Caleruega Retreat Center (Nasugbu, Batangas)

Dominicum (Caleruega Retreat Center)

After a filling lunch at Josephine’s Restaurant in Tagaytay City, Mark, Jandy, Vicky, Marc, Bryan and I opted to go on a sightseeing trip.  Back on Mark’s Starex van, we traveled a further 15.7 kms. (25 mins.) to the town of Nasugbu, in the adjoining province of Batangas, where we were to visit the much hyped up retreat center and wedding venue called Caleruega. Designed by Arch. Yolanda D. Reyes (Dean of UST’s College of Architecture) and built in 1995, Caleruega was set up as a venue for retreats and seminars of the Dominican institutions.

Mark (center) and Vicky (right) exploring the grounds


The much-publicized wedding of Christopher de Leon and Sandy Andolong gave Caleruega its early exposure and, today, it is a lovely setting for an out of town wedding for brides and grooms.  Even movies and television ads producers have taken notice.

United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) 1996 Design Award in Architecture

From the highway, we turned into of a long, rough, bumpy and isolated road, at the end of which is the sprawling, 8-hectare property owned by the Dominican Fathers. We parked our van just outside.  Past brick-paved rotunda and fountain is the Dominicum (which we mistook to be a chapel), the receiving hall for visitors and those having their retreats at the place.

Perched atop an elevation with a 21 steps leading up to it, its two level Moorish and Spanish-style facade has a segmental arched main entrance flanked by square pilasters and niches with statues of Thomas Aquinas and Catherine of Sienna, both doctors of the church, at the ground level.

Stairway leading up to the Dominicum

The main entrance is topped, at the second level, by a semicircular arched window with the stained glass image of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican order.  This window is flanked by smaller semicircular arched windows with stained glass images of his father’s coat-of-arms on the left and his mother’s coat-of-arms on the right.

Stained glass window depicting St. Dominic

The four square pilasters (two reaching up to the pediment) are topped by pineapple (probably hinting at its proximity to Tagaytay)-shaped finials.  The undulating pediment has a bell-gable (espadana) at the center.

Grand stairway

Inside is a grand, elegantly curving staircase (unfortunately, off limits to visitors), a gift house (where one can buy souvenir shirts, trinkets and religious items) on the left, a mess hall on the right and a corridor that leads to the gardens.

Mess hall

From the Dominicum, pathways, following the natural curves and slope of the hill, lead us into a garden bursting with color and life. It was easy to fall in love with the serenity and beauty of this gorgeous retreat sanctuary with its abundant and colorful varieties of flowers, lush plants and trees and walking paths.

In the comforting company of nature, one can sit on solitary park benches, found in niches, and gaze at the 180-degree view of cobalt-blue skies,  the rolling, verdant hills and mountains and the plains. Caleruega’s tag line, “Closer to Nature, Closer to God,” is a fitting description of this nourishing sanctuary.

Lining the pathway are functional dormitories, cottages and overnight guests plus an interesting gazekubo, a conference hall that mixes the elements of a gazebo and a bahay kubo, with adobe stone walls roof made with once brown pawid (now green with small plant growth).


The many signs and symbols of the Dominicans were abundantly integrated into the architecture.  The motif of the Dominican star (Joanna of Aza, St. Dominic’s mother, saw a star on her son’s forehead, a sign that he would eventually spread light to the world), as well as the sun, can be consistently seen in the refreshing fountain on the driveway, capiz windows, grilles and even inside cottages in the retreat center.

There were also viewing decks where one can witness the stunning show and the magical moment of the sun setting between the two rugged peaks of Batulao (incidentally, the name Batulao is derived from the words bato, meaning “stone,” and “ilaw or “light”), creating the perfect mood for love. St. Dominic’s Point, another beautiful vantage point, has a statue of St. Dominic, his feet lined with a star formation of fuchsia plants.  Rosary Lane, framed by the rolling hills of Mt. Batulao, has a statue of the Mother and Child sitting in prayer, each clutching a rosary.

At the peak was the famed, stunning and quaint Transfiguration Chapel with its Moorish-style facade done in red brick and painted concrete. When we arrived, a wedding was ongoing inside the chapel.  Patterned after the original Caleruega Chapel in Spain, it can fit only 150 people.  Its door has a brass sculpture of seven grapevines (symbolizing the Seven Sacraments).

