Right off the bat of our whale shark experience in Oslob and after a night spent in the quaint town of Santander, we made a quick stop at the scenic municipality of Boljoon. We got off the bus just in front of the Patrocinio de Maria Church, the oldest remaining stone church in Cebu. The church was originally founded in 1599 by the Augustinians. Subsequent attacks by Muslim raiders destroyed most of the original structures and the rest of the town. The jurisdiction over the church was then relinquished to the Jesuits in 1737. Due to lack of resources and manpower, the Church was again put under Augustinian's administration in 1747. In 1783, Father Ambrosio Otero spearheaded the construction of new church highlighted by a stone fence, which adds to its fortress-like appearance.
Constructed in a baroque rococo style, it features intricate stone carvings and bass relief, the church stands on a small hill overlooking the open sea by the road, a strategy that helped protect the town from Moro raids of that time. The main exterior is flanked by two fort windows which used to house two cannons used to defend the town from pirates.
This church in Boljoon is not huge as other Spanish Colonial Churches I've visited, but it's almost perfectly spaced out. A cemetery that at first glance looks like an ordinary courtyard and garden is located at the back, it is adorned with colorful planted grass and flowers, which provides a unique projection as it meshes up well with the sight of the robust tress from nearby surrounding hills, all of which covers up the place very well.
A convent and a small museum is located beside the church and a few walks from it, the Escuela Catolica -which was built in 1940 stands limping and fighting off the years gone by. Still, the dual grand staircase leading to the lovely veranda locks the visitors eyes to stare at it with amazement. During the old times, this house serves as the temporary dormitory for children about to have their first communion. A few meters from Escuala Catolica stands the Moro Watchtower.
The interior of the church is well decorated, considering its age It still stands imposingly and still true to its "square shape design" and brought upon by its thick pillars made of mortar and lime, it stands thoroughly strong and imposing. The paintings on the ceiling reminded me of those at Saint Catherine's Church in Carcar, but with different patterns and design. The caretaker told me its almost similar to the ones in Argao and Dalaguete (both located in southern Cebu just after Carcar). Too bad I missed out on much needed time to visit both churches, thus my inability to imagine the comparison.
An artist named Miguel Villareal, also a native of Boljoon is said to be the man with genius stroke of hand behind the paintings seen on the ceilings. Declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1999 and as National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in 2001, it appropriately adds to the many heritage representation of Cebu province.
As the wind emanating from the sea rolled invisibly into my face and starvation starts to be felt, I went out of the Church and found my companions walking further into the town to find a place for lunch, I walked briskly, as if enjoying the mere moments of being in this place. Looking back occasionally to catch the church behind me and the sea promenade in front of it, takes turn in hiding at the background. This is such an almost perfect town, its historic church stands sturdily and supported by its twenty-eight pillars, forever guarding Boljoon from enemy raiders before and for heritage saboteurs today. It now serves as among our country's many heritage sites that should be taken care of, for it represents our rich history and the long-standing tale of our faith and the colorful evolution of our country.