Rise from the rumbles: The Restoration of Heritage Churches in Bohol, Philippines

in Architecture+Design28 days ago (edited)

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I vividly remember that I was showering when the earthquake hit Bohol and Cebu in 2013. It was a 7.2 on Ritcher Scale. Luckily, it was a holiday for our Muslim brothers, and I was not at the university. I would be at my laboratory class, and it is on the sixth floor. If it weren't a holiday, many students would pass out and panicked. I may panic as well. The epicenter was in Bohol but felt all over the central Visayas up to Southern Mindanao. The earthquake affected over 1.2 million people, where 222 people died and 976 injured. A handful is also missing. We saw several structures knockdown due to the earthquake. The estimate is over 79,000 damaged structures that displaced over 340,000 people.

Several heritage churches bowed down during the earthquake, two of which are a century old in Bohol. The ancient stone churches are symbols that tell the rich history of the island. Besides, the earthquake dealt a blow to the renowned Basilica del Santo Nino, but the damage was minor as to what remains to the churches in Bohol. There is an eighteenth and nineteenth-century church in Bohol, the Most Holy Trinity in Talibon, and Santa Cruz Parish in Marobojoc. We saw the Most Holy Trinity unscathed, but the Santa Cruz Parish became a rumble.

Bohol has a rich history and tradition of the destructive political affair since the colonization, but throughout its decorated history, Boholano builders created and rebuild churches on the island. Bohol shared countless disasters in years that lead to the rebuilding of these churches. The earthquake in 2013 damages several heritage churches in Bohol at once. The carnage damaged the churches on Baclayon, Dauis, Dimiao, Loay, Loon, and Maribojoc, which four are Natural Cultural Treasures. Among these churches, Maribojoc and Loon suffered the most. Here are two of the churches still ongoing restoration:

Church of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc, Bohol

The Jesuits established the Loboc Church in 1602, originally made out of wood but burnt by fire in 1638. In 1734, they rebuilt it with coral stone. We can locate the church near the famous Loboc River. The church complex has a church structure, a three-story convent, a mortuary chapel, and a bell tower about 50 meters away from the front. The church interior wears retablos, and an indigenous artist painted the ceiling. The roofs have clay roof tiles, while the walls are coral stones. It has an intricate facade with a cherub design in every window, although unfinished.

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The façade of Church of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc, Bohol before the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. (source)

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The façade of Church of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc, Bohol before the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. (source)


The Lobo Church is the home of the world-famous Loboc Children's Choir. The National Museum of the Philippines classified it as National Historic Landmark, which they applied for as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2013, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake left a devastating image of the Loboc Church. The facade and the bell tower partially collapsed. The midsection of the church collapsed. The roofs tore apart, and the walls became rumbles. The bell tower sustained substantial damages during the earthquake.

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The middle section of the Loboc Church collapsed during the earthquake. (source)


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The façade of Church of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc, Bohol in post-2013 earthquake. (source)

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The damaged Bell Tower of Church of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc, Bohol in post-2013 earthquake. (source)


In 2020, the rehabilitation project not complete, but we can see that the Loboc Church is rebuilding. People were pessimistic about whether their church can return to its former state. The damages to the structures somewhat irreparable and may take more than 15 years. Some people suggest that they need to build a new one. In 2019, it was 60 to 65 percent restored. They used sustainable building materials for the restoration.

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Loboc Church under construction. (source)

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The Loboc Church 7 years after the earthquake. (source)

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Reconstruction of the Loboc Church is still ongoing. (source)

Santa Cruz Parish Church, Maribojoc, Bohol

The Jesuits established the Maribojoc Church in 1767 that resembles a cruciform that sit near the Abatan River. Its façade wears narrow pilasters and niches of saints. We can see a bas relief of San Vicente Ferreron at the center of the facade. At the lower cornice, we can see a finely cut coral stone that molded into a flower. Besides, the façade was an extension of a bulky belfry.