Transfiguration Chapel

The chapel’s interior, finished with varnished wood and painted concrete, has a lectern with Biblical images of the mustard seed while the tabernacle has a burning bush design.  The altar, made from a carved tree trunk, signifies the Stem of Jesse in the Book of Isaiah. The birds, at the communion table, symbolize God’s providence.

The chapel interior with its centerpiece stained glass window featuring the Transfiguration – Moses on the left, Jesus at center and the prophet Elijah at the right

The stained glass windows of the chapel, giving a very soft and warm glow to the interior (an atmosphere conducive for prayers and reflections), were impressive. On the facade is the seal of the Dominican Province of the Philippines. Inside is the centerpiece of the church floor to ceiling stained glass of the figures of Transfiguration (Jesus, Moses and Elijah).

The author at the Transfiguration Chapel

In front of the chapel is “Thy Will Be Done,” a metal sculpture with arms outstretched done by Baguio City artist Benhur Villanueva. Surrounding the chapel are carefully selected plants and trees (the planted pine trees even mimic the Mediterranean setting where St. Dominic was born in 1170 in Caleruega in Old Castile).

Thy Will Be Done (Benhur Villanueva)

Caleruega is a lovely, quiet and soothing addition to the 39 Catholic houses (retreat houses, formation houses, seminaries and contemplative groups) tucked along Tagaytay Ridge as well as over a dozen Christian lay communities and prayer houses.

Caleruega Retreat Center: Bgry. Kaylaway, Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas.  Mobile number: (0921) 270-9890 and (0921) 830-4226.  E-mail: Open daily, 8 AM – 12 noon and 1 – 5 PM. A mass is held every Sunday at 11 AM.

How to Get There:
Coming from Tagaytay City, board a Nasugbu bound bus and ask the driver to drop you off at Evercrest where there’s a tricycle station.  Here, you can hire a tricycle for a two-way trip to Caleruega.

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer (Labrador, Pangasinan)

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer

The town’s first church and convent, built with wood, was started in 1771 by Fr. Domingo de San Joaquin and finished in 1776. By 1865, after renovations, it measured 57.4 m. in length and 16.5 m. in width. In 1952, the church underwent repairs of World War II damage.

The church’s interior


The church’s single level, Baroque facade, topped by a plain triangular pediment, has a semicircular arched main entrance flanked by massive square pilasters topped by urn-like finials, and semicircular arched windows.

Above the entrance is a small niche with the statue of St. Isidore the Farmer flanked by semicircular arched windows.  The square bell tower, on the church’s left, is probably a modern addition.

The main altar and retablo

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer: Lingayen-Labrador Road, Poblacion, Labrador 2402. Tel: (075) 549-5055. Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer: May 15.

How to Get There: Labrador is located 359 kms. from Manila.  Within the province, it is located 12.6 kms. from Lingayen, 10.5 kms. from Bugallon and 7.3 kms. from Sual.

Church of Our Lady of the Purification (Binmaley, Pangasinan)

Church of Our Lady of Purification

This church, once the largest church in the province during the latter part of the 19th century, was first constructed in the 16th century but burned down in 1745. The succeeding brick church, built towards the west of the former, was begun by Fr. Jose Salvador in 1747 finished by Fr. Francisco Barroso, OP, in 1754.

The right side of the church with some of the original brick facing now exposed

During World War II, the church was heavily damaged (only the walls and the partly damaged bell tower were left after shelling by American warships from January 7-9, 1945) and later rebuilt.

The 5-storey bell tower on the church’s right


This church’s 3-level, relatively simple Baroque brick (now plastered over) façade has  semicircular arched main entrance, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the first level; and a semicircular arched statued niche, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the second level.

On display in front of the church is a huge 1880 bell that bears the logo Fundicion de Metales de Santos Supangco.

The segmental pediment, separated from the second level by 3 rows of cornices, has a recessed octagonal window (above which is a cornice and a centrally located seal in the tympanumflanked by smaller, recessed octagonal windows. The huge scrolls flowing down from the base of the pediment are typical of the Italian Baroque style.

The 1880 church bell on display outside the church

The 5-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s right, has blind semicircular arched recesses (canopied with triangular segments), at the the first 3 storeys, and semicircular arched open windows at the receding upper levels.  It has 3 bells. One bell, weighing 4,130 pounds and cast in 1804, was once of the three biggest bells in the Philippines.

