Southeast Cebu Heritage Trail: ARGAO

The trip to Argao from Dalaguete took around 20 minutes. Argao is approximately 68km from Cebu City. A 5-minute walk and I reached San Miguel el Arcangel, the heritage church of Argao.

The San Miguel el Arcangel Church was built from 1782 to 1798 and is the second church or possibly the third since Argao was listed as a visita of Carcar in 1690, same as with Dalaguete. The construction was attributed to Fr Francisco Espina who was the parish priest at that time. On the left side of the church is the bell tower connected by a low structure and on the right side is the convent made of coral stones and wood stands. The church and convent roof was destroyed during a typhoon in 1876 and was completely replaced with galvanized iron in 1824.

The facade of the church is surmounted by a triangular pediment and divided by pairs of columns resting on tall plinths that are embellished with angels and columns with floral motifs. A wide arched entrance leads into the church and angels embellished on the walls on both side of the entrance.

As I enter the church, I gazed up the ceiling made of wood planks painted with various biblical scenes depicting angels in human life and ecclesiastical motifs by Canuto Avila and Raymundo Francia which was really amazing. The ceiling is supported by corbels with carved decorative cherub heads. Like most heritage churches, San Miguel el Arcangel also has a retablo and 2 smaller altar screens in each transept.

I went closer to the retablo that is painted with gold and silver leaf with the images covered with sheets. When I asked around, they told me that the images are also painted with gold leaf and that the original painting was polychrome.

The view from the altar of the church overseeing the narthex that has a large choir loft with carved railings and embellishment. A pipe organ that can't be played anymore and is said to be the 2nd oldest in the country can be found on one side and a tribuna on the other side. The pulpit has an exquisitely-carved cupula (dome-shaped cap oer a structure is attached to the epistle of the nave.

A closer look on the wood planks directly on top of the altar of San Miguel el Arcangel Church painted by Canuto Avila.

On my way out, I chanced upon this woman intently praying. I hope her prayers were answered.

Just outside the church, around 100 meters is the Capilla Mortuario that serves as the mortuary chapel of the church. When the Spaniards laid out their plan for the walled complex of the pueblo, one of the most important developments was the building of a church cemetery within the complex. This cemetery was situated right around the capilla mortuario which itself served as a place where the funeral wake was held before they are interred. A closer look would show a San Miguel Arcangel depicting a promise to guide and protect from the enemy.

As the population of the poblacion continued to grow the cemetery in the walled complex became a problem as the bodily fluids from the deceased seeped through the water system of Argao and thus caused many people to get sick. To remedy this, the Spanish authorities in the early nineteenth century mandated that all cemeteries should be moved away from the center of the town in order to avoid further contamination of the pueblo's water source.

Beside the Capila Mortuario is the Puerto Marina, which leads to the sea and to Baluarte de Argao, a resort-like accommodation facing the sea.

A few more steps away from the baluarte is the current Hall of Justice that once serves as school for boys and girls and was once known as Colegio  de los Niños. Church workers  built this structure who asked their children to bring a block of coral stone everyday when they come to school.

Near the Hall of Justice is the old municipal building or Casa Real. Casa Real is one example of the bahay na bato or more known as "Balay na Tisa" for Cebuanos. It is also the oldest existing town hall in the province of Cebu which was built in 1608.

The second floor of Casa Real has been converted into a museum.

The view from the balcony on the second floor of Casa Real overseeing the Hall of Justice in the left, the Argao Plaza and San Miguel el Arcangel Parish Church.

I was a bit hungry already when I went down Casa Real and since Argao was known for one delicacy, I went on to find some torta to eat before I head for Sibonga. I was really hungry already and I ate the tortas before I remembered to take a photo.

Related Links:

South Cebu Heritage Trail: SAMBOAN

South Cebu Heritage Trail: GINATILAN

South Cebu Heritage Trail: OSLOB

South Cebu Heritage Trail: BOLJOON PART 1

South Cebu Heritage Trail: BOLJOON PART 2

South Cebu Heritage Trail: DALAGUETE

South Cebu Heritage Trail: SIBONGA

South Cebu Heritage Trail: CARCAR

South Cebu Heritage Trail: TRAVEL GUIDE

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  1. When it comes to Photography, I also like to shoot old churches especially the ceiling paintings and other part of the old structures.:-). Nice shots mike.:-).

    1. thanks! please read the related links re South Cebu Heritage

  2. Hi Mike,

    Just a note: Canuto Avila was not involved in the ceiling paintings of Argao. Raymundo Francia started the project from the altar down to the crossing. However due to some reason (probably because of a number of projects he's doing for Bohol churches at that time), he wasn't able to finish the work. The rest of the ceiling, particularly the nave, was finished by a local painter of a less caliber than Francia, as you can see on the difference of strokes and technique.

    I'm currently doing a book on church ceiling paintings in the Philippines. You may like my page for more info. Thanks!

    1. Thanks sir, this was the info given to me, anyway, will check you page sir.