REVISITING CARAGA CHURCH OF DAVAO ORIENTAL

For another year, I am invited by the LGU of Caraga, Davao Oriental to be one of their guests for the annual celebration of the town’s Founding Anniversary and its Parochial Town Fiesta celebrated every 16th day of July. Caraga is the oldest town in the Province of Davao Oriental.

Situated in the eastcoast of the province, CARAGA is a laid-back town teeming with natural attractions, colorful culture and rich history. Being the easternmost town in the country, it is famous as the Sunrise Capital of the Philippines as the sun shines here first particularly in Pusan Point. The town also takes pride as home of the Mandaya Indigenous People, one of the most interesting and fascinating IP groups of Mindanao where culture and traditions are still intact even to this day.

Another fascinating thing CARAGA is so proud of is the SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO CHURCH, the Parish Church of the town, as it is known as the oldest Church in the whole Davao Region. Long before the arrivals of the Spaniards in the Davao Gulf to conquer what is now Davao City in 1848, Caraga is already established as a town and was part of Caraga Province (referring to CARAGA Region). The town served as a mission station of Spanish Missionaries in propagating Christianity in eastern Mindanao. San Salvador Del Mundo Church is the legacy and heritage they left to Caragenos.

Built on the promontory that overlooks a spectacular view of the great Pacific Ocean, San Salvador Del Mundo Church is mainly made of rubble – irregular pieces of rocks and corals – but the upper portion is built with hardwood. The aged door in the opening bears insignias that symbolize of the Holy Name of Jesus. The construction of this church began in 1877 led by Fr. Pablo Pastells, SJ and Fr. Juan Terricabras, SJ and was completed in 1884.

In 2012 during the town’s Parochial Fiesta, the San Salvador Del Mundo Church was declared a National Historic Site, a distinction given by no less than the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The declaration was made 128 years after it was built in 1884 – something that every Carageños should be proud of, including me who hails from the same province.

San Salvador Del Mundo Church has survived the tests of changing times and has remained a beacon of Catholic faith in this side of the country.

WHY DO WE NEED TO PROTECT BUILT HERITAGE?

When the provinces of Bohol and Cebu was hit by a destructive earthquake last year, the country mourned not only for the loss of lives of many people and for the devastation of many homes but also for the many century old structures, churches in particular, that were brought into rubble and wrecked by an intensity 8 tremor. Three weeks after that, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded hit the Visayas Region killing more lives, damaged countless of infrastructure and destroyed a number of century old historical sites.

Built Heritage Sites 1Many grieved for such loss saddened and shocked by such successive mishap. Many, including myself, grieved not only for the lives and homes that were lost but also for the heritage sites that was shaken and destroyed in just hours – built heritage that was inherited from our great ancestors.

Built Heritage Sites 2

Century Old Churches of Bohol After Typhoon Yolanda

While my heart bleeds for those who perished in this disastrous mishap and for those who survived yet remained unsound, another part of me laments for the chances I missed beholding some of the most important ancient historical structures we have in the country. I regret for not being able to marvel at these heritage sites long before earthquake and typhoons battered and vanished them.

Built Heritage Sites 2

The Old Church of my Hometown Cateel after Typhoon Pablo

The same sorrow I felt when Typhoon Pablo ravaged my hometown of Cateel in the east coast of Davao Oriental devastating almost every structure we have there including institutions that molded my education. Old houses and buildings were destroyed and what remained are few remnants of our olden timest. Until today, I can still feel the sadness for all the things that were taken away from us – including built heritage that would have served as a great reminder of our past.

Philippine Built Heritage Sites 11

The Century-old Church of Boljoon, Cebu Province

Dalaguete Churh in Southern Cebu Province

The Dalaguete Church in Southern Cebu Province

But somehow, these ill-timed misfortunes teach us to love, to value more of what we have – including those that we consider things and sights of great history and heritage of our ancient times. It opened our eyes to see the importance of these sites in molding our country to be become what it is now and shaping its people to become who we are at present – a country and people of great history and heritage.