The main altar and retablo

The church measures 94 m. long and 16.8 m. wide. Juan Fuentes y Yepes, the Bishop of Nueva Segovia, is buried here.  The 35 m. long  transept has a high dome with 4 windows and is supported by 8 elegant columns with Composite capitals. The interior also houses 5 exquisite altars.

The church’s dome

Church of Our Lady of the Purification: Urdaneta Junction, Dagupan–Binmaley Road, Poblacion, Binmaley 2417. Tel: (075) 540-0047.  Feast of Our Lady of Purification: February 2.

How to Get There: Binmaley is located 223 kms. from Manila.

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Balilihan, Bohol)

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

The town’s previous church, built with tabique and nipa after the 1863 typhoon, was renovated in 1889 but burned, together with the convent, the municipio (municipal building), the school building for boys and girls as well as private houses, by the Americans on November 12, 1900 even when all the town’s officials, led by Capitan Antonio Racho, came out to meet the soldiers with a brass band.  Only the separate, hilltop bell tower was spared.

The left side of the church

The present church, built in the early 20th century with poured concrete, has a cruciform plan with a squat octagonal cupola..  It has a nave divided into three aisles, and a portico, with a central bell tower, in front of the façade.

The portico with the bell tower above it

The church’s original three-storey square bell tower, on Mt. Carmel Hill overlooking the plaza, can be reached by climbing 104 concrete steps.

The 104 concrete steps leading up Mt. Carmel Hill

It was started in 1835 by Augustinian Recollect Fr. Antonio Cortes using cut coral stones gathered in Baclayon, and inaugurated in 1846.

The restored coral stone bell tower

Over time, exposure to the elements slowly eroded the surface of the belfry. A not-so-faithful restoration was done on the structure, its surface patched with irregularly cut stones, put in place with cement.

Bas relief at tower wall

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake of October 15, 2013, totally toppled the restored structure.   It has since been faithfully reconstructed with the help of the National Museum.

The tower entrance

Its hip roof, with wide overhangs, is supported by carved corbels. The tower’s arched openings are decorated by scroll work and floral designs. Its bells have been removed and installed in the bell tower in front of the church at the foot of the hill.

The church interior with ceiling paintings by Ray Francia

Inside the church are ceiling murals of representations of Heaven, the Sacraments, saints and holy scenes, some done by Cebuano artist Ray Francia (the “Michaelangelo of Cebu”).

The choir loft area

The altars combine Corinthian columns, Neo-Gothic spires and crockets, Baroque volutes and Art Deco open work.

The main altar area

Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Balilihan-Sikatuna Provincial Rd., Balilihan 6342, Bohol.  Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: July 16.

How to Get There: Balilihan is located 21.5 kms. (a 30-min. drive) northeast of Tagbilaran City (through CPG North Ave.) and 19.7 kms. northeast via Corella (through J.A. Clarin St.).

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail:

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: Website:  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine (Dimiao, Bohol)


Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

One of the churches severely damaged during the October 15, 2013 earthquake was the Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine in Dimiao.  The ceiling of the church received heavy cracks, the walls of both the left and right wings of the transept cracked open, and large portions of the outer stone finishes in various areas of the church exterior fell down.

As of early 2014, the structure, though still standing, was deemed unsafe to enter. Only priests and church convent authorities were allowed to enter the church. As of this writing, the church is being repaired, with scaffolding installed throughout the exterior and interior. We were allowed to enter the church.

The painted ceiling


The town’s present magnificent church, one of the oldest in the province, was built from 1800 to 1815 by Fr. Enrique de Santo Tomas de Villanueva with cut stone blocks. On  July 30, 2011, the church complex, including the Ermita Ruins, were declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum due to its outstanding historical, aesthetic, social and architectural significance.

Check out “Ermita Ruins

The church has a cruciform plan with an atypically short transept. The church is the only other Spanish-era church, aside from Loon,  that was not originally built with a portico

Its powerful Early Renaissance façade, with subtle hints of baroque and Muslim influence, is divided into segments by square pilasters ornamented with a shallow octagonal relief of fine floral carvings arranged as vertical bands.  On the lower level is a semicircular main entrance (above which is the Spanish coat-of-arms) flanked by blind windows.

