FATHER Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary and founder of the Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert chain, walks into the village of Walk on the Papago Indian settlement. This was 1692 and this founded mission was called it the San Xavier del Bac after his patron saint, St. Francis Xavier, and the "del Bac" which translates to "place where water appears," referring to the Santa Cruz River that runs underground and surfaces nearby the settlement area.

Today, we all recognize it as the San Xavier del Bac which is also knows as the "White Dove of the Desert" and sits on the land of the Tohono O'odham Indians (formerly known as Papago) who have been the mission's protector for centuries.

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A short drive southwest of Tucson, about 10 miles, will bring you to this amazing destination regularly visited by 200,000 tourists annually. Add one more Filipino tourist on the list, I am not about to miss this one. It is still an unexplained phenomenon why I have this notion that I should visit the churches of the areas I chance upon to visit.

This must be one of the best attractions any host can take their guest. The San Xavier Mission was named a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and a one-stop spot where history, religion and art is woven in one rich and colorful tapestry.

On this tour, my reliable localized guides were Brother Eski, Sis-in-law Diane and niece Iya.

One of the finest Spanish Colonial church in the US, the San Xavier was built in 1783 by Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain and completed in 1797 with borrowed money and believed to have used local work force and artisans. As the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, it is considered as a treasure of the southwestern history.

The inspiration is Moorish and the floor plan is a Latin cross. The simple designed church was constructed with low-fire clay brick, stone and limestone-based plaster. But the interiors are something else.

Upon entering the massive doors, you will be amazed with the splash of colors in the paintings, frescoes, statues, carvings and ornaments that fuses Spanish and Native American motifs still in their original state. Indeed, you will get the feeling of being transported back into the 18th century. And as to who should be credited for the skillfully crafted inner sanctuary, no one knows.

The 1887 earthquake damaged parts of the church and extensive repairs followed from 1905, in 1939 after the West Tower lantern was struck by lightning and in 1978, a preservation team- the Patronato- was formed to save his national treasure.

Until today, relying on whatever funding that can be accrued, the restoration is on going. The historic bricks to which the church was built with are repaired and the exterior walls are refinished with the traditional material.

As to the interiors, the same artisans that worked on the Sistine Chapel extended their aid to restore the inner beauty of the church into its original grandeur. Thus, they also call the San Xavier del Bac the "Sistine Chapel of the New World."