When a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol and other parts of Visayas on Oct. 15, 2013, more than 20 historical churches were reduced to rubble. Among these are the two centuries old churches San Pedro Apostol Parish Church in Loboc and Nuestra Señora de la Luz Parish Church in Loon—both declared as a National Historical Landmark and a National Cultural Treasure.
The damage to the structures was mostly deemed irreparable. The Loboc Church, for one, would take more than 15 years of restoration and rehabilitation, assistant parish priest Gerald Lopena told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2013. Because of this, they had to withdraw the structure’s candidacy from UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which is a true tragedy to the country’s cultural heritage scene. And the worst part here is that the experts are not sure that the historical church, or any of the provinces’ for that matter, would ever stand on its own again.
But they didn’t know that six years later, the Loboc Church, along with three other heritage churches, is already 60 to 65 percent fully restored—and that it was built using sustainable materials.
According to Fr. Milan Ted Torralba, head of the Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in the Tagbilaran Diocese, said in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer that only recovered materials from the rubble were used in reconstructing the Loboc and Cortes churches. The ones in Loon and Maribojoc, on the other hand, were rebuilt using a mixture of salvaged and new materials.
“Parishioners had wanted to have the pre-quake appearances of the religious edifices retained, and this desire guided the reconstruction,” Torralba told Inquirer. “Once finished, these churches will have the semblance of their previous selves.”
The National Museum was at the helm of this restoration and worked closely with Torralba and the rest of the Tagbilaran diocese, making sure that the restoration is being done properly and carefully.
Aside from the churches, historic structures have also be restored in the province, Torralba stated. The watchtowers of Punta Cruz, Loay, Balilihan, and Panglao, all National Cultural Treasures, have been restored. The churches and artifacts of the ones in Baclayon, Dauis, Tubigon, and Loay, which are under the supervision of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, are now “100 percent complete.”
While we are still dealing with a lot of restorations in the country—remember that Pampanga is also undergoing tedious reconstructions of its churches due to the recent earthquake (READ: More than 20 heritage churches in Pampanga damaged by earthquake)—the fact that some of the agencies are considering sustainable practices in architecture is a good thing.
As long as it is supervised and approved by professionals, as what Bohol did with its Loboc and Cortes churches, we should continue the practice of rebuilding what has been lost with what we already have. Here’s to uncovering more sustainable practices in reviving our heritage, especially this National Heritage Month.
All featured photos courtesy of Inquirer Lifestyle
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Writer: AMIERIELLE ANNE BULAN