The Heritage City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur

The Heritage City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur

The Bantay Bellfry

The Bantay Bellfry

I may have regrets and lamentations for not traveling around discovering more heritage sites in different corners of the country, somehow I feel so privileged that in one of my humble wanderings, I was led to see and marvel at places that once shaped this nation and its people. Seeing those numbers of sites made me prouder of my race as a Filipino.

The Ruins at Corrigedor Island

The Ruins at Corrigedor Island

The Ruins of Cuartel in Oslob, Cebu

The Ruins of Cuartel in Oslob, Cebu

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Sur

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Sur

Today I say enough of lamentations, enough of so much regret. These 7,107 islands so called the Philippines host to thousands of heritage discoveries waiting to be seen, to be unearthed. I still get all the reason to wander around and see all these for myself. And I vow to see them, if not all least half of what we have.

Cagsawa Ruins at at the foot of Mount Mayon, Albay

The Cagsawa Ruins at the foot of Mount Mayon, Albay

The Ruins of the Old Church in Camguin Island

The Ruins of the Old Church in Camguin Island

Call me fortunate, I was among the chosen few flown to Manila last week to join the Wikimedia Philippines Cultural Heritage Mapping Volunteer Workshop sponsored by the Wikimedia Philippines and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It aimed to teach the participant/volunteer the fundamentals of built heritage in the Philippines, as well as training with the necessary skills in heritage documentation, heritage photography, geographic mapping and content creation using the Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other Wikimedia projects. The workshop is an eye opener for me to understand more the value of our built heritage and why do we need to protect them.

Wikipedia Philippine Cultural Heriatge Mapping Project

Wikipedia Philippine Cultural Heriatge Mapping Project

Built Heritage is our identity. It is what makes us different from others. It shows our wealth as a nation and shows our diversity. Heritage is something that, once lost, can never be found again. And that I came to realize that we should protect it, preserve it because it is the remnants of in our glorious past that without doubt defines our present. We are part of that heritage and it is apt to preserve it.

PAOAY CHURCH, a UNESCO Heritage Site

PAOAY CHURCH, a UNESCO Heritage Site

Our built heritage represents the way of life of those who went before us – our forefathers who fought for us. It signifies their vision and aspirations and today it is bequeathed to us for us to enjoy, to enhance and to hand on to future generations.Thus, the need to protect it.

Me and the old church of St. James the Apostle Parish and the old monument of Jose Rizal in my hometown of Cateel.

St. James the Apostle Parish and the old monument of Jose Rizal in my hometown of Cateel.

Along with millions of heritage admirers across the globe, I pray that heritage conservation in this country will flourish and I pledge to take part of that conservation in my own little way. For I am a Filipino, I’m proud of my race, my history and my heritage.

By the way, just so you know, Built Heritage is described by law as any building 50 years and older.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH

There are many reasons that make Davao Oriental one of the most interesting provinces to visit in Mindanao. Aside from its famous beaches, majestic waterfalls, verdant mountains and pristine natural wonder, another addition to these fascinating reasons to why discover this province is the San Salvador Del Mundo Church, one of the oldest known stone churches in Mindanao.CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (20)

