Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Camiguin’s Gui-ob Church: Vestige of Old Vulcan’s Wrath

Nestled in one of Camiguin's oldest towns is another ghastly vestige of the fury that one of its now dormant volcanoes, Vulcan Daan (Old Volcano), had unleashed when it went berserk more than a hundred years ago.

Aside from claiming lives and sinking a cemetery, the volcano is known for burying an old church. Known as the ruins of Gui-ob Church, the interesting site is located in the village of Bonbon, several kilometers away from the center of present-day Catarman, which we were able to visit during our tour of Camiguin's different tourist spots.

Only the church's crumbling, moss-covered thick walls, belfry and convent have lived to tell today’s generation about the havoc that the old volcano wrought in 1871. But even in its decrepit state, the church, or what remains of it, can still evoke awe among those who step into its hallowed grounds, which have been covered by grass, ferns and other wild flora interspersed with towering dipterocarps and coconut trees.

Inside the ruins, we found a chapel where some people were praying in silence. That somehow reminded us to keep our voices down to avoid distracting them. So far, the local government has managed to preserve the place partly through donations coming from benevolent patrons.

From a ruthless scourge over a century ago, the cruel old volcano, on the other hand, has now become the island’s Calvary-like shrine, where people from all walks of life brave the steep trek to its peak as their way of making panaad, a religious vow of penitence and sacrifice during Lent.

I saw the walkway leading to Vulcan Daan’s summit when we stopped by a row of souvenir shops on our way back to Mambajao. Every year, it teems with throngs of pilgrims who take on the punishing but rewarding journey to the top that somehow reminds them of Christ's sufferings to save humanity from sin.

Along the pathway, the penitents, according to one of the shop vendors I talked to, take occasional stops to offer prayers in each station, which features life-size, whitewashed cement statues depicting certain scenes of Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering), the path that Jesus trod on the way to his crucifixion.

Now that's one spectacle I want to see come Holy Week next year.

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