By Rey Anthony Chiu/PIA-Bohol | 07:05 PM September 17, 2021
Seven years and nearly 11 months after becoming a disheartening pile of rubble, the centuries old stone church of the Nuestra Señora de la Luz (Our Lady of Light) Parish in Loon is now officially turned over to the local church authorities.
The turn-over, set to happen during the vespers of the birth of Mary, here enthroned and revered as the Lady of Light, had the whole church complex cleared, organizers all too wary of the prohibition on gathering, in the peak of the pandemic.
The church plaza was cordoned off keeping spectators and eager parishioners peeking from the fences at the few parishioners, chapel presidents and church officials milling about, some taking pictures of the baroque architecture of graceful curves in the gleaming white carved stone edifice that seems to surge up helped by its twin bell towers, to reclaim her throne.
The ambitious multi-million restoration to bring back the grandeur of Bohol’s largest and most beautifully designed church in the region has pooled local stakeholders to meticulously go over the processes.
“We have to make sure that this is meticulously preserved to keep the church structural integrity as well as ascertain that the project remains true to the heritage church’s declarations as national treasure and landmark while contractors diligently pile the stones one after another,” shares a member of the local Technical Working Group who has to attend the turn-over rites in formal Filipino attire.
No less than National Museum (NM) Director Jeremy Barns and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Director and lawyer Rene Escalante handed the turn-over documents in the form of a Memorandum of Agreement between the national government and the Diocese of Tagbilaran, for the restored church’s upkeep and proper use.
Upon seeing the ruins, I saw it was an immense challenge, but then the Diocese entrusted to use the church, they trust us and we did the best we can do, Director Barns shared.
Even the NHCP, through Director Escalante, who has to admit that the restored Church is one of the most beautiful restored churches in the country, added that the partnership and cooperation between the private and public sector could be a among the best practices in the country he has seen.
Diocese of Tagbilaran Bishop Albert Uy signed the MOA as Our Lady of Light Parish curator Reverend Fr. Desiderio Magdoza, Loon Mayor Elvi Peter Relampagos, visiting priests and local stakeholders witnessed the ceremony held at the alternative church which acted as the venue for church events and activities while the reconstruction was still on.
“This is very timely,” says Bishop Uy, who pointed out that the auspicious date falls on the day before the parish celebrates the feast day of Mary, the lady of the Light.
In fact, the 1855 church and its complex which included the convent with masonry-plastered wood walls, the 1780 fortifications, the 198 cut-stone Inang-angan, and the mortuary chapel and old circular cemetery were declared by the then NM as National Cultural Treasure on December 6, 2010.
While the parish was established by the Jesuit mission in June 22, 1753, the Augustinian Recollects who took over the administration of the parish in October 21 1768, did a whole lot of changes including moving the church to a better location, according to the NM, which keeps a detailed history of the church.
This second church was built in 1815, but this was destroyed by fire. The third church, which crumbled in the 2013 earthquake was erected in 1853.
This was also that time when the Inang-angan, an integral part of the La Luz church complex was built, records at the NM showed.
As to historical records, in 1855, the parish priest and Spanish Augustinian Recollect José García de la Virgen de los Remedios built the coral stone church, based on the plan provided by Domingo de Escondrillas, Director of Public Works in Cebu.
The rest, until 2013, is, like we said, history.
Now, the church which used to feature two sloping transept buttresses, baroque facade flanked by twin towers, a narthex separated from the nave by concave pilasters, ceiling paintings, neoclassical altars, and even the tiles which may not survive the tremor, is now back with the feeling that almost nothing has changed since the earthquake completely reduced the structure to rubble.
With a very rich and outstanding social and spiritual significance to the community of faith, evidenced in the community’s strong affection for the church that figured in their life and history and that of the country, the NHCP declared the church as a National Historical Landmark in 2010.
Bishop Uy and NHCP Director Escalante also led the unveiling rites of the NHL marker now at the reconstructed church façade.
A rededication mass with no less than Bishop Uy officiating the rites, marked the beginning of the history of the fourth church, shining her light from atop a hill in Moto Sur and Norte in Loon. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)