San Salvador Del Mundo Church is located in the town of Caraga in the eastern coast of Davao Oriental. The town is considered as one of the oldest towns in the province and had once served as mission station of Spanish Missionaries in propagating Christianity in this side of Mindanao. San Salvador Del Mundo Church is the great remnant of that past glory.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (19)I have visited the whole 11 municipalities of the province and have marveled some of its churches but visiting Caraga’s old church was my first. But even back then, I already learned the great significance of Caraga’s San Salvador Del Mundo Church as cradle of Christianity in this eastern part of the Philippines. And so getting there meant getting close to a piece of history in our province.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (7)CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (9)Too far from what I thought, San Salvador Del Mundo Church is a simple old structure built on the promontory that overlooks a spectacular view of the great Pacific Ocean. The façade of church along its sides is mainly made of rubble – irregular pieces of rocks – but the upper portion is built with hardwood. The aged door in the opening bears insignias that symbolize of the Holy Name of Jesus. According to research, San Salvador Del Mundo Church was built in 1884 by the Jesuit Missionaries (Society of Jesus) and played a significant role in spreading Christianity in the eastern side of Mindanao.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (11)Withstanding the tests of time, the church has undergone series of renovations but has generally retained its original structure. I was stunned to see two centuries-old giant seashells still used as stoup (basin for holy water) for churchgoers. I also noticed an old marble baptismal font kept on the side of the main door. I learned this was used during the Spanish time. Some of interesting pieces that can be found inside the church are remnants of 19th century Spanish regime – which now considered antiquities of importance.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (41) CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (43) CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (45)The most stunning feature I dearly admired inside San Salvador Del Mundo Church is the church’s altar. The influence of Spanish colonial altar is still there, something that all modern churches in Davao Oriental do not have. It is similar to those baroque churches in Visayas and Luzon.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCHLast year, in time for the Caraga’s Parochial Fiesta, the San Salvador Del Mundo Church was declared a National Historic Site, a distinction given by no less than the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The declaration was made 128 years after it was built in 1884 – something that every Carageños should be proud of, including me who hails from the same province.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (25)Today, San Salvador Del Mundo Church has withstood the tests of time and even survived the strongest typhoon to have hit Mindanao. With God’s divine grace, it remains to be a great remnant of a glorious past and a beacon of Catholic faith in this side of the country.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Caraga, Davao Oriental is approximately 5 hours land travel from Davao City and 3 hours away from Mati City, the capital of the province. There are buses and passenger vans that regularly travel to the town plying the Davao-Tagum-Mati road. San Salvador Del Mundo Church on the other hand is located in the heart of the town’s Poblacion. Everybody knows the place.

LAMARAN MOSQUE OF BANAYBANAY, DAVAO ORIENTAL

I once confessed I have a huge fascination for mosques. There is inner peace and sublime godliness whenever I see them. I have visited and toured around the grandest and most beautiful mosques in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and in the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam but I’ve never been to any in the Philippines not until I decided to drop by at one of the quaintest mosques I see in the whole Davao Region the Lamaran Mosque of Banaybanay, Davao Oriental.

Lamaran Mosque Banaybanay Davao Oriental (11)Whenever I traveled to Mati City and my hometown of Cateel, Davao Oriental plying Davao-Mati route, I would always stay attentive or awake if I’m not driving whenever I pass by the town of Banaybanay to glance at the town’s most unique mosque perfectly situated right the main highway. I’ve been so fascinated by it since the day I first saw it. And in one of my many travels eastward, I finally took my time to stop, went in to experience my first mosque visit in the country.

The View of Lamaran Mosque from the Highway

The View of Lamaran Mosque from the Highway

At first I was taking pictures from outside as the impressive color of the whole structure was truly captivating. When I neared the main entrance of the mosque, an old man came to me to ask what I was doing. I told him I am travel blogger and I write about interesting places that other people or tourists can come and discover. He was very excited when he heard it. He volunteered to show me around the mosque. It was past noon. He said the midday prayer will start in a while but I can just go on going around.

Lamaran Mosque Banaybanay Davao Oriental (6)

Lamaran Mosque Banaybanay Davao Oriental (10)As I toured around, I can feel the profound faith and devotion of our Muslim brothers as manifested in the four corners of Lamaran Mosque. I can feel innate peace dwelling in the place. It is not as bigger or grander like those in Malaysia and Brunei but I can feel the holiness and tranquility of the whole place inside me. When the call for prayer or adha started, I was moved even harder. There was profound peace that my struck my heart. The same feeling I felt when I was in Brunei listening to the reverberating adha of the Imam from the Grand Mosque.

