Archive for the 'Visayas' Category


Loboc Fort • Loboc, Bohol

Loboc was an important inland town because it served as the marketplace where inhabitants of the inland towns Bohol could trade with the coastal towns. Besides the water borne raiders, Loboc may have been fortified to respond to the threat of people who lived in the hinterland. During the early 17th century and the 18th two major revolts erupted in Bohol—the Babaylan or Tamblot revolt and the Dagohoy revolt. In both instances, the rebels sought safety by fleeing inland. So an inland town like Loboc had to be defended in case of sudden incursions. 

Warren reports that the fortification of Loboc consisted of a stone church; stone fort and stone baluarte. It is not clear who built the fortification but it was most likely the Jesuits who had already built a new church in Loboc completed in 1734 to replace one built earlier but had been burnt. The sites of the baluarte and fort are uncertain. However there are ruins behind the convento, which may have been remains of the fortification.

There is little data about the fortification that can give a specific year or date of its construction or that can positively identify the fortification. 


Loay Watchtower • Barangay Villalimpia, Loay, Bohol

To protect Loay, the town was divided into a lower town (Ubos, aka Canipaan because of nipa swamps in the area) and an upper town (Ibabaw). The church is built at the upper town and the Villalimpia tower is in the lower town. This suggests that the tower at the seaside worked in coordination with the structures at the upper town. The watchtower allowed the townspeople to seek the safety of the upper town in case of seaborne attacks.

Historical records indicate that stone fort and stone baluarte are reported in Loay. It is not certain where the fort was, it may have surrounded the church complex at Ibabaw. The baluarte, however, is probably the watchtower located near the mouth of the Loay River.  It is presently at the edge of a mangrove forest, and accessible by sea.  During high tide, the sea reaches the tower’s foundations and has exposed and eroded it. Jose observes: “Along the coast of Villalimpia, a barrio near the mouth of the Loboc River, is an abandoned watchtower of coral stone and brick tiles. It can be reached after negotiating several mangrove swamps, and in fact is better seen from the water.  Tidal action has exposed much its rubble foundation, allowing for a detailed study of colonial construction techniques. Apparently the only access to the tower is by a ladder; there is no clearly defined entrance. Much of the original roof has survived. One wonders how useful this tower was, because of its diminutive height” (Jose 1998, 2001).

There are no clear records when the baluarte at Villalimpia was built. But a history of Loay might give a sense when the structure was built. Juan Delgado (1754) reports that the village of La Santisima Trinidad was a new village under the Jesuits. Redondo (1886) says that Loay became an independent parish in 1799, when it was separated from Loboc. The church at Ibabaw was completed in 1822 as indicated by an inscription on the church’s inner façade. An outer façade following a popular plan in Bohol that added porticoes in front of existing façades has the year 1889. Inside the church is a pipe organ dated 1841.

The convento is built behind the church and follows the line of the nave before turning left to form an L-plan. The date 1838 appears over the doorway facing the church and over the entrance facing the grand stone stairway (built ca. 1836-37) that links Canipaan and Ibabaw.

The bell tower, which is a separate structure from the church was built by Carlos Ubeda, OAR (parish priest 1859-1865). A date inscribed over the entrance to the tower carries the date 1865 and the phrase “Ave Maria PMA [Purisima]”. Other structures found at Ibabaw and around the church plaza two school houses built by the Recollects during the last quarter of the 19th century. Jose suggests that a two-story structure, said to be old tribunal or municipal hall and ornamented with the monograph of Mary, is from the 18th century.

The dates of these constructions suggest that there was much building during the second and third decade and the last quarter of the 19th century. As the threat of seaborne raiders had decreased considerably after the Gov. Claveria’s attacks on Sama Balangingi in 1841 and the campaign against Jolo in the 1870s, the second and third decades of the 19th century seems to be the more probably context for the construction of the Villalimpia watchtower.


Panglao Tower • Panglao, Panglao Island, Bohol

Redondo’s 1886 reports states that Panglao parish was established in 1803. Whether Panglao as a mission station or a reduccion already existed before that date is uncertain because both town and island are named Panglao. Thus, when the name Panglao appears in a 1612 document it is uncertain if the town or the island is being referred to. If the island, the town referred might be Dauis.

