Almost twenty years after Mount Pinatubo’s devastating lahar flow ravaged the province of Pampanga, the San Guillermo Church still stands proud, albeit half-sizedly, along Bacolor’s town plaza. It was the second stop of Culture Shock PH’s Pampanga Food and Heritage Tour and I was excited to explore a church quite different from what I normally see around the Philippines.
Originally standing at twelve meters high, the lahar flow from Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption reduced Bacolor Church’s façade into half its original height. The original door, which has been buried by mud and ash materials, can no longer be seen. What were formerly church windows are now used as main entrances to this house of worship.
Rex Regum Et Dominus Dominantium, a Latin inscription above a shining cross declares, as one enters the now diminutive church. The San Guillermo parish was founded by the Augustinians in 1576. Its original structure was damaged by two earthquakes and a fire before being rebuilt in 1886.
Although Pinatubo erupted in 1991, it took four years before its mudflow reached the town of Bacolor and finally sunk its church.
Bacolor Church is named after the town’s patron, San Guillermo Ermitaño. It is built in the Baroque-style of architecture and looks to be built of concrete. Upon closer inspection however, one can see that its meter-thick wall consists of bricks and stone works; although most of it is already concealed by modern finishing, especially in the church interior.
It was said that after the lahar devastation of Bacolor Church, the town residents lent their hands to preserve their heritage by digging up the original retablo and its centuries-old images. The floor was then re-concreted and the retablo, refitted right under its once soaring dome.
Similar to Siquijor’s Lazi Church, its old convent has now been converted as an art gallery; the Museo de Bacolor. The convent has once served as the command headquarters of Don Simon de Anda, the Spanish Governor during the 1762 British invasion of Manila.
Besides the usual church relics and old photographs displayed along the museum corridor, art installations are also exhibited inside its interior halls. And even though these spaces were not spared by the ravaging mud flow of Mount Pinatubo, one can still see the age of Bacolor Church through the exposed parts of its thick walls.
Traveling around the Philippines, I can say that I’ve seen almost every kind of churches there are in the country.
But this one in Pampanga is something new one for me. One can argue that this is not really new, what with Albay’s own buried church in Cagsawa. The difference is that Bacolor’s San Guillermo Church continues to function, even with its half-buried state, after being devastated by a massive volcanic eruption.
Bacolor Church - San Guillermo Parish
Address: Cabambangan, Bacolor, Pampanga
Contact Number: (045) 436-1161
GPS Coordinates: 15°00'00.3"N 120°38'52.8"E
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