Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dauis in Bohol on my mind this Sunday evening

Church of the Assumption in Dauis, Bohol, before and after the earthquake
While I commiserate fully with the plight of tens of thousands of families who suffered death or injury, destruction of homes and severe dislocation in Bohol, Cebu and the rest of the Visayas following the  magnitude 7.2 earthquake last Tuesday, I feel just as affected by the destruction of our heritage churches in those provinces.

For several centuries these early Spanish-era edifices of stone, egg and lime had defied the test of time, but the killer quake damaged 28 of them in Bohol alone, some utterly destroyed. The question now is what do we do?  How do we go about the reconstruction of those destroyed churches?


Over the many years of my wandering around the Philippines and abroad I made it a major preoccupation to visit churches for both their spiritual and cultural value. When my children were still small we would make a visita iglesia in the quaint ancient churches of the Cagayan Valley;  we also visited those in various provinces of the Visayas, especially when my husband was assigned as Visayas Commander in the early ‘90s.

The churches of Bohol were a special favorite of mine, and in fact, in one outing with my husband’s staff in the SSS Commission, we spent a few days in Panglao and were treated to a special visit to Loboc Church, where the province’s cultural adviser, my friend Gardy Labad, arranged for the Loboc children’s choir to hold a special concert for us. Now the Loboc Church which one could enjoy during a tour of the river is gone.


I loved the Loboc Church, but  for  sheer beauty of location I was enchanted by the town of Dauis. especially the picturesque and well-preserved Church of the Assumption there, which has a huge convent and a patio beside it, lorded by a giant tree (is it an acacia or a mango tree?) in the center, that looks out on the river and Tagbilaran in the distance.  

The whole setting was just so beautiful that as we were touring the place, I was totally entranced---so much so that  I entertained the option of having our golden wedding anniversary with relatives and close friends, right in that church. I had imagined a reception afterwards al fresco in that church patio, with all the capiz lamps ablaze from the gigantic tree and a native orchestra playing (another option I toyed with was the lovely "Balay Negrense" in Silay City, which I had discussed with its curator, my friend Lyn Gamboa, who agreed readily to such a party).

Unfortunately the Lord summoned my husband home to Him at our 45 thanniversary, and now, it’s doubly tragic that the church in Dauis is in ruins as a result of the quake.


Tess Lopez
Below is the reaction of another friend, civic-leader Tess Lopez of Valle Hermoso, Negros Oriental, on the recent earthquake---a most timely piece for reflection today, Sunday.

“Watching the footages of the recent earthquake that shook Bohol, Cebu and the entire province of  Negros, I somehow recall a song popularized by Simon and Garfunkel in the 60’s entitled “ The Sound of Silence.” There is a stanza that flashed through my mind in relation to the recent disaster, whose lyrics resonate with these foreboding words:

‘ And the sign flashed out its warning
   In the words that it was forming
  And the sign said the words of the prophets are written on the
  Subway walls and tenement halls…’

“28 Catholic churches in Bohol damaged, several  of which are national historical treasures, such as the Loboc, Dauis and Baclayon churches, all totally destroyed, along with the belfry tower of the Basilica of  Sto. Niño in Cebu. More than a hundred Filipino lives were snuffed out in a matter of seconds and many more still buried beneath the rubble, while tens of thousands rendered homeless and now suffering cold and hunger in tents.
The fallen cold stone walls, the deceased, the bells that can no longer peal in glory---they speak  in their muted silence, they are sending a message.

“Is it a reminder of our vulnerability, the transitory nature of material things and one’s powerlessness over his immortality, or in many ways a warning that no one has control over LIFE except God. He alone can control the population of a country. Thoughts subsequently streamed through my mind as I recalled that last December 12, 2012, feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the unborn, the RH Bill was passed in the Senate. On December 28 of last year, Feast of the Holy Innocents, the President quietly signed it into law, without the usual fanfare. Then last Tuesday the shrine of the Holy Infant Jesus (Sto. Nino) in Cebu was shaken, causing its bell tower to crumble. 

"Were all these a lamentation on the killing of so many innocent children due to wars, crimes and abortion?

“In a footage, viewers witnessed the miracle of life when a three-month old baby sleeping in a “duyan” was spared by a beam which fell on a chair beside the “duyan,” thus preventing it from falling on the baby! The miracle of LIFE amidst the foul stench of death and destruction everywhere.

“Several churches consecrated to the Blessed Mother in Bohol were destroyed. The Baclayon Church, the oldest in the country, fell to pieces, except, miraculously, for the statue of its patroness, St. Anne, mother of Our Lady which remained intact in its glass enclosure. In Bohol, another church dedicated to Our Lady of the Light was destroyed except for her image found  intact under the rubble.

“These can be viewed as miracles if the reader wants to believe--- a visible sign of the role of a mother protecting and watching over her children---St. Anne being the mother of the Blessed Virgin and Mary being the Mother of Jesus. Is the survival of both their statues symbolic of the  FAMILY---perhaps a call for the strengthening of families which are slowly being destroyed in our society? Needless to say, it is a reminder of the ever constant love of Our Lady for us which no earthshaking event can ever destroy.

In many ways, I saw the merciful hand of God amid all the massive disaster. Consider that if the earthquake had happened on a Sunday when churches would be packed with devotees, more deaths would have occurred.  If the quake had happened on a Friday in Cebu, the day of devotion when there are many candle vendors, it would have ended in indescribable tragedy.

“Again let me refer to another line of “ The Sound of Silence:”
‘Hear my words that I may teach you;
 Take my arms that I may reach you…”

“Do we dare look deeper into the message of these disasters or do we simply ignore them and make them fall ‘like silent raindrops to the ground’ as another line of this song goes? In the wake of what’s happening to our country and the crisis in the Catholic Church, what are all these epochal events telling us?

“My prayers for the fallen, the wounded, the missing, the suffering in this recent disaster.”


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