Within the Panglao church complex are the ruins of an earlier church, which despite the Baroque touches to the façade is dated to the 19th century. Inscribed over the main entrance is the date 1858 or 1859. Jose writes “the rest of the nave consisted of wooden posts and tabique walls which have since disappeared. It seems that his earlier church extended all the way until where the convento now stands. One wing of the convento would have continued the axis of the church, as we see in Cortes and possibly in the earlier church at Dauis” (Jose 2001: 87). This means that the convento is older that the present church at Panglao. Part of the convento is now a parish school, San Agustin Academy.

The present cruciform church of Panglao began construction under Valentin Utande, OAR (parish priest 1894-1897). Wood needed for the structure had to be procured from Sevilla and Loboc, inland towns in Bohol and had to be floated downstream and across the sea to Panglao. The scarcity of suitable construction material may be the reason why the church was still being constructed up to the second decade of the 20th century, when the greater part of the nave was completed. Stone facing, however, was not completed and the apse and transept lack the coral stones that sheathed Bohol churches. The church was consecrated by Bishop Juan Gorordo of Cebu on 1 September 1924, while a native secular priest Quiterio Sarigumba was parish priest. A portico facade of poured concrete was added to the church façade and has the initials of Padre Sarigumba—P.Q.S. A cement walk leading to the main entrance also is also inscribed P.Q.S. with the date 1925.

The history of Panglao church clearly shows that the five-story tower is not related to any of the dated constructions in the church complex. It antedated the ruined church by seven or eight years. This suggests that the tower belonged to an earlier era. Perhaps there was an pre-1850 church of light material. This  five-storey bell tower is located at some distance from both church structures and its proximity to the shore, now far more distant because of mangrove and coconut growth, suggest that it also doubled it served as watchtower. This corroborated by local oral tradition. Jose writes:  “A stone watchtower stands guard over the edge of the sea, a short distance behind the church.  Reputedly Bohol’s tallest, the ponderous structure bears the year 1851 inside its lowest chamber.  Its hexagonal plan is rare in the Philippines” (Jose 1998). In Visita, Jose adds: “interestingly another hexagonal tower stands in Dauis, on the opposite side of this island (built 1774)” (Jose 2001: 88; also See 07-40).

The structure is in poor condition.  The wood members have all deteriorated and there is no access to the top floor because the wooden stairway that leads up has disappeared. The stone walls bulges outwards showing signs of structural stress and deterioration and the tile roof has caved in allowing rain and moisture to enter. This creates an environment conducive to the growth of algæ and vegetation.


Baclayon Church • Baclayon, Bohol

The fortified parish church of La Inmaculada Concepcion de la Virgen Maria.

Bohol played an important role in the history of the Visayas because it was on this island at a spot known as Bo-ol, between Tagbilaran City and Baclayon that Miguel Lopez de Legazpi forged a blood compact with the local leader Katunaw (Sikatuna) in 1565. The forging of friendly relations was timely and strategically important since the memory of an earlier attack in 1562 or 63 by Ternateños under the leadership of the Portuguese, who posed as Castilians, was still fresh. Coming to Bohol in the guise of trade, the foreigners destroyed a village built on stilts on the shallow Dauis Channel formed by the islands of Bohol and Panglao. As a result of this attack, many Boholanos fled to Baclayon, even to northern Mindanao, specifically to Dapitan.

Bo-ol, now marked by a historical marker and a heroic monument by national artist, Napoleon V. Abueva, a native of Clarin, Bohol, faces this narrow channel. Peaceful relations with the inhabitants of the islands, which Legazpi was mandated to colonize, was necessary. While the Christian faith had been preached earlier in Bohol by a Portuguese priest, Francisco de Castro, evangelization was not thorough nor systematic. So Doña Catalina de Bolaños, mother of the encomendero of the island, Pedro de Gamboa, asked the Jesuits in Cebu to evangelize the island. A chapel had already been built for the encomienda’s Christian residents, when Juan de Torres and Gabriel Sanchez arrived in November 1596. Their first mission was at Baclayon, probably the center of the encomienda. Then moving up the Loboc River, Sanchez arrived at a trading station, Loboc, where he successfully gathered fourteen scattered villages into a compact reduccion. The Jesuits later travelled north to Talibon(g) where another station was founded.

