Chocolate Hills. Yet it has more! Come and see for yourself!