Thursday, July 12, 2007

next stop, historic boljoon

after about half an hour of exploring oslob, we were back in the car, and on the road. this time, we're headed back up to boljoon, which was quite a historic town.

there is much to see in boljoon, and it's a paradise for those who love to have a glimpse of how life was before. like most of the towns this side of cebu, boljoon is teeming with old houses that are still up and being lived in. aside from that, outdoor lovers will find it an adventure to climb the mystical eli rock.

our destination was the church complex of patrocinio de maria. the church, nuestra senora de patrocinio, was built by augustinian friars in the 18th century. other structures within this complex are the block house, which functioned as a watchtower back in the day, escuela catolica, and the 18th century cemetery, which we weren't able to see. let's discuss them one by one, shall we?

the church. like the church in oslob, the nuestra senora de patrocinio parish was located near the ocean, which explains why it's also made of corals. the church can be easily seen from the road, as it's in a large complex, and guarded by an arch with three angels. the church was one of the many fortress churches, to protect the people from muslim attacks. because of these attacks, boljoon was never densely populated. experts in these structures pronounce the church peculiar, because it actually looks islamic at first glance.

an attack destroyed the structure in 1782, and rebuilding began the next year. it took three different priests to finally finish the job. the convento that stands beside the church is said to have been built in 1915. beside the church stands its bell tower, which is a quadrilateral edifice that consists of three stories.

i was pleased to see that the church was being restored when we entered it. the paintings on the ceilings were still highly visible, and quite colorful, but the place really needed a lot of work done. it was declared for restoration in 1998, which is great because it would really be a shame if this structure crumbled into historic pieces. it was declared a national historical landmark in december 1999, because it is the oldest original stone church in the island of cebu that is still standing to this day.

the block house. it was father julian who decided to create a defense system to thwart attackers. he managed to create about three dozen watchtowers along the coast of southeastern cebu. the system works much like the lighting of the beacons scene in the lord of the rings: the return of the king.

boljoon played a central role in this system, because there was a hill close to it, where he built the highest watchtower. you can see a faint trace of this watchtower from the church, with the cross being prominent (if the sky is really blue). this watchtower used to have red, white, and black flags to signal the other churches in the system if there is an impending attack.

part of boljoon's defense system is the 120x80-meter block house, where cannons were mounted to thwart unfriendly groups. today, those cannons have been replaced by bells, as there is no more fear of an attack. it would also be interesting to note that its walls are a meter thick.

the block house looks pretty dull from the outside, because it just looks like a sturdy but gray box. it doesn't look especially charming when you see escuela catolica and the church behind it. but when i thought about it, its role in all this was vital, as it defended the town from the muslims. and i find it fascinating that the holes on the second story of the structure used to have cannons mounted on them. from deadly cannons to harmless clanging bells. what a change, huh?

escuela catolica. now we have come to my favorite structure of the entire trip. i was greatly creeped out by this building when i first saw its photo online. seeing it up close still sent chills up my spine, but my fear was also mixed with awe. i don't quite understand my fascination; i just found myself gaping at the structure as i was getting out of the car.

as it says on its facade, the school was built in the 1940. from the photo, it may look frail, but the twin staircases are actually made of tough concrete. its roof boasts of wood relief ornamentation, which is a great part of its eerie charm. the escuela is the only structure in the complex to have american characteristics.

the escuela served as a dormitory for children, because back then, they were required to stay at the escuela the night before their first holy communion. when it's not functioning as a dormitory, the structure would be the venue for religious teachings. at one point, it also served as a primary school. today, it is where parish meetings are held. i don't know how they can muster up the courage to enter the building, but kudos to them.

more photos of the boljoon complex may be found here.

for more information about boljoon, do visit their website.

1 comment:


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