Dusk was quickly falling as we arrived at the last of the three churches we visited in Siquijor. A boombox blasting out Lady Gaga songs was trying but failing miserably to brighten up the now solemn atmosphere looming over the town of Maria as early evening encroaches on the mystic island
The Church of the Divine Providence is something of a legend amongst all the churches in the island. Its stone façade which looks to be made of limestone looks as sturdy as the day it was built but is as weather-stained as any old church. Small plants have already taken hold on its cracks and lichens seemed intent ondyeing the walls from cream to black.
Dubbed simply as Santa Maria Church by the locals, its exterior is devoid of any ornamentation; no saints on niches, no intricate carvings, no fancy stained glass windows. The same can be said of the octagonal bell tower that squats beside the church. The bell holder seemed more intricate compared to the structure.
Unembellished does not equate to ugliness though. The church exudes a powerful geometric presence that is almost Aztec-ish in nature. The architecture looks really massive and heavy despite its average size.
The only thing that doesn’t go well with its old-world charm is the new portico built in front of its two-story tall double doors. Made of concrete and designed in fake neo-classical motif, it clashes with the minimalistic façade of the original structure.
To add insult to injury, the whole thing is coated in mottled paint styled to look old but only manages to make it look even cheaper. I hope the local government realizes the error in this and removes this eyesore.
But enough of that, the architecture of Santa Maria Church, beautiful as it is, is really not what tourists visit in the sleepy town of Maria. Inside the stone church is a religious statue as eerie as the eeriest tale told in Siquijor.
Housed in a glass cage to protect from antique bandits, the statue of Santa Rita de Cascia or simply Santa Rita de Siquijor to the locals, gazes down its icy stare to every visitors entering the bare interiors of its church.
Dubbed as the Black Magic Maria, it has one of the most piercing gazes I have ever seen, be it from live flesh or dead stone. I didn’t know it’s possible for a lifeless statue to send chills down one’s spine. Covered in black garb, the saint’s pale face is sporting a thin frowning mouth. On one of her hand is a human skull and on the other is a cross, which was said to be inverted. Well it was not inverted when I visited but it didn’t add any comfort to my swirling mind as I willed myself to stare at the apparition; am I really looking at a statue of a saint?
Santa Rita de Cascia is an Italian saint, patroness of all hardships it seems; impossible causes, battered wife, difficult marriages, sickness, widows and wounds. Forcedly wed to an abusive husband for 18 years, she lost her husband and her two sons in a single year. She later became a nun and miraculously exhibited Christ’s wound on her forehead in 1441.
The history might explain the somber look, but to Siquijodnons there’s more to this sculpture than written history.
According to local talk, the icon is said to be miraculous and is used to be paraded around town during drought to bring on the rains. It was also said that the statue used to roam the island of Siquijor after sundown returning to its pedestal before sunrise. How do they know? Its feet are still dirty with mud and grass.
Whether you believe in such chatter is of course entirely up to you. But talks like these take a few more creds than what it should probably deserve when you’re inside an empty echoing church with the sun way below its small windows and you can feel the Black Maria’s eyes seemingly staring behind your back.
No mambabarang tales from our guide can top the creeping heebie-jeebies I had then.
Sta. Maria Church
Brgy. Poblacion, Maria, Siquijor
GPS Coordinates: 9.196856,123.655264
Click to View Location on Google Maps
Recommended Siquijor Island Tour Guide
Kuya Joam: 0927-6932095
Fee: Php1,000.00 inclusive transportation, port
pick-up, lodging transfer and lots of stories :)
SIQUIJOR THREE-DAY SERIES
TRIP ITINERARY | MANILA - DUMAGUETE CITY - SIQUIJOR | ST. FRANCIS DE ASSISI CHURCH | CAPILAY’S SPRING PARK AT SAN JUAN
OVER AND BELOW LAZI’S CENTURY-OLD BALETE TREE | LAZI CHURCH - SAN ISIDRO LABRADOR PARISH | LAZI CONVENT
THE CAMBUGAHAY FALLS AT LAZI | SANTA MARIA CHURCH & ITS BLACK MARIA | SUNSET ON THE ROAD
SAN JUAN’S COCO GROVE RESORT | COCO GROVE ACCOMMODATIONS AT SAN JUAN | COCO GROVE’S SUNSET RESTAURANT
SUNSET AND SUNRISE AT SAN JUAN’S TUBOD BEACH