On the second level is a statued niche of San Nicolas Tolentino topped by a small pediment and flanked by semicircular windows.

The octagonal bell tower

The steep stone stairway leading up to the right bell tower

On the church’s flanks are two minaret-like octagonal bell towers with seven bells, the earliest dating from 1841.  The tower on the right is accessible by a steep stone staircase followed by a wooden one.

The main altar retablo

Inside are three Neo-Classical retablos, a pulpit with wrought iron banister and a spacious sacristy and choir loft.

The pulpit with wrought iron bannister

The convent, now a school behind the church,  was constructed by Fr. Manuel Carasusan (1842 to 1855 and 1858 to 1864).  Part of its ground floor has a small parish museum. It is linked to the church sacristy by a bridge-like corridor.

Left side retablo

Church of St. Nicholas of Tolentine: Poblacion, 6305 Dimiao. Tel: (038) 536-1009. Feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentine: September 10.

How to Get There: Dimiao is located 44.7 kms. (a 1-hour drive) east of Tagbilaran City.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail:

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: Website:  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Church of the Holy Trinity (Loay, Bohol)

Church of the Holy Trinity

Upon arrival in Loay, our van entered the  church complex via the short bend from the road to Loboc. This old and charming church, built on top of a plateau overlooking the sea, near the mouth of the Loboc River, is also reached by short flight of stairs from the main highway.

The church after the October 15, 2013 earthquake (photo: Wikipedia)

Built with cut coral stone, it is cruciform in plan, with a low quadrangular pyramid atop the crossing, and was probably finished in 1822. The church was recently declared as a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark in 2003.

The restored portico facade

The church has two facades: an inner (1822), decorated with low relief (atop the inner doorway is inscribed the year 1822, indicating its presumed date of completion), and an outer three-level Neo-Classical portico-façade (apparently completed in the 20th century as its upper register is in reinforced concrete).

NHI Plaque.  It states that a certain Fr. Leon Inchausti was once assigned to this parish, that he was subsequently martyred during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and that he was canonized in 1999 and is now a saint

It has a semicircular arched main entrance (which formerly had a Latin inscription “Deus Trinus et Unus” above it, alluding to the parish’s dedication to the Holy Trinity) at the first level, rectangular windows on the second level and a low triangular pediment topped by allegorical figures of Faith, Hope and Charity. The sides of the church are reinforced by huge buttresses.

The ceiling murals obscured by a maze of scaffolding

During the October 15, 2013 earthquake, the church’s portico-facade fell down but, during our visit, it had already been restored. Inside, there were still a lot of scaffolding with repair work still ongoing.  The painted trompe o’eil ceiling is filled with murals of Biblical scenes finished by Ray Francia on June 15, 1927.

The colonnaded main altar has a Neo-Classic retablo with images of the Holy Trinity (with God the Father seated on the right, God the Son on the left, and God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above them) topped by a baldaquin.

There’s also a massive pipe organ installed in 1841 and a pulpit topped by a torravoz with Neo-Gothic dome and fringed by a “lacework” of metal and wood.

Stairs leading to the choir loft

The separate, three-storey octagonal bell tower, topped by a domed roof, was built by Fr. Carlos Ubeda (1859 to 1865).  The stone and wood convent now houses the Holy Trinity Academy, founded in 1947.

The separate, 3-storey bell tower

Church of the Holy Trinity: Tel: (038) 538-9158 and (038) 501-1145. Feast of the Holy Trinity: Trinity Sunday (May).

How to Get There: Loay is located 22.1 kms. (a 30-min. drive) east of Tagbilaran City.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail:

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: Website:  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

First built with forced labor by Jesuits in 1787, it was burned on December 23, 1798 (8 PM) and reconstructed and enlarged from 1839 to 1855 by Fr. Valero de San Sebastian. Between 1888 and 1894, Fr. Escolastico Enciso made improvements by sumptuously painting it and adding iron cornices, wooden flooring and chandeliers. In 1941, the church was made into a cathedral.  Very little remains of its Spanish-era past.

The new left wing of the cathedral

Between 1945 and 1951, ill-conceived and deeply regretted renovations were initiated by Msgr. Julio Rosales (the first Bishop of the Diocese of Bohol and later Cardinal), assisted by the parish priest Fr. Arturo Tecson. The coral stone facing was totally replaced by cement, the antique wooden flooring was replaced by reinforced concrete and the original ceiling, featuring beautiful, centuries-old frescoes depicting catechetical themes and Biblical scenes found in many historic churches of Bohol, was totally changed and lost forever.

