Dimiao Fortification • Dimiao, Bohol

Built during the las quarter of the 18th century with further work 1817-21, the fortification at Dimiao is traced to the initiative of Recollects, specifically Enrique de Santo Tomas de Villanueva, OAR (parish priest of Dimíao 1797-1805, 1806-1812, and 1815-1817) who worked on the construction with a maestro de obra. Built as a fortified church complex it was the principal defense of the town of Dimíao. 

Dimíao east of Loay was a mission station during the Jesuit era but became a parish under the Recollects. Its location along the littoral exposed it to seaborne attacks, hence, needed to be defended.

The fortification at Dimíao went through many stages, the chronology of which is sketchy because some data is unknown. Jose notes that “there is no conclusive dates for the foundation of the town and parish.” Redondo in 1886 says the earliest baptismal records come from 1750. Moreover, Jesuits do not mention Dimíao, which at that their time was probably a mission station or visita of Loay, which in turn belonged to the old town of Loboc. Recollects took charge of Dimíao with the departure of the Jesuits and toward the end of the 19th century was already a thriving parish that in 1869 Lila (to the west) and in 1871 Valencia (to the east) were separated from Dimíao as independent parishes.

It is likely that the Jesuits may have built a church of light material in Dimíao. During the last quarter of the 18th century, the Recollects surround “the early church and convento with a defensive wall.” What Jose means by early is uncertain, is it a church from Jesuit times or a church built by the Recollects, which they fortified. Fray Enrique de Santo Tomas de Villanueva constructed the present church from 1800 to 1815. A maestro de obras was from Camiguin was brought to build the church. Whether this meant he was born in Camiguin or was working on a project at Camiguin, an island under the Recollects, is uncertain. But this unknown craftsman is credited with building the Dimíao church and probably the fortification that protected it. Fray Enrique built a cemetery with an ermita at the same time and had to demolish the 18th century fortification partially; however, Fray Joaquin enlarged the perimeter of the fortification by building a new wall with towers at each corner. The cemetery with its stone-vaulted ermita was abandoned in 1844, under Fray Manuel Carasuan, and transferred a kilometer away.

Jose suggests that the vaulted chamber and remnants of walls near the main entrance of the cemetery unearthed by the National Museum archaeologists may belong to the 18th-century fortification. Toward the latter 19th century, the walls were no longer functional as the threat of raiders had diminished. Much of Dimíao town was burnt in 1901 by Gen. Robert Hughes during the Philippine-American war.

Some walls, foundations and what might be part of a bastion  or tower still stand; Jose notes “the thickly forested area to the left of the cemetery hides remains of various stone structures said to be parts of towers and fortifications” (Jose 2001: 46-49).


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