28
Jan
08

Balilihan Belltower • Balilihan, Bohol

This quadrilateral tower of cut coral stone is located on a hill beside the church.  The tower has a command of the Abatan River and, despite the florid ornamentation of the upper register, the tower had obvious military functions.  It is recorded that slave raider traveled inland to attack communities along riverbanks prompting the need to construct in land defenses.  The tower is in poor condition.  The wooden stairway to the top has deteriorated and some of the carved stones have fallen.  A small chapel has been built beside the tower.  The hill on which the tower is built is a park, reforested with tropical hardwood.

The history of the Balilihan tower is intimately linked with the town and parish organized in 1829 to accommodate 2100 “returnees” who had fled to the hinterland during the Dagohoy revolt, which erupted in 1744. The revolt against Spanish rule attracted many followers. Although by 1768, the backbone of the rebellion was broken and the rebels invited to return to Batuanan (presently Alicia), many continued to live in the hinterlands of Bohol until 1827 and 1828, when a major military action was launched against them with troops brought from Bohol, including the fabled warriors under Fray Julian Bermejo, OSA, who had effectively stopped slave raids in southern Cebu through his string of forts and watchtower, his armada of native vessels and army of volunteers and sentinels. 

To accommodate the returnees, Balilihan was established by separating it from Baclayon. The choice of a site halfway between the hinterlands and the coast was probably a compromise to full reintegration with the towns of origin of the returnees. The 1840 tower, which had a commanding view of both upstream and downstream, was much built to guard against sea borne raiders and potential attacks from the hinterland from others who had not reintegrated with the colonial towns. Jose suggests that the tower was built “to toll the hours of mass to the settlers (as well as the rebels) who were scattered over a hilly area” (Jose, 2003: 31).

Cut coral stone was brought from Baclayon all the way to Balilihan to build this tower.

The present church at Balilihan belongs to the 20th century. An earlier church and convento were built on the opposite bank where the present church is located. Jose as identified some stones “which could have belonged to these religious structures.” However, both were damaged by a typhoon in 1863. Redondo reports that a church and convento of tabique and nipa had been built, but this time it was on the present site of Balilihan. The destruction in 1863 may have occasioned the transfer. The structures were renovated in 1889. Tragically, Americans razed the town in November 1900 to the dismay of the populace, who welcomed the American troops complete with a brass band. A church was subsequently built in concrete in the early decades of the 20th century (See Jose 2003: 30).

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