The right wing

Between 1952 and 1970, the church façade and the choir loft were totally changed by Msgr. Manuel Mascarinas, with the assistance of parish priests Fr. Pedro Namoc and Fr. Camilo Auza.  Major renovations were also done in the interior and exterior walling.  To widen and enlarge the presbytery, massive stone walls were demolished so that the main altar can be moved back by 3 m. and additional wings (which forever altered its cross-shaped plan) were built to accommodate a fast-growing congregation.

The statue of St. Joseph the Worker that replaced the small, Spanish-era obelisk

Also, on May 1, 1996, as part of the Cathedral Expansion Project, a small obelisk in front of the church, erected in February 1828 and repaired on February 1949 was removed, replaced by a statue of St. Joseph the Worker. The church was slightly damaged during the strong October 15, 2013 earthquake.

The cathedral interior

The cathedral has a Neo-Romanesque facade with corbelled arches underneath the cornice, a porch over the main entrance and tall, semicircular arched windows. The Augustinian Recollect Order’s seal are carved on the doors, arches and cornices.

The main and 2 side altars

Inside are 20 venerated, wooden and historic images along the walls of the church. The main altar, elegantly decorated with ornate gold designs depicting symbols of Old Testament times, is in the 19th century Neo-Classical style.

The main altar

At its center is the 18th century image of St. Joseph the Worker, with the image (dated 1848) of San Roque (St. Roch), the secondary patron, on the left, and that of St. Vincent Ferrer, dated 1861, on the right. Immediately above St. Joseph’s throne, on the main altar’s second storey, is the image of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes (Our Lady of Lourdes), said to have been donated in 1895 by Dona Maria de Bourbon of the Royal House of Spain, and installed, with great pomp, on February 19, 1895.

The left side altar

The 2-tiered side altars are of the 18th century Baroque style. The left wing retablo contains images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (acquired in 1897) and 4 different devotions to the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Jesus, and St. Therese of Liseuix, the Little Flower.  On the right side altar are the Risen Christ, the Immaculate Heart of Mary (acquired in 1897), St. Anthony of Padua, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

The new ceiling frescoes

The 4-storey bell tower (currently being repaired), with a dome roof and six bells (dating from 1891 to 1907), was started in 1886 by Fr. Jose Sanchez and finished and blessed in April 1891.  The 2-storey convent, also destroyed in 1798, was enlarged and roofed with galvanized iron in 1872 by Fr. Lucas Coromina. It is now the bishop’s residence.

The 4-storey bell tower

Cathedral of St. Joseph the Worker: J.A. Clarin cor. F. Sarmiento St., Tagbilaran City. Tel: (038) 411-2282 and (038) 411-3522. Feast of St. Joseph the Worker: May 1.

Bohol Tourism Office: Governor’s Mansion Compound, C.P.G. Ave. North, Tagbilaran City, 6300 Bohol.  Tel: +63 38 501-9186.  E-mail:

Panglao Bluewater Resort: Bluewater Rd., Sitio Daurong, Brgy. Danao, Panglao, 6340 Bohol.  Tel: (038) 416-0702 and (038) 416-0695 to 96. Fax: (038) 416-0697.  Email: Website:  Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino cor. Valera Sts., Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City, Metro Manila.  Tel: (632) 817-5751 and (632) 887-1348.  Fax: (632) 893-5391.

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar (Sibonga, Cebu)

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar

Part 9 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This southern Cebu town’s present stone and brick church was started by Fr. Juan Alonso (parish priest from 1868 to 1881) and finished by Fr. Enrique Magaz in 1881. Fr. Emiliano Diez was applying the finishing touches when the revolution broke out in 1898.

The simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic facade

In 1907, the church was restored and blessed by Msgr. Jeremiah James Harty, Archbishop of Manila, American Bishop Thomas Hendrick and 17 other priests.

NHCP Plaque

On December 2, 2010, a cast-iron national historical marker was unveiled at the church’s facade by National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Ambeth R. Ocampo along with Sibonga’s parish priest Fr. Leo Cabahug and the Sibonga Ecclesiastical Heritage Commission’s president Dr. Noel Ponce.

