Guiuan Church

Guiuan Church
Church of the Inmaculada Concepcion in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, 2016 (Kinna G. Kwan)

Guiuan Church – Roman Catholic Parish of Inmaculada Concepcion / Location: Guiuan, Eastern Samar / Built most likely 1718, repaired and renovated 1844, also 1935 / Ruined 7 November 2013 by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

The Augustinians may have visited Guiuan and preached Christianity in 1585, 10 years before the Jesuits took charge of Samar, following the decree of 1595 demarcating mission areas and designating specific religious orders to each. The arrival of the Jesuits is also mentioned in Huerta’s catalogue of Franciscan parishes in the 19th century.

In Samar, the Jesuits made their first landfall in Tinagon, present-day Barangay Dap-dap in Taragnan and from there spread throughout the island. Guiuan, on Samar’s southern coast, however, was easier to reach through Leyte so at one time it fell under Leyte, although by 1768 it was administratively under the Palapag residence.

Guiuan was developed as an important way point in the galleon’s route; it was an emergency docking area and a provisioning point before the galleon set across the Pacific or as a rest area after the long crossing from Mexico. By the mid–1600s, the church was fortified. The Jesuit Jose Delgado (1697-1755) describes the fortification walls as quadrilateral with bastions at the corners and considered the fort the second best south of Manila.

By the 1700s, Guiuan had a considerable Chinese community, proof of its active engagement in trade. It may have had a stone church by then or at least a church of wood and tiles. In 1718, Murillo Velarde says, a more permanent structure was built. But that church burned down later. However, in 1740, Delgado describes the church as single-naved and reports that it was in good condition, indicating the church must have been repaired after the fire mentioned above.

In 1768, Guiuan and other southern Samar missions were turned over to the Augustinians who were given spiritual charge of Leyte. In 1795, unable to meet the demands for personnel, the Augustinians ceded Guiuan to the Franciscans. But, for nine years, the Franciscans could not supply any resident pastor. Then, in 1804, the first Franciscan missionary Fray Miguel Pérez arrived.

In 1844 and following, the church was renovated, and the roof covered with tiles at the initiative of Frays Manuel Valverde and Pedro Monasterio. Fray Monasterio, parish priest in 1844-45 and 1853-59, added the transepts to the church transforming it to a cruciform. Huerta describes the parochial house as made of stone.

As it was no longer functional for defense, the fortification’s southern bastion became the site of a bell tower in 1854. The Jesuits had not built a bell tower but rather kept the bell within the fortification where it served liturgical functions and doubled as a warning device to warn of sea-borne attacks. The Jesuits had a modest convento, built behind the church sanctuary, an extension of the sacristy. In 1872, Franciscan Fray Arsenio Figueroa built another convento for which he demolished part of the western curtain wall. After 1886, Fray Fernando Esteban (parish priest 1888-97) replaced the church’s tile roof with zinc sheets. He also built two schools. In 1935, Guiuan church was refurbished while Msgr Donato Guimbaolibot was pastor. Guimbaolibot was parish priest of Balangiga when the American soldiers were attacked by Katipunero. Although the monsignor was not involved in the plot, he was arrested and severely tortured. In 1903, he was assigned to Guiuan, his hometown, and remained parish priest there until he died in 1949.

In 1987, the church sanctuary was renovated. On 7 November 2014, Guiuan suffered major destruction when super typhoon Yolanda blew off its roof, toppled half of its facade, and damaged the main retablo of the church. The restoration of the church was completed in 2019.

The Guiuan fort is partially preserved. The southeastern bulwark, where the Franciscans built a bell tower in 1854, the southwestern bulwark, and parts of the southern and western curtain wall still stand.

The Franciscans apparently added a transept and a baptistry. This is the sense of Huerta’s “reedificada.” Architectural evidence bears this out. Guiuan owns numerous altars—a virtual history of the parish. Aside from the baroque main altar, two side altars stand along the nave. One bears mixed parentage, a retablo from Franciscan times and a rococo frontal with the Augustinian emblem. Each transept end has an altar. One, which houses a templet, has florid baroque motifs, probably remnants of the side altar from Jesuit times. The altar table itself is cuplike, typical of Franciscan rococo, similar to the altars in the Franciscan church of Baras.

An outstanding Franciscan addition is the baptistry located near the church entrance. It is decorated like grottoes, that is, with shells of at least eight kinds and coral; probably the only example of its kind in the Philippines. The types of shells used were identified by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2008.

The Guiuan facade damaged by Yolanda is divided into verticals and horizontals by engaged columns and horizontal lines. But its ornamented pediment, surface decoration and niches with sculpture, and carved hardwood door make it akin to the retablo facade. The Guiuan Church has been declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.

SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer

Originally posted 2003-11-22 01:33:28.