The faithful of Dapitan City stood up and bowed as their priest showered them with blessings in the vernacular tongue. It was a Sunday and the cavernous hall of St. James Church is filled with locals attending mass. The choir started their last praise, an altar boy rang his bell and the people solemnly chorused along. It was a quiet afternoon in Dapitan City. Kids were out chasing each other at the larger than life map that Rizal had made across the church but the streets were devoid of people. It seemed everyone has gathered inside the towering Dapitan Church.
Named after St. James the Greater, one of Jesus’s first disciple, the church lords over the quiet city of Dapitan. Its unpainted façade reflects a Baroque style that has hints of Moorish and Gothic influences. Soaring vertically towards the heavens, its meter-thick concrete walls support two bell towers, completing the church’s symmetry.
Although it is not the first Christian Church in Dapitan, it nonetheless carries great history within its chambers.
It was constructed by the Dapitanons in 1871 with galvanized iron walls and wooden floors. The makeshift materials were replaced with solid masonry thirty three years later. But it was not until 1964 when the final incarnation of the church took place as the walls were completely reconstructed with reinforced concrete.
Rizal was said to frequent the church every Sunday and a marker indicating his favorite spot is even engraved inside its hall.
Gazing at the exterior of St. James Church may not impress much; its design is overtly simple. With the exception of a few faux columns and the central stained glass window, there really isn’t much decoration flourishing along its walls.
But the magic of Dapitan’s church lies within. Enter its arched doorway and prepare to be hypnotized by its one of a kind ceiling.
Composed of interlocking white and pink rectangles, the design looks simple enough. But its effect as a whole is dizzying. The pattern swirls around domes and arches, drowning its audience far below in dizzying disarray.
The illusion is further heightened at the apex of the church where the central dome is located. Stare long enough and the hypnotic design might just induce a mild case of vertigo.
The choir continued their praises with faithful still echoing along. It wasn’t until the last notes of the hymn were sung that people dispersed into the quiet afternoon of Dapitan City. I took a moment and said my prayers. I gazed at the ceiling one last time, followed the masses and left the dizzying interiors of St. James Church.
St. James Church
Address: Junction Polo-Dapitan Park National Road, Dapitan City
GPS Coordinates: 8.654734,123.42465
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