The Sta Monica Church and Panay Bell After Typhoon Yolanda

The province of Capiz is famous for two things: Roxas City, the capital of the province is known to be the seafood capital of the Philippines and Sta Monica Church, the oldest church in Panay Island is home to Dako nga Lingganay (Big Bell), considered to be the largest Catholic bell in Asia and third largest in the world.

Sta Monica Church
Sta Monica Church

It was a gloomy morning when I took a tricycle from Roxas City to Pan-ay. The town originally called Bamban was changed by the early Spaniards to Panay, a word which means “mouth of the river.” This is also the location of a fortress built by Juan de la Isla in late 1570. The town was very quiet and still, a far cry from the fast pace in Manila. I really did not know what to expect when I arrived in Sta Monica Church since Capiz was reported to have been greatly affected by Typhoon Yolanda. I gasped and was relieved to find the church still very much intact.

Paseo de Evangelication
Paseo de Evangelizacion 1566

The Paseo de Evangelizacion 1566 can be found in the town plaza and was erected through the efforts of Rev. Msgr. Benjamin F. Advincula. 1566 was the year the Spaniards arrived in the island of Panay and became the second Spanish settlement in the country next to Cebu.

Dako nga Lingganay
Dako nga Lingganay Replica

I thought this was the Big Bell already but later found out that it was just a replica.

Sta Monica ChurchSta Monica Church
Sta Monica ChurchSta Monica Church
Sta Monica ChurchSta Monica Church
Sta Monica Church

There were reports that the structure was first built during the 1690s but was completele destroyed by a fierce typhoon in January 1768. The current church was re-built in 1774 through the efforts of Fr Miguel Murgia only to be severely damaged during typhoons in 1874 and 1875.

The church, built in the Filipino Colonial Baroque style with Neo-Classical influence, is a grand structure of coral stone that is 70 meters long, 25 meters wide and 18 meters high. The walls are 3 meters (or about 10 feet) thick and the floor is covered with marble. Its structure is shaped in the form of a Latin cross with one large central altar and four lateral ones, each fitted with gorgeously decorated and gilded retablos of hardwood, decorated with various polychrome statues of high artistic quality. (Taken from Wikipedia)

In 1884, Fr Jose Beloso restored the Santa Monica Church and refurbished the convento that he had built from the rubbles of destroyed church properties. In 1997, the Sta. Monica Parish in Panay was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in its Resolution No.3 series of 1997.

Inside Sta Monica ChurchInside Sta Monica Church
Inside Sta Monica ChurchInside Sta Monica Church
Inside Sta Monica Church>

I went inside the church and expected to see a very beautiful interior and I got disappointed. Apparently, rain from Typhoon Yolanda was able to get through the roof and ceiling. Rainwater was still evident even if more than two months has past after the strong typhoon. Only the three altars were left. The retablo of the central altar has been painted in silver and gold enamel while the side altars still have the original colors of the woodwork. These altars are unique for Latin inscriptions. Going around the church you will find four grave markers who were from prominent families at the time they died.

The Traveling Panda hugging the Pan-ay Bell
The Traveling Panda hugging the Pan-ay Bell (Dakong Lingganay)

On one corner near the church entrance is a stairway leading to the belfry on the fifth level of the bell tower. Fortunately, there were two tour guides around who accompanied me going to the belfry. There were nine (9) bells in the belfry and Dako nga Lingganay (Big Bell) was huge, even ten (10) people can fit and stand inside. It was cast from seventy (70) sacks of gold coins donated by the townspeople. The bell measuring 7 feet in diameter, 5 feet in height and over 10 metric tons was completed in 1878 by Doc Juan Reina, a town dentist and noted blacksmith. There is an inscription on the bell that reads:
"Soy la voz de Dios que llevaré y ensalzaré desde el principio hasta el fin de este pueblo de Panay para que los fieles de Jesus vengan a esta casa de Dios a recibirlas gracias celestiales"
Translated in English means:
“I am God’s voice which I shall echo and praise from one end to the other of the town of Panay, so that the faithful followers of Christ may come to this house of God to receive the heavenly graces.”
PTCAO Guides
PTCAO Guides

Randy and Jun, the guides who were with me have some fascinating stories about Capiz and Dako nga Lingganay. The bell is very dear to the Panayanons both in moments of happiness and in times of tribulation. It symbolizes their link with the Almighty. The other eight (8) bells were cast by Benitus a Regibus, Hilario Sunico and Juan Reina.

Parish Priest Msgr Job BolivarUtazo

I took some pictures with my mascot, Utazo on one of the smaller bells. Just as we were about to head down, Msgr Job Bolivar, the parish priest arrived with a guest. I stayed longer on the belfry as Msgr Bolivar shared his stories and experience in the church. We certainly forgot about the time as it was almost an hour when we headed down.

Fuente de Vida
Fuente de Vida

I explored the grounds of the church and found a well called Fuente de Vida. It is an old Spanish well that was restored and is now one of the major places to visit in Panay. The well is made of coral stones just like the church and was a source of water during the Spanish era.

Museo de Sta Monica
Museo de Sta Monica

Just before I leave Panay, I had my picture taken. If you have read my previous articles and travel, you will notice that I have not posted any picture. Honestly, I do not really like my picture taken and I am really not that confident that I look good enough to post them in my articles. Do you think I should take more photos of me whenever I travel?






Share this article:





2 comments:

  1. I am forever fascinated about old churches because of the history they hold. It's just sad that this one hasn't been rehabilitated even though it has been months after the typhoon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is sad that Sta Monica has been damaged by typhoons. The only consolation is that the structure is still intact even if the interior was severely damaged.

      Delete