Next on my blitzkrieg list of churches to visit on my last day in Bicol was the region’s oldest church. Fronting a tree-laden plaza and sporting an unpainted neo-classical looking exterior, one would really not think the San Francisco Church to be older than the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, nor even the oldest in the whole of Bicol.
The church really doesn’t look old. Its exterior, although rough-looking in its weathered concrete facade, has none of the decay that is usually found on old cathedrals.
I love bare concrete facades. In my opinion, it looks purer, has more character, and looks more honest than painted ones, which most of the time looks plasticky and fake (if you’re not convinced, google Tadao Ando’s work in Japan). I fervently hope the church remains in its unpainted state.
Its inside however, has already been coated with paint, making it look very new. Painted crisp white and embellished with wood trimmings, you’d be hard pressed to see any of its colorful history by looking at it.
And one of the things this church has is rich history.
According to its historical marker, it was erected in 1578. Initially built of bamboo, and later reconstructed into a brick structure in the middle of the 17th century. The church was almost totally obliterated during the Second World War and remained in ruins ‘til its reincarnation in 1957, which is currently what we now see.
A small portion of the original brick church can still be seen though on a cylindrical tower off the right side of the grounds where St. Francis of Assisi’s sculpture is located.
San Francisco Church has also had its share of the revolution during the country’s Spanish era.
Its parish house has been the site of interrogations and tortures during the September 1896 general arrest by the Spaniards. The church itself became a refuge for the people as the Filipinos rose against their oppressor a few days after the arrests, which then led to the surrender of the local Spanish forces.
I would have loved to photograph the church’s altar (which is usually the custom in photographing churches) but there was an ongoing mass. My time in Naga was ticking and I have to move on to the next church on the list.
San Francisco Church
Address: Penafrancia Avenue, Naga City
Contact Number: (054) 473-7570
Website: Click Here
Daily Mass Schedule: 6:00am Bikol | 12:15pm English | 5:30pm English
Sunday Mass Schedule: 6am Bikol | 7am Bikol | 8am English | 9am Tagalog | 10am English | 11am Bikol
12:15pm English | 3pm Bikol | 4pm Bikol | 5pm Bikol | 6pm Bikol | 7pm English | 8pm English