Heritage Sites

The Untold Story Of Cavite's Maragondon Church

Cavite

The Untold Story Of Cavite's Maragondon Church
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The destruction of the Spanish period churches in Guiuan and Loboc left only one church intact in the former “Jesuit Churches in the Philippines” nomination for a possible UNESCO World Heritage listing. Guiuan church in Eastern Samar fell victim to the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda in 2013, while Loboc church crumbled under its own weight during the massive earthquake that ravaged Bohol months before.


The cluster of well-preserved Jesuit churches was supposed to complement the four Augustinian churches (Paoay, Sta. Maria, Miag-ao and San Agustin in Intramuros) that already make up the inscribed “Baroque Churches of the Philippines” in demonstrating further the richness and uniqueness of the country's church traditions as laid out by the different religious orders that came. Given the difficulty, however, in proving the Outstanding Universal Values (OUVs) of the Jesuit churches with only one church remaining, the nomination was, to the dismay of many heritage advocates, withdrawn in 2015 eventually.


This sole church left standing and unscathed is Maragondon’s Our Lady of the Assumption Church. Maragondon is an old town in the province of Cavite that is teeming with history, and, throughout the years, the single building that has dominated and continues to dominate its skyline has been the town’s church. The present stone church --which is made of river stones-- was completed in 1714 after several interruptions in its construction. As with most churches in the country, it was built by ordinary Filipino craftsmen attempting to recreate European baroque styles as relayed by the Spaniards. However, what makes this church stands out among other Jesuit churches is its unique architecture. The church has long been considered peculiar due to its rather lanky, narrow appearance. Moreover, the trapezoid-shaped attached bell tower does not fail to get noticed at first glance. A closer look further reveals that the tower lacks clear divisions between its storeys.

 

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Some of the details found in this church that add to its charm are the three extant wooden baroque retablos (retables) and pulpit inside, which are highly prized for their originality and artistry. The pulpit shares a common feature with that of Intramuros’ San Agustin church: the inverted pineapple that hangs at the bottom. Looking up to the ceiling, which is otherwise flat and lacks grace, several wooden beams bear Latin inscriptions, of which no parallel has been found elsewhere in the Philippines. The wooden doors are noteworthy as well for its intricate carvings that include a watchtower and a ship. The watchtower might be a nod to the former Fort San Felipe, while the ship might be a reminder of the galleon trade in the nearby port town of Cavite.

 

 

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Even with its declaration as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government, it is rather depressing that, despite its close proximity to Metro Manila, the church does not seem to be able to raise the noise and attention it rightly deserves as an architectural gem. Even today, only a handful of tourists would make the effort to visit this lone survivor.

Maragondon church failed to attain the merits it is entitled to not because of its own misdoing and shortcoming, but due to the natural phenomena that destroyed the other two churches; natural phenomena that equally characterize and shape the exceptional landscape of the Philippines. Nevertheless, the church remains to score high in both authenticity and originality, and will forever hold a special place in our identity as Filipinos.

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