Just last week, Jen and I were able to pay the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (in Baclayon, Bohol) a visit. It’s one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and according to our guide, it’s the oldest coral stone church in the country. From outside, it simply looks old, but inside is an eerily magnificent sight with dimly-lit purple and yellow lights on the altar and mossy-green walls around the nave (thanks to the coral stones used to build it).
A short tidbit about the beginnings of the church: two Jesuits, Juan de Torres and Gabriel Sanchez, settled in Bohol and founded the town of Baclayon in 1595. Lacking a proper venue to celebrate Masses, they decided to have the townspeople build a church (not as grand as the current one); sometime between 1717 and 1727, the construction of the church that is now the preserved version in Baclayon began. Much later in 1995, the church was designated a National Historic Treasure.
Other highlights of the Baclayon Church include the many religious images of saints and the Holy Family on display, a museum housing several church relics (bells, texts, figures, and more), and the surrounding stone buildings, which include a school and the belfry.
I did check out the many religious figures housed in plain view (both inside and outside the museum), and was consequently spooked by some (especially those figures of Mary as Mater Dolorosa and in Pieta). Saint Martin de Porres, Saint Peregrine, Saint Joseph of Arimathea, Saint Lazarus, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, and Saint Pio of Pietrelcina were also represented.
I found the Baclayon Church stop an important one during our stay in Bohol. Not everyday do I get the chance to hang out and just appreciate the beauty of architecture from an old era without a lot of tourists walking around and making noise. The experience was part haunting, part enchanting: the altar itself is a picture of grandeur opposite an aging nave.
Of course, there’s a huge upside to dropping by a place like this. There’s that chance to do your part in preserving the place by immortalizing it in photographs, not to mention fresh, first-hand memories of the beauty of its ripe, old age.
I did check out the many religious figures housed in plain view, and was consequently spooked by some.
It’s about six kilometers away from Tagbilaran City. From Dao Terminal, there should be buses and jeepneys going in Baclayon’s direction. Some tricycles may be willing to take you there, but as with any special trip, make sure you agree on a price before setting off.
Baclayon Church (Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepction)
Baclayon, Bohol, Philippines