To administer this territory, which over the centuries had more and more mission stations and later parishes, the Jesuits chose a central house or residencia. From this administrative center, pairs of missionaries would be sent to different parts of the island, returning to the center after their round of duties and gathering as a large group twice a year for prayer, recollection and study. Baclayon was chosen as the first residencia.

In 1621, the Jesuits of the Visayas gathered in Cebu to celebrate the canonization of Sts. Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier. During their absence a revolt broke out known as the “diwata revolt” because it was ignited by stories that the ancient spirit deities or diwata had appeared in the mountains inviting the Boholanos to flee from the towns and reducciones of the Spaniards. There in the mountain forests they would be free from taxes and other exactions of colonial rule. Besides, the spirits promised abundant rice and victuals for all. Except for Baclayon and Loboc, the rest of Bohol’s town apostized. The revolt was lead by a local babailan or shaman named Tamblot so the revolt is also called Tamblot revolt.

This revolt may have galvanized the need to fortify Baclayon besides its location exposed it to seaborne raiders. Jesuit chroniclers assert that the fortification of churches in the Visayas began in Leyte in the 1630s under the direction of Melchor de Vera, SJ, who was responsible for fortifying Zamboanga also in the same era. Perhaps by the mid-17th century Baclayon was already fortified. For further safety, the Jesuits moved the residencia inland to Loboc. This placed the mission superior in a safer position from which to orchestrate the works of evangelization.

Writing in 1754, Delgado reports the existence of a “fortaleza” and stone “baluarte” at Baclayon. He describes the fort as quadrilateral and notes that the Jesuits preferred to live in the baluarte beside the sea rather than in the convento, enclosed by walls as it was more salubrious. Only in times of alarm did the Jesuits retire to the safety of the fort.

When the Jesuits left in 1768 and administration transferred to the Recollects thereafter, the Recollects inherited a cruciform church, with an extension at the epistle transept that served as living quarters, a base for a belltower, which may have served as a forward fortification, a fort and a smaller baluarte by the sea. The first act of the Recollects was to complete the bell tower, which was completed on 20 May 1777 and dedicated to San Andres the patronal namesake of Fray Andres de Santissima Trinidad OAR, who was parish priest from 1775 to 1787.


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).


Castillo de San Vicente Ferrer • Punta Cruz, Maribojoc, Bohol

This triangular fort, has a roofed second storey designed as a hexagon. The windows above and below open to the Bohol Sea, and on a clear day Siquijor island and southeast Cebu are visible. The fort has the inscription Castillo de San Vicente Ferrer and the date 1796 in stone relief above the entrance. The stone inscription is greatly abraded and damaged otherwise the fort is in good condition. Consolidation of the upper floor is necessary because the molave timber supporting the lime floor is rotting. The fort is in a park, said to be the site where the first Jesuit missionaries landed.


Watchtowers of Iloilo • Guimbal, Tigbauan, Miagao

Of five towers built along the shore, three remain.  “Iloilo visitor’s guide” DOT, 1995: 39 says “29 kms. southwest of Iloilo City; 5 stone watchtowers called ‘bantayan’ by the natives (were built) during the Spanish era to warn the townspeople of marauding pirates.”

 These watchtowers were most likely built in the late-18th century. 

Of the remaining watchtowers—two cylindrical, one octagonal—of yellowish volcanic tuff, the same material used for Miagao church still stand near the shore. Two are within the town proper, at Barangay Colon and Pescador. The third is near the boundary of Tigbauan and Guimbal inside RASCO Resort. All are badly restored with synthetic stone finish. and the addition of an external steel ladder and a light post on the towers’

upper stories.

 The watchtower at Colon was already leaning on its side, caused by storm surge and tidal erosion, when it was restored by the Department of Tourism around 1984.

A fourth watchtower, remodelled as barangay hall is in Miagao at Barangay Baybay. Town lore gives the year 1760 as the date of construction. The watchtower was repaired and remodelled in 1994.


February 2020
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