The convent

The solid and beautiful convent was built by Fr. Prospero Puerto (parish priest from 1833 to 1868) following the plans of Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon. The oldest bell, dedicated to Santa Filomena, was installed in 1863. The bell tower was destroyed during the typhoon of November 25, 1877.

The church’s beautiful interior

The altar

The church’s simple and bare, Pseudo-Gothic façade, divided into three sections by shallow pilasters, has a flame-like arched main entrance flanked by massive twin bell towers with pyramidal roofs and flame-like arched windows. The Gothic-style triangular pediment has a rose window sporting the Augustinian seal in wrought iron.

Left side retablo

Right side retablo

The one-nave interior, clearly influenced by Carcar City’s Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, has a wooden colonnade and a mesmerizing series of  ceiling murals at the nave.



Holy Communion



Holy Orders

Extreme Unction


Painted in amber and brownish tones by famed Cebuano artist Raymundo Francia (popularly called the “Michaelangelo of Cebu”) in 1924, they feature the  Seven Sacraments (“Baptism,” “Confirmation,” “Extreme Unction,” “Penance,” “Matrimony,” “Holy Communion” and “Holy Orders”).

Christians Defending Their Faith

Christ Purging the Temple

At the entrance vestibule are the ceiling frescoes  “Christians Defending Their Faith” and “Christ Purging the Temple.” The “Creation of the World,” the mural above the altar, shows the Biblical scene of the seven days of creation (Genesis). The ceiling of the side aisles was expertly painted to create an optical illusion of a coffered ceiling woodwork. 

The Creation of the World

Optical illusion of coffered woodwork at ceiling

Church of Our Lady of the Pillar: National Highway, Poblacion, 6020 Sibonga. Tel: (032) 486-9390. Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar: October 12.

How To Get There: Sibonga is located 60.7 kms. south of Cebu City.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail:   Website:  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist (Sibonga, Cebu)

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist (Simala Shrine)

Part 8 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

The majestic and sacred Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, popularly known as the “Simala Shrine” or “Simala Church,”is one of Sibonga’s most visited locations.  From a distance, the shrine looks like a castle.  It is technically not in Brgy. Simala, but the road leading to it traverses through Brgy. Simala.

A flood of tourists and devotees flocking into the shrine

Built by the Marian Monks (fondly called “Mga Monghe ni Maria”)  from Pampanga in 1998, the place was formerly a small farm gradually developed by the monks who planted vegetables and trees as well as raised animals.

Due to the presence of the Marian Monks who, after some time, built houses and a chapel, it was later called Marian Hills. The church became famous due to miracles that happened in the area made through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

After the community was hit by an epidemic, the monks reportedly prayed for an intercession by the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to save the children suffering from the epidemic.

Simala Church

A painting at the shrine depicts a religious old Lindogon native named Ireneo Villamor (fondly called Inkong Niyong).   Around sixty years ago, he predicted that the Lindogon hills will become balaan (blessed) in the future.

Ceiling of Simala Church

He also said that a lady in white will become the center of all people and her devout servants will have to go through persecution and suffering. The site has been associated with various miracles – one of which is the shedding tears of blood of a statue of the Virgin Mary housed in the site.

Testimonies for healing or wishes granted

Many devotees make the trip to the Simala Shrine to pray to the Blessed Virgin for healing of physical and spiritual illness.  Many of them have their own stories of miracles in their lives, all documented at the church and stored in cabinets close to the exit of the shrine.

Statue of Birhen sa Simala

Within the spacious and green environment is a huge statue of Virgin Mary (or the “Mama Maria sa Lindogon” or Birhen sa Himala), sculptures or statues of various saints, and various images and statues of the Virgin Mary from various cultural backgrounds such as the Virgin of Guadalupe or the Virgin wearing a kimono.

Open cottages for picnics

There’s also a replica of the Nazareth Well where people throw in coins while silently wishing for something. There are also cottages there, free and available for families or group of friends who brought their packed lunches with them. The whole shrine is still in the process of improving its structures.

