Jasaan Church

Jasaan Church
Church of the Inmaculada Concepcion in Jasaan, Misamis Occidental, 2004 (Photo by Betty Lalana and Lino Arboleda, Ortigas Foundation Library Collection)

Roman Catholic Parish of Inmaculada Concepción / Location: Jasaan, Misamis Occidental / Built 1887-1938 / Juan Rivera, principal architect in the 19th century

Jasaan was originally under the Recollects, following the division of Mindanao into an eastern and western district in 1621, with the Recollects assigned east and the Jesuits west. The site of Recollect Jasaan was some 5 km south of the present site in the direction of Cagayan de Oro in a place called Aplaya. Some tiles from an old church could still be seen there in the 1980s.

In 1830, Jasaan was constituted a parish under the advocacy of the Inmaculada Concepción. However, the oldest baptismal records of Jasaan, according to Repetti began on 11 June 1820, which leads to the conclusion that the Recollects were actively evangelizing Jasaan for a decade prior to the erection of a parish.

In 1871, the Recollects built a church of lime in Aplaya. In 1887, Jasaan was transferred to the Jesuits with Fr Pablo Pastells taking charge on 29 June. Jasaan’s boundaries extended to Tagoloan and Santa Ana, the original Recollect site for Tagoloan. Six years later, Fr Juan Heras, who had been rector of the Ateneo Municipál, while still resident of Balingasag, began work on the Jasaan church at its present site on a hill rather than along the shore. Heras wanted Jasaan patterned after the San Ignacio, though on a modest scale. For his work the talented Jesuit brother Riera helped him. It is said that Riera built a scale model of the San Ignacio that could be taken apart. The model showed construction details, which could be used to teach and direct the local carpenters who worked on the church, under the supervision of Tagalog master craftsmen. The scale model was still around at the start of the Pacific War. In 1895, Heras writing to Fr. Pío Pi, reported that he was busy “completing the church at Jasaan.” How far advanced the work was is uncertain, but when the Philippine revolution spread to Northern Mindanao, work on the church stopped.

In 1904, part of the church wall fell because of an earthquake; and in 1916, the church, which had a nipa roof, had a new one of sheet metal. In 1930, the American Jesuit, Fr John Pollock completed the ceiling and in 1938, Fr Andrew Cervini was able to finish the brickwork.

Jasaan church was built by using clay dug from the same promontory on which the present church stands. Tradition claims that a brick kiln stood near the present chapel of the Nuestra Señora de la Puente, at the foot of the hill where the church stands. That kiln was torn down to make way for the construction of a new Butuan-Cagayan de Oro highway. Some bricks probably intended for the church were still stacked beside the church in the 1980s.

The church came to have a lower story of brick and an upper one of wood planks, a characteristic shared with Balingasag and Tagoloan. It is uncertain, if this was a deliberate construction method; perhaps, it was a precaution against earthquakes or was a temporary expedient, as wood planks were to be replaced by courses of brick when resources and talent allowed.

The church has undergone a number of renovations. The wooden parts of its bell tower and the pediment have been clearly modified since 1930, though the basic lines remain. The church is divided into a lower story of bricks and an upper story of wood, culminating in a triangular pediment. Twin bell towers flank the main entrance. The facade is a simplified version of the neoclassic design.

In 1981, in time for an ordination, a major renovation of the church interior was done, during which the sacristy was demolished, the windows of the rear wall cemented over and made into niches. A wooden Neo-Gothic retablo was sawn in half to make room for a tabernacle sanctuary. A window at the epistle side was made into a door. Unhewn molave posts were covered with plywood and new plinths also of wood were built to reinforce the posts. The turned wooden communion rail was demolished and the baptistery transferred to an annex beside the church.

Oral lore says that an ambulatory ran through the nave and the apse but has been boarded over with plywood. The ceiling reveals an attempt to simulate artesonado with wood appliqué, and remains an attractive feature of the church. But the ceiling may have been remodeled since Pollock put it in place.

The facade has been modified since at least 2006, when the center of the second story was opened up and a half-circle of colored glass put in place. Lost were the cross design and blind arches of wood that flanked it. In 2011, the church was undergoing renovation. The bricks were painted, the interior received a brilliant layer of paint, and the remaining Neo-Gothic altar was painted in garish primaries.

The floor of the church was of red hexagonal tiles of two different sizes. Some tiles are square. Black and white tiles cover parts of the sanctuary. These tiles with English brand names may have been the same ones laid as a gift to Fr Heras on his golden jubilee on 21 April 1908. Toward this project, the townspeople contributed money to purchase 1,500 pieces of tiles.

SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer