Baclayon Church: A Trace of Religious History in Bohol

One of the oldest church buildings in the history of the Philippines is the Baclayon Church. It is an interesting spot if you want to learn things about the early history of the Philippines especially during the era of Spanish occupation. We’ll look into the history of the Baclayon Church, and perhaps find a religious heritage.

The Baclayon Church is the oldest Catholic stone church building in the Philippines. It was constructed during the Spanish occupation and the first Spanish missionaries (called doctrineros) settled in the area in the late 15th century. Today you can still see the original stone structure of the Baclayon Church in the City of Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines.

There are other preserved church buildings in the region but the Baclayon Church is the best preserved among them. The church itself is Jesuit, but the Baclayon Church (the one we see today) was completed in 1727. The erected church building known today as the Baclayon Church is formally known as The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

The area where the Baclayon Church now stands was home to the Spanish Jesuit missionaries when they arrived in the Philippines. The Jesuits were forced to leave and move their headquarters to Loboc. This was due to fears of being mobbed by Moro marauders.

In 1717 Baclayon was raised to the status of a parish. Thus construction on a new church (the Baclayon Church of today) began. The construction of the Baclayon Church required two hundred native laborers who were forced to do the work.

These artisans hauled coral stones from the sea, then skillfully cut them into square blocks, lifted the work using bamboo to move the stones into position, and piled them like bricks. About a million egg whites were used to cement the cut coral stones together. This was a testament to the great skill of these native artisans.

The Baclayon Church was completed in 1727 and a large bell was added in 1835. The church building had a dungeon where violators of Roman Catholic Law were punished. Filipino natives were its usual occupants.

The attractions we’ll see in the Baclayon Church include an old convent with a small museum. There you’ll see some centuries-old relics. Most artifacts you’ll see in the Baclayon Church museum are religious in nature. Antiquities of note are an ivory statue of Jesus Christ dating back to the 16th century, a statue of the Virgin Mary, St. Ignatius of Loyola’s relics, gold embroidered church vestments, a host of books and hymnals, and 1859 paintings of Liberato Gatchalian (famous Filipino painter).

Traveling to Baclayon Church usually takes a boat ride to the Tubigon Port using the RORO water ways system. From there you can take the air-conditioned tour vans (highly recommended because of the rough dusty roads you’ll have to cover). The fare for the van would cost about Php 2,500.

You better know your roads (or get a driver who does) if you plan to drive to Baclayon Church. You will have to take the Bohol coastal road (fastest route). You’ll be going through several towns and head due east about six kilometers of Tagbilaran City (pretty tough drive if you don’t know the area).

The Baclayon Church is a landmark in the history of the Philippines. Anyone who’s interested in the country’s early history can’t afford to miss seeing the Baclayon Church.

2 Comments

  1. Debra Kester

    I do not know if you meant my house address or not on the second line but if you did then here is my address: 1210 N. Sioux Ave. Claremore, OK 74017

    A friend of mine brought back to me one of your beautiful cross’s and I was wondering do you have any of on your website that I might see and purchase?

    Thank you very much, Debra

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