Rebuilding Bohol churches-A A +A
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
IN THE 1870s, a conflict between the Spanish friars and local village chief and priests led to the tearing down of the San Juan Bautista Parish Church in old Parian, Cebu City.
Fe Susan Go, in her “Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon: An Annotated Translation of the 1835 History of Cebu,” described the structure as “never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.”
The Parian church was a magnificent one, “made of stone blocks, plastered together in
a mixture of lime and the sap of the lawat tree. The roofs were made of tiles, and the lumber used were molave, balayong and naga.”
A Spanish engineer, on the order of the bishop at that time, later claimed that the materials used to build the church were weak and the structure should be demolished.
The governor had the church torn down supposedly block by block.
I recalled this story while watching an episode of GMA 7’s “I Witness” show Monday night wherein host Jay Taruc, together with a writer who had written a book about Bohol’s churches, surveyed the destruction wrought by last week’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake.
The same method of building a church in the Philippines (block by block) can also be used in reverse to tear it down. With the destruction of the Bohol’s churches because of the quake, can the same method be used to rebuild it? And can these churches be restored to their original look?
Seven heritage churches in Bohol, where the epicenter of the quake was located, were damaged. The list includes the San Pedro church in Loboc, the Our Lady of Light church in Loon, the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church in Baclayon, the Santa Cruz parish church in Maribojoc, the Santissima Trinidad church in Loay, the San Nicolas de Tolentino parish church in Dimiao, and the Our Lady of the Assumption church in Dauis.
Many others that were not yet declared as heritage churches were also hit.
One National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) official placed the estimated cost of the reconstruction of the said heritage sites at P3 billion at most.
A Heritage Task Force formed by the NCCA has visited the damaged churches and mapping out NCCA’s next move.
Restoration as an option is definitely a challenge. Construction of those churches using work force and resources available at that time took years to complete. It was an activity that involved people in the community. The materials used were not that difficult to find.
These included coral stones hewn into blocks that were put in place using a mixture consisting of egg whites, lime and sand. Manually sawn lumber like “tugas” and “balayong” (bayong) were used for trusses and were put in place using pegs for nails.
Restoration work, however, can benefit from the availability of a sophisticated technology, although that would surely jack up the construction cost.
Interestingly, the Spanish government has reportedly expressed interest in helping in the restoration process.
Whatever the NCCA and the Catholic Church hierarchy will eventually decide on, whether to go through the difficult process of restoration or construction of a modern structure to replace totally damaged churches, there’s still the costly and tedious task of strengthening existing stone churches in the country so they can withstand tremors.
In the aftermath of last week’s quake, seismic retrofitting is the order of the day for both the NCCA (for heritage churches) and the Catholic Church (for the other churches). That’s one of the lessons that we have learned from the tremor.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 23, 2013.