Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Captivated by Cebu's Colonial Churches (Part 4)

Like its neighbor Argao, the charming beach town of Dalaguete (pronounced “da-la-get”) derived its name from a species of trees endemic to the place, called dalaket (also spelled as dalakit) by the locals. These trees used to be the assembly points of the town’s early inhabitants wherein socio-cultural activities took place.

It was in one of the natives’ assembly points where the dalaket thrived that the Augustinians founded in 1690 a visita (a community or village that has no priest, and depended on the visits of a neighboring priest for religious ministrations) that came to be known as Dalaguete (which was then a visita of the parish of Carcar).

Later, Dalaguete became an independent parish in 1711 under the patronage of St.  William, the Duke of Aquitaine (San Guillermo de Aquitania). The Rococo-Baroque church, which was named in honor of the town’s patron saint, came much later, constructed between 1802 and 1825, to be exact.

The existing massive edifice, which I visited, stands within the sprawling church complex right in the heart of the town facing Bohol Strait. The once-heavily fortified complex is surrounded with low coral stone barriers with square pillars accented by pointed finials that highlight its fortress Baroque features.

Before going there, I’ve heard some buzz about this church. I wanted to see for myself what makes the house of worship tick among church-hopping weekend warriors. When I finally got to the church, the frustrated architect in me could hardly contain his excitement while gazing at its austere yet awesome architecture.

Bearing a striking resemblance to the one in Argao, the frontage of the Dalaguete Church is divided vertically into three by shallow pilasters festooned with floral motifs extending from the base of the structure all the way to the pediment. Twin cornice stone moldings also horizontally divide the façade into three.

At the uppermost level, a bas-relief of a religious icon adorns the pediment. At the second level, a niched icon of the patron saint is flanked by two semi-circular windows. Below it is a relief of the Spanish coat-of-arms. At the lowest level is the semi-circular main entrance that is flanked by bas-reliefs of two saints I couldn’t figure out. 

The thick, solid buttresses found along the church’s sides, that contributed much to its being earthquake-proof, also emphasize its typical Baroque features. Portals adorned with geometric shapes and pilasters bearing attractive floral designs are also found along its sides. It was in one of the side entrances that I entered the church.

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Main retablo of the Dalaguete Church

Looking up, I noticed the beautiful biblical scenes spread all over the barrel ceiling. Done by muralist/painter Canuto Avila, the murals were painted mostly in pastel—baby blue, light green and pink. Mind you, they looked rather crisp and clear as the day they were finished…almost eighty years ago!

Like the Argao Church, the interior of this Rococo-Baroque church is richly decorated. At first sight, I was instantly captivated by the church’s ornate main retablo that seemed to glow when viewed from afar. Still at a loss for words, I walked fast towards the altar to get a better look at the glorious rarity of the Dalaguete Church. 

As I neared the sanctuary, the gilded wooden retablo, which is embellished with rococo flame-like finials, reminded me of the one I saw in Argao. Unlike those in the other church, the one in Dalaguete isn’t completely painted in gold. Housed inside the niches of the gilded retablo are some venerated icons. I said a little prayer first before I started clicking my Nikon. 

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At one of the side altars, I noticed light streaming in from outside, illuminating the pews where some of the town’s faithful flock were gathered. It pierced through the lancet windows with pointed arches at the top that hints of the church’s Gothic influence. It was one surreal scene I was able to capture and bring home with me. 

The minutes ticked slowly as I scoured the church, capturing the plethora of subjects spread all over. When I was done, it was almost 3:00 in the afternoon. I gathered my stuff and walked outside, heading towards the church’s belfry.

Dalaguete Church and town plaza

Built 25 years after the church was finished, its octagonal belfry, which is capped by a balustraded dome, stands tall on its right side. Like the other churches in the coastal towns of Cebu, it also doubled as an early warning device alerting the townspeople about any impending Moro attack. 

Fronting the church is the town plaza, which has been used as a processional route during religious celebrations since Spanish times. Built in 1938, the imposing statue of Christ the King (Cristo Rey) stands at the middle of the public square.

After exploring the church, I intended to spend a few hours hanging out in one of Dalaguete’s beach resorts. From what I’ve gathered, the town has a number of private resorts scattered all over its palm-fringed, white-sand shores, with Dakong Bato and Ocean Bay being two of the most popular. 

Dalaguete Convent
Dalaguete also has a public beach which is a favorite pleasure ground among locals and out-of-towners. I was on my way there when dark clouds suddenly began to hover all over the town, threatening to spoil what could have been a spur-of-the-moment “chillaxation”, if you can call it that, by the beach. LOL! 
Whew, maybe some other time, I thought as I changed course and tried to find my way back to the national highway instead so I can catch the next Ceres bus bound for Cebu City. :-D

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