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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last 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.
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.