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The facade of Santa Cruz Parish Church, Maribojoc, Bohol before the 7.2 magnitude earthquake. (source)

The Maribojoc Church has Neo-Gothic retablos with striking features of arches, crockets, Mudéjar stars, and carving with an interior of bare nave walls and Raymundo Francia's paintings drawn on the metal ceilings, which leads to the main altar and retablo mayor. We can see seven bells and two windows with clock faces in the bell tower of Maribojoc.

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The coral stones design of Maribojoc Church (source)

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The inticate interior of Maribojoc Church (source)

The National Museum of the Philippines classified it as a National Historic Landmark. In 2005, it became the Diocesan Shrine of San Vicente Ferrer. In 2013, Loon and Maribojoc Church incurred heavy damages from the earthquake that what remains to it are a pile of rumbles and a piece of wall. Some people and authorities would attempt to restore the historic churches, but they must put expectation low as it some may never look the same again.

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The ruins of Maribojoc Church (source)

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Workers doing retrieval operations at Maribojoc Church (source)

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Maribojoc Church bells (source)

In rebuilding Maribojoc Church, they used concrete and steel in combination with the old. The old limestones salvaged from the rubble will be for cladding. Despite the compromised integrity and authenticity, It remains a heritage church. In 2020, Loboc, Maribujo, Loon and Antequera remains not completed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the reconstruction halted. We can expect that fully restored by this year.

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Restored Spanish era stairs at Maribojoc (source)

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Maribojoc church under construction (source)

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The Maribojoc Church in Bohol is currently undergoing restoration. (source)

Again, several heritage churches bowed down during the earthquake, two of which are a century old in Bohol. The ancient stone churches are symbols that tell the rich history of the island. We may be able to restore these church, but it never looks the same again. Despite the unfortunate incident, we are still able to bring back these churches on their feet. It is commendable that they manage to retain the authenticity of these structures by salvaging from the rumbles. After eigth years, we have fully restored the heritage of Bohol despite four are still rebuilding the lost glory.

References

Note: The cover image is created by the author using Canva.

  1. Bohol Earthquake: One year on
  2. The Stone Churches of Bohol
  3. This is how the Loboc Church in Bohol looks like now
  4. Salvaged materials helped save severely damaged Bohol churches
  5. 21 churches damaged in 2013 Bohol quake restored
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It sure is nice to see people rebuild those historical and cultural sites. Even if they will never become exactly like they were before the damage, I think they did their best job to reproduce it. I think just changes things as things will never be exactly what it was when it started. For example if you were to replace the engine in the car, we can say its the same car but it is no longer exactly the same.

Hi @jfang003, that is a good insight. Change is inevitable. Things will eventually be replaced with new material or technology. Oftentimes, we build heritage site not to reclaim the glory but to move the heritage forward. Thank you for your engagement!

Hi @juecoree, I'm grateful to have visited Loboc Church two years before the said earthquake. It looked dark and frail then and was in danger of collapse anytime. The re-construction of the church must have been a huge undertaking and it's good that they completed the rebuild.

I heard stories to from friends who grow up at Loboc. The church is old and really needs retrofitting before the earthquake happen. I think the earthquake has pros and cons. It allow us to rebuild the church for safer use but we loss some authenticity of the structure.

I have countless wonderful memories of the province of Bohol and this beautiful island will always be a part of my travel legacy. Moreover, I'm also glad that the damaged churches and other important religious buildings there are now undergoing restoration work after succumbing to that devastating earthquake of October 15, 2013. What's your favorite church in Bohol @juecoree in terms of its architecture and design and why?

I must say the oldest one, Baclayon Church. I love the ingenuity of using a blue glaze tiles on its façade. It is inviting and tie up the façade and the portico.

Yes, that would definitely be mine too as I find the church to be filled with historical details. Thanks for the feedback!

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It feels sad to heart about ages old churches being ruin by the earthquake but anyways it's good that restoration is on and preserving such structure is important for the city.
That's a wonderful content, hope you have a lovely week:)

Luckily, only 4 out of 21 is still on going renovation. The other renovations went well. Thanks you for your engagement, @sahiba-rana!

Hello @juecoree, just dropping by to congratulate you.

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