Monday, October 25, 2021

A year after the quake: Church officials eager to start

HELD TOGETHER. The facade of the St. Michael the Archangel Church in Clarin, Bohol remains intact. Everything behind it has fallen to pieces, but parishioners continue to worship in a tent on the church grounds. (Sun.Star photo/Allan L. Cuizon)

CEBU -- The old churches that attracted the faithful and the curious to Bohol remain in rubble a year after the magnitude-7.2 earthquake last October 15, 2013.

The National Government -- through the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Museum, and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) -- set aside P650 million to reconstruct or restore national heritage sites in Bohol that the earthquake affected, including 25 churches of the Diocese of Tagbilaran.

Bohol church officials said the process of restoration and rebuilding can be tedious. Church sites have to be assessed if they are still safe, and the restoration plan has to be studied and discussed with heritage experts.

Funds, on the other hand, come in trickles.

Bishop Leonardo Medroso of the Diocese of Tagbilaran said funding from government has to go through the process. “You know how our government works with the bureaucracy and all. Government commissions are very eager to start reconstruction but then again, the release of the funds is delayed,” he said.

In Cebu, churches that were damaged by last year’s earthquake are slowly being restored despite limited funds.

Among these churches is the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, which lost the upper half of its belfry during the quake.

Fr. Brian Brigoli, chairman of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on Culture and Heritage, said 12 damaged churches are undergoing repair and restoration.

He said the restoration plan factors in design features that would make the churches withstand strong earthquakes.

In Bohol, three national heritage churches were reduced to nothing but a pile of rubble.

These are the Parroquia de la Santa Cruz in Maribojoc, Nuestra Señora de la Luz in Loon and the St. Peter the Apostle Church in Loboc.

According to the Bohol Rehabilitation Plan, the reconstruction of these churches alone would cost P300 million.


Twenty-two other churches in Bohol were either damaged or destroyed. Fifteen of them, including the St. Michael Church of Clarin, are not heritage sites.

Fr. Milan Ted Torralba, chairman of the Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church of the Diocese of Tagbilaran, said the restoration program for the churches is still in the first phase. This includes assessing the safety of the church grounds, clearing the sites and sifting through the rubble for anything that can be re-used.

In the meantime, he said, affected parishes are building alternate churches to continue to serve the faithful in their areas.

Torralba said P150 million has been allotted for the first phase. It is part of the P650-million assistance covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by the Bohol Provincial Government and the NHCP.

Torralba said the completion date for the first phase was supposed to be last April yet, but the work took longer than expected because of the number of churches to be assessed.

New and old

The second phase of involves drafting the reconstruction plan, which would include inputs from heritage experts.

Torralba said the reconstruction and repair of churches and other heritage structures have to follow guidelines set by the church and the NHCP.

He said restoring old churches that were reduced to debris is no longer practical, so completely new structures will have to be built in their place. The new structures, though, would still retain the major features of the old church, like the retablo (high altar) and the nave.

He said the new churches would be designed in such a way that they would still reflect Bohol’s heritage.

Actual reconstruction and restoration will be in the third phase of the project.

The diocese and NHCP aim to complete the restoration and reconstruction project by December 2017.

Government’s help

Of the 25 churches in Bohol that were affected by the earthquake, 10 are classified as national cultural treasures, national historical landmarks and important cultural properties.

Fifteen of the 25 are not classified as heritage churches. Torralba said, though, that the NHCP, under the MOA, has committed to shoulder the expenses in rehabilitating these churches.

Torralba said that since government financial assistance is slow to come, some parishes are raising funds to repair their churches or to build alternate houses of worship.

In Loay, parishioners and foreign groups pooled resources to construct an alternate church, next to the ruined Holy Trinity Church.

Fr. Joel Jalasan, Loay parish priest, told Sun.Star Cebu that their parish raised almost P1 million through local and foreign donations.

The alternative church is temporary. The parish still hopes to rehabilitate the old church. “Once restoration and repair are done, we plan to convert the alternate church into a school house,” he added.

Own repairs

Cebu’s parishes also took the initiative to repair damaged churches while waiting for assistance from the NHCP.

Aside from the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the quake also damaged the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral; Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish in Barangay Pardo, Cebu City; St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Carcar City; the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Argao; the San Guillermo de Aquitania Parish in Dalaguete; the Nuestra Señora del Pilar Parish in Sibonga; the Nuestra Señora de Patrocinio Parish in Boljoon; the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Samboan; St. Francis de Assisi Parish in Dumanjug; Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Bantayan; and the Sta. Rosa de Lima Parish in Daanbantayan.

Brigoli said that the NHCP did not say how much aid it will give to the Cebu churches, but the commission promised to refund what the parishes spent.

Brigoli said they have already concluded the first phase of the restoration project for the Basilica, which involves preliminary assessment and the creation of a detailed engineering study (DES) that will guide reconstruction work.

Second phase

The DES involves different processes such as soil boring to determine if the area where the church stands is stable. It also involves material testing to determine if the materials used to construct the old structure can still be used for restoration.

Brigoli said the project is now in the second phase, which involves determining proper restoration techniques.

Officials of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Cebu Archdiocese’s main seat, initiated fund-raising activities to help repair the church.

Msgr. Ruben Labajo, cathedral team moderator, said that they organized several fund-raising activities, like the benefit dance last September 12, to repair the church.

The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the main venues of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in 2016, an event that is expected to draw more than 15,000 believers of the Catholic faith.

The restoration of the cathedral will cost about P8 million, said Labajo. The work includes repair of re-entrant corners, parapets and facade, as well as retrofitting the bell tower and chapel.


The restoration of the St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Carcar City was recently completed, an endeavor that cost the parish about P1.2 million.

Brigoli said restoration work has also started for churches in Dalaguete and Sibonga towns, all in southern Cebu. Repair of the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Pardo, on the other hand, is implemented in phases due to lack of funds.

Brigoli said the NHCP is also eyeing to retrofit old churches to make them withstand strong earthquakes.

Churches that were built during the Spanish era were mostly made of coral stones positioned one on top of the other. Gaps were filed with egg whites.

Medroso said that some parishioners expressed reservations about having alternate churches because they would rather focus on restoring the old structures.

He said that he instructed parishes to salvage surviving parts of the old churches to serve as reminder of the earthquake, but practical solutions have to be considered.


“We have to let them understand that there is a need for the church to evolve. There are different ways to express our faith. For instance, our young people do not understand the concept of the retablo,” he added.

He said parishes are free to design alternate churches as they see fit as long as these conform with the general guidelines of the archdiocese, such as the presence of icons and the altar.

Aside from the churches in Maribojoc, Loon and Loboc, the earthquake also damaged the Immaculate Conception Parish in Baclayon, Santo Niño Parish Church in Cortes, the Holy Trinity Church in Loay, the Lady of Assumption Church in Dauis, San Nicolas de Tolentino Church in Dimiao, the San Agustin Church in Panglao, the Santa Monica Church in Albuquerque, St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral in Tagbilaran City, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Antequera, St. John the Baptist Church in Garcia-Hernandez, St. Isidore the Laborer Church in Tubigon, Santo Niño Church in Valencia, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Balilihan, Our Lady of the Village in Corella, St. Michael the Archangel Church in Clarin, San Vicente Ferrer Church in Calape, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Lila, St. Anthony of Padua Church in Sikatuna, the Immaculate Conception Church in Catigbian, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Sevilla, San Agustin Church in Sagbayan and the St. James the Greater Church in Batuan. (Sun.Star Cebu)
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