Lamaran Mosque Banaybanay Davao Oriental (35)

Interiors of the Mosque

The Prayer Leader started Adha

The Prayer Leader started Adha

Digging the history of Lamaran Mosque, in my research, I learned that the mosque was built by Datu Hadji Calusan Lamaran in 1971 for his people, the Kagan Muslims of Davao Oriental. The Kagans are known in Mindanao to have a rich culture and tradition. In the later years, Lamaran Mosque was renovated and remodeled by the Datu’s offspring to become what it is now – a beacon of Islam faith in this part of Mindanao.

Lamaran Mosque Banaybanay Davao Oriental (9)

Lamaran Mosque, a beacon of Islam faith in this part of Mindanao.

I have so much respect for Islam, its rich culture, arts and architecture. Mostly Arabic in influence intertwined by regional culture, these works of art and architecture are great expression of their transcendent faith, love and devotion to Allah, the one true God. And just like other mosque, grand or not, Lamaran Mosque is one great example.

I WILL NEVER FORGET THIS PLACE. This is my first MOSQUE VISIT in the Philippines! 

Assalamu alaikum!

THE SAN GUILLERMO DE AQUITANIA CHURCH OF DALAGUETE

The Municipality of Dalaguete in Southern Cebu is also a destination of its own. I discovered this when we hurriedly toured around the town before ascending to Osmeña Peak. The town in itself is a heritage site to consider. It is dotted with several historical structures, heritage parks, and old colonial houses that defined the antiquity of this once a sleepy town. The most famous among these structures is the baroque-rococo church of Dalaguete – the Parish Church of San Guillermo de Aquitania.

The institution of Dalaguete as a town started when it became a Visita of Carcar in 1690. It was later established as an independent parish in 1711. The present church today that erected at the town’s Poblacion was constructed in 1802 and was completed in 1825. Following that year, a church rectory was constructed and was finished in 1832. In 1860, a grand octagonal three-story church belfry was also built.

From the inscriptions found on the front door, I learned that in the early 1800s, the church served as a fortification protection of the townspeople against the Moro attacks. In the following years, the church underwent series of renovation and restoration. On April 16, 2004, Parish Church of San Guillermo de Aquitania is declared as National Historical Landmark. Today, it is one of the most well-preserved baroque-rococo churches in the whole Province of Cebu.

Dalaguete’s San Guillermo de Aquitania Church is a significant example of Filipino-Spanish great architecture and now one of the few remaining grand church-fortress complexes in the Philippines. 

Traveling to Dalaguete made me see how blessed the Province of Cebu is being home of the different heritage sites to boast in the country. In fact, it makes the town worth seeing and discovering. Visiting the town is very easy. It is two hours away from Cebu City. There are no classy hotels to stay here. If you’re the type of a traveler looking for posh hotels, you cannot find it in Dalaguete. But rest assured all the destinations that await for you there will definitely take your breath away. 

DALAGUETE is the Summer Capital and Vegetable Basket of Cebu Province

Aside from historical places and heritages sites, there are other destinations worth visiting when in this southern town of Cebu. Being the Summer Capital and Vegetable Basket of the Province, Dalaguete is host to some of Cebu’s remaining natural heritage sites – breathtaking mountain ranges with its chilling natural breeze, enchanting forest patches that are home to some of the world’s most endangered flora and fauna, and coral reefs teeming with diverse marine life.

Mantalongon Highlands, the gateway to Osmeñs Peak

MOST OF ALL, Dalaguete is the gateway to reach Cebu’s highest point – the photogenic OSMEÑA PEAK. Watch out for my next post.

Getting to Dalaguete From Cebu City
One can find the Municipality of Dalaguete in the Southern part of the beautiful Island Province of Cebu.  Once you arrive in Mactan International Airport, just call for a taxi or a vehicle for hire to bring you to the Cebu South Bus Terminal. From the terminal, choose any of the buses available:

Air-conditioned Vehicles:
– Ceres Bus Liner
– Sunrays Bus Liner

Non Air-conditioned Vehicles:
– Ceres Bus Liner
– Sunrays Bus Liner
– Natalie Bus Liner
– Villahermosa Bus Liner
– D Rough Riders Bus Liner

The Travel Teller with the Locales of Dalaguete