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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Historic Church of Daraga

A somber atmosphere reigned over the town of Daraga when we went to visit the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria. Like a set of eyes coming from a funeral, the skies hovering above was subdued yet haunting and sad. The jabbing wind blowing against my face reminded of the aftermath of typhoon Mina, which battered the province a few days before we arrived. Some of the dark clouds which "Mina" brought remained and like a jealous lover, it protruded over the landscape of Mayon Volcano, totally sheltering it from our sight.

Taken during my latest visit to Daraga in 2015

The Church itself felt like an orphan without the accompanying Mayon by its side. However hauntingly missing was the presence of the sight of the Volcano, the church itself, with its marvelous Baroque-inspired architecture, with a combination of Gothic-style, was a sight to behold. The white facade brings a fervent representation of its rich and enamored history. 

Built in 1773 by the Franciscans when Daraga was just a barrio of the town of Cagsawa. From then on it served as second fiddle to the Church of Cagsawa, until a violent eruption of Mayon occurred in 1814. The aftermath of the eruption left the old church of Cagsawa in ruins with only its belfry left standing. Soon the town folks of Cagsawa after grieving the loss of more than 2,000 people, relocated their church to Daraga upon the approval of the Governor General on October 4, 1814.

Soon, Daraga became a thriving town with a community composed of just under 20,000 residents. Being adjacent to Legazpi, it quickly became one of the center of communal activities and trade. Many of that time's well to do families relocated to Daraga, most probably because of the charms of living in a town that affords them a marvelous and kick-ass view of the Mayon Volcano.

While the facade was something I marveled and took a long time staring at. It is said to be made from volcanic stones and carved intricately to present an assortment of images such as the four evangelists. The interior however, were a different story.  The altar and the walls was bland and simply adorned by white walls. These were the result of what historians refer to as "unregulated reconstructions and modifications" of heritage sites. The number of repairs done throughout the years, has made the church lose some of its "visage". It may have so, but its historical importance can't be denied that in October 2007, the National Historical Institute recognized Daraga Church as one of the country's historical treasure. 

During clear day, Mayon should be seen behind the church on its right side.
My friend Tin and I wandered around the church for a while, we were at times taking a peek at the direction of Mayon Volcano, with dimmed hopes that the dark clouds covering it would finally dissolve into nothingness so the near perfect cone shape of the peak would show its grandeur to us. But with cold like stares of a hard to get Juliet, it rejected any possibilities of a an apparition.

Even so, with an imaginary hot cup of coffee I stared at the direction of Mayon and imagined myself the settings of a simple life in this town throughout the years. I can say that, I've felt the mystique and attraction of this church and its wonderful location nestled atop a hill. Even though the years have changed the world immensely, and residents multiplies three to ten folds, the church still remains as the very foundation of the faithfuls in the town of Daraga.

It is said that "faith moves mountains" and when a volcano mowed down the old Cagasawa church, the faithful moved theirs and settled in this church to continue flourishing their own faith - which by now, have continued on numerous generations. The original "visage" might have gotten lost, but what it stood for remains the same and unchanged, unhindered even with the most violent successions of eruption from Mayon in the last 200 years.

Tin posing in front of the church
It was already past 8:00 am when we left, I was advised prior, to visit Cagsawa ruins before 7:00 am so I'll have a better shot of seeing Mayon, but I don't think it would have change the fact that we wont see the volcano that day due to the thick remnants of typhoon Mina's clouds. Nevertheless, after walking down the hill we took another jeepney going to Cagsawa to see for ourselves its ruins and the destruction that paved the way for a much larger historical significance of Daraga Church.
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Jim said...

That is a very beautiful church. I'll have to go check on a map exactly where it is in Phillipines but sure would like to spend some time there. Churches I always enjoy, particularly the stained glass window art.

lakwatsera de primera said...

Oh no, is the facade newly painted?

Markyramone said...

@Jim, there's a lot of old Spanish era Churches here in the Philippines with different architecture styles worth checking out. :)

@Claire - looks like it, reminds me of that boysen commercial hehe. Would prefer it to be as it is the usual color of the volcanic stones than bland white hehe

Anonymous said...

It really is pretty especially during the morning, wish i could've had breakfast at the 7degrees resto in front of Mayon- which i saw in a perfect view while i was there. LOL (you know what they say when Daragang Mayon doesn't show herself)

I wish they can keep the belfry as is. :)

tina said...

When I went there it was already under renovation and I didn't see Mayon too. :)

Micamyx|Senyorita said...

Hindi pa ako nakakapunta ng Albay 0_0 may relatives ako dun might as well contact them kahit di kami close at makapag-tour hehe :D

For some reason, medyo ayoko na pinipintahan ng bago mga simbahan 0_o gusto ko oldskul look hehe

Pinoy Adventurista said...

it's disappointing to see the church's facade painted in white... they should have left it untouched...

great narration Marky... :)

estan said...

the paletada done on the church is what should be done to other churches as well. without the protective coating of the lime wash, it will deteriorate like what happened to Malate church. bear in mind that during the spanish era, our churches, watchtowers, forts and houses were all with paletada. This isn't paint but a protective coating.

AJ said...

Daraga Church holds the distinction of being the only church that has heard my singing voice. I sang during a friend's wedding there. Good thing it didn't rouse the slumbering Mayon. :))

Markyramone said...

@Estan - thanks for the clarification coz most of the time, people (including me) always thinks that a newly colored church is bad for its facade, but in fact was a restoration technique as you said and its a relief knowing its really a 'protective coating' and not 'paint' :)

Tripper10 : Tripsiders said...

Cool ng Church, mas maganda kung dina pininturahan hehehe... :)

journeyingjames said...

hey marky, almost pareho tayo ng post. haha
you have better shots nga lang..
ganda ng daraga noh!

Markyramone said...

@James and @Lauren - yeah inggit ako sa inyo nag pakita sa inyo ang Mayon. Yeah ideal ung location pati ng Daraga Church

thepinaysolobackpacker said...

good to know ang sabi ni estan. ang napansin ko naman eh yung loob, mukhang bago pagpunta ko last year (at d ko pa din naba blog til now). lol

Pinay Travel Junkie said...

Hmm... I don't think I've seen Daraga Church. My Bicol trip's blurry in my head now. Great input by Estan, I had no idea that's the case.

Journeying Pinay (Heiz) said...

awesome writing. when we went to Albay, I wonder why we were not toured to that Church. :( there is a reason to go back, then.

Reiza said...

I love the way you wrote this post. It makes the church and the place so romantic (for lack of a better word). I've not been to Daraga yet, but this reminds me so much of the old churches in Iloilo and Siquijor.

Gladys | ByahengBarok.com said...

great photos of the church... i love the photo of that lone person near the door :)

Mica said...

I love visiting old churches. Thanks for the clarification that the paint is just a protective coating. Sometimes I want things to stay the same as well, but then they'd just further deteriorate.

Anonymous said...

it's Coat Saver.

Markyramone said...


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