Replica of Nazareth Well

When visiting the shrine to offer a petition or prayer, there are candles for sale (more or less Php35.00). Each color has a corresponding purpose. Here is a guide:

  • White– Purity (enlightenment, guidance, right path, etc.)
  • Yellow– Peace (courage, strength, hope, etc.)
  • Violet– Achievements (plans in life, journey, struggles, endeavors, voyage, etc.)
  • Red– Love (unity, family, friendship, engagement, etc.)
  • Pink– Thanksgiving, Happiness, Joy (physical, spiritual)
  • Orange- Reconciliation (sweetheart, husband, wife, family, enemy, etc.)
  • Gray– Deliverance (bad ways, things, spirits, etc.)
  • Green– Prosperity and Success (financial, business, study, exam, etc.)
  • Gold– Healing (good health, spiritual, recovery, family tree, etc.)
  • Cream– Conversion and Faith (household, children, couples, etc.)
  • Brown– Vocation (marriage bond, single life, God’s servant, etc.)
  • Blue– Perseverance (employment, career, promotions, assignment, etc.)
  • Black– Souls (pardon, forgiveness, etc.)

The following are prohibited within the shrine:

  • Taking pictures with flash
  • Wearing revealing clothes such as miniskirts, short shorts, see-through blouses and pants, tube and crop tops (Note: for those wearing such, there are shawls or cloaks for rent at Php20.00 each).
  • Smoking and alcoholic drinks
  • Shouting and making loud noise
  • Wearing of footwear inside the prayer room

Station of the Cross

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist: Marian Hills, Brgy. Lindogon, Sibonga, Cebu. Open daily, 8 AM – 8 PM. The Simala Shrine celebrates mass every day – Mondays to Fridays at 12 noon, Saturdays at 10:30 AM, and Sundays at 12 noon and 3:30 PM.  Masses are also held every 13th day of the month at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM.

How to Get There: To get to the Simala Shrine, take a Ceres bus or a more expensive van at the South Bus Terminal (near Elizabeth Mall) that passes through Sibonga (a 2.5-hour trip). Get off at the motorcycle terminal at Lindogon and, from there, take a 10-15-min./5-km.  tricycle or motorcycle (habal-habal) ride going up to the shrine.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail:   Website:  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Carcar City, Cebu)

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Part 7 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

Carcar City is noted for its striking examples of preserved colonial architecture, both from the Spanish and American eras. The most notable structure is the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Around 1622, the town’s first convent and church was burned when Muslims sacked the town.

The church’s Graeco-Tuscan facade

The present masonry church, probably the second or third church, was built on a hill for greater security. It was started by Fr. Antonio Manglano in 1860, continued by Fr. Gabriel Gonzalez in 1865 and completed (including the interior painting) by Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio in 1875. Its roof was blown away during the November 25, 1876, typhoon.

An array of statues of some of the 12 Apostles at the church patio

Statue of Judas Iscariot, now painted white

Its lovely and massive Graeco-Tuscan façade, with its strong Muslim influence, has a double recessed arched main entrance (similar to an iwan of a Middle Eastern mosque), a blind wheel rose window below the upper recessed arch (above it is a carved Augustinian symbol), spandrels with geometric flora and a Baroque pediment on a high entablature, which crowns the middle segment.

The church’s interior

The lower story is flanked by a one-story structure corresponding to the aisles flanking the 68-m. long, 22-m. wide and 12-m. high-main nave. Neo-Classical altars, a coffered ceiling and carved cherub heads located along the arcade separating the nave from the aisle embellish the church’s interior.

The church patio, surrounded by a low fence of coral stone and wrought iron, has statues of the 12 Apostles, all painted white.  The statue of Judas Iscariot, standing all alone on a pedestal in front of the convent, used to be painted black but is now in white.

The Neo-Clasical main altar

The twin Muslim-like bell towers have solid geometric pylons which act as buttresses, and have no openings except at the third storey where ogee arches are used for the bells. This level ends up in onion-shaped domes reminiscent of minarets. One of its bells bears the date 1810, suggesting that a church was already in place by the early 19th century.

The church pulpit

Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio also built the masonry and wood convent, established on May 23, 1559, under the advocacy of the Visitation of the Virgin. An independent structure separated from the church by a road, it measures 33 m. in front and 22 m. at the side.  The convent sank during the November 25, 1876, typhoon.

The choir loft

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria: Tel: (032) 257-3272. Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandra: November 25.

How to Get There: Carcar City is located 42 kms. (a 1-hour drive) south of Cebu City.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail:   Website:  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.