Article and Photographs by Paolo Razon
In 1521, Spanish explorers and colonists arrived in the Philippines and taught Filipinos their religion: Catholicism. Five centuries later, it doesn’t come off as a surprise that there are many churches in the Philippines. Not only did these churches were built in much grandeur, many of them has stood against the test of time. Our resident photographer, Paolo Razon, takes us to past with some of the timeless architectures found in Pampanga.
Our first stop is the San Guillermo Parish Church, in Bacolor, Pampanga. This particular town was one of the hardest hit by the lahar (volcanic mudflow) after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and this is the reason why the San Guillermo Parish is so special. The magnitude of the lahar was so great that it buried half of the church. To illustrate how deep the church was buried, the niches in the wall for saints serve as entrances now.The church was preserved as is and its baroque design hasn’t been altered ever since.
Untouched by ages: the church has been through a lot, be it wars and calamities and being built in the year 1576 it is still standing strong today as one of the oldest churches in the country.
Once a towering parish before known for it’s size and dome height until it was leveled with Lahar. With a community dedicated in preserving their town’s heritage they dug out the original altar and restored it to its former glory. The former dome of San Guillermo Parish was just enough to fit its original altar piece.
Our second stop it is St. James the Apostle Parish Church commonly known as: Betis Church. It is situated in Guagua, Pampanga, one of the furniture and wood-carving hub in the country.
Don’t be fooled by it looks, designed by Spanish Friars to be a fortress and a stronghold in times of revolt, wars and calamity brought a new architectural wave, the baroque earthquake. Beauty behold, known as the Sistine chapel of the Philippines because of the intricate carvings and murals that covers the ceiling of Betis Church.
These paintings were done by the famous artist Simon Flores which took him years to finish this obra maestra. Seeing the actual ceiling in real life will leave you in great awe, photos don’t bring justice on how magnificent it looks. From the entrance ceiling to the dome, no single space was left uncovered.
It is just mind boggling to imagine how much time, resources and dedication was poured into this church to make it what it is now. No wonder it has earned the status of being a National Treasure.