Heritage Sites

Maribojoc's Masterpieces: From Resplendence to Ruins


Berniemack Arelláno
Berniemack Arelláno | Oct 03, 2014

Before that fateful morning in October 2013, Maribojoc Church was a pilgrimage site for devout locals. Of cultural importance was that it was a repository of Bohol’s church ceiling masterpieces. The coral stone Diocesan Shrine of San Vicente Ferrer, which withstood wars and other calamities that beset the paradise island of Bohol, is no more -- for now, that is.


On Easter Sunday of that same year (2013), several months before the earthquake, we had an opportunity to visit the Church of Maribojoc, which is located a few kilometers north of the Bohol’s capital, Tagbilaran City.

“The Omnipresence of God” in Maribojoc Church’s ceiling, painted by Ray Francia in the 1930s.

Founded by the Jesuit friars in the 18th century under the patronage of Santa Cruz, it was transferred to the Recollects upon the Jesuits' expulsion from the Philippines. By the mid-19th century, the Recollect friar Fernando Rubio Lucas supervised the construction of the coral stone church which featured a belfry with a clock on it.

The church ceiling painting and the cool interior of Maribojoc Church

Perhaps, one of Maribojoc’s best assets was the church ceiling paintings by Cebuano artist Ray Francia in the 1930s. The ceiling was adorned with intricate paintings, from Biblical passages to the majesty of the heavens.

The artwork was very intricate that, like in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, you can’t help but look up at the heavens!

The retablo and the altar of the church

The church escaped the wrath of fire during World War II, when the town was burned to ashes.

Carved in its facade is San Vicente Ferrer

In 2005, it was declared as the Diocesan Shrine of Saint Vincent Ferrer.

The belfry and the side view of Maribojoc Church, April 2013

The church, with its simple baroque and no-nonsense architecture, was indeed a Bol-anon treasure. You might not feel that “wow” factor when you see the church for the first time. However, everything changes when you go inside. The ceiling, pre-earthquake, was too good to be true! The dome area was a symbol of the Almighty's omnipresence.

The floating cross and paintings at the altar ceiling

“The Cross at Golgotha” – One of the wooden beams showed like a cross above the pile of debris of Maribojoc Church.

Alas, on the 15th of October, at around 8 in the morning, the church collapsed after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook Bohol and Cebu for more than a minute or so.

We were shocked and stunned as the big churches of northwestern Bohol, like in the town of Loon, seemed to have imploded. Maribojoc Church wasn’t just damaged, it was outright destroyed -- together with the treasured paintings of Francia, buried in a pile of rubble.

Pilgrims and tourists flock at the surviving statue of Mary at Maribojoc Church ruins (photo taken 5 days after the earthquake). Today, it has its own shrine beside the ruins.

Profoundly, the religious Bol-anons found, among the ruins, a statue of the Blessed Mary. The devout believed it was a good sign. For some, it was a sign of hope of rebuilding their shattered community and lives.

Church no more. The belfry and the side view of Maribojoc Church, 5 days after October earthquake (October 2013)

Today, the Maribojocnons celebrate their mass in makeshift church beside the still ruined site. The authorities advised the locals not to get the stones, for these will be reused to rebuild the church once again.

Maribojocnons celebrate their mass in a makeshift church beside the ruins of the old one. (March 2014)

There is hope in everything. For the Bol-anons, the earthquake was their own Via Dolorosa. At the end of the road, despite the deaths, agony, and destruction that they went through, there simply lies the hope of resurrection and rebuilding.

Cristo Rey, the rubble of Maribojoc Church, and hope awaits. (March 2014)

READ more HabagatCentral articles on Choose Philippines.

(These travel essay and photos were previously published on www.habagatcentral.com. For more features about Philippine travel destinations, food, delicacies, festivals and products, as well as hotels, resorts and restaurants, LIKE HabagatCentral.com.)

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