My List of the Ten Allegedly Haunted Places in the Philippines

Here’s a list of ten of the scariest places I have visited in the country. One is located in La Union (Pindangan Church Ruins), two in Baguio City (Hyatt Terraces Hotel and SM City Baguio) in Benguet, one in Pampanga (Clark Air Base), one in Mountain Province (Sagada), one off Cavite (Corregidor Island) and the rest in Metro Manila. Though I haven’t really experienced any paranormal activity in these sites, probably because I don’t have a third eye, many others have.

  • My wife Grace and I stayed in the 12-storey, 303 -room HYATT TERRACES HOTEL for three days in April 1986.   Located on a pine tree-clad hill along South Drive, near Camp John Hay, the Hyatt Terraces Hotel was said to be the grandest hotel outside Metro Manila. At 4:26 PM, on July 16, 1990, a little over 4 years after our stay, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Luzon, killing 1,621 people.  Again, I happened to be in the city, with my family and some relatives, on the day of the devastating 1990 Luzon Earthquake but were lucky enough to have left the city before lunch. In Baguio City, 28 buildings collapsed during the earthquake.  One of the most prominent buildings destroyed was the Hyatt Terraces Hotel when the central wing’s terraced front collapsed, like an accordion, onto the hotel lobby, killing 98 employees and guests. In the aftermath of that tragic earthquake, many of those listed as “missing” were never found and many say that there are still bodies in the debris of the hotel site and the spirits of these victims have never moved on. Its tragic history has surely contributed to its terrifying reputation.

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Hyatt Terraces Hotel circa 1986

Today, its old fountain and a gated fence are all that remains of the still undeveloped site of the Hyatt Terraces. Now said to be haunted, strange lights and ghostly apparitions are said to have been seen around the empty lot.  There was once a bus stop in front of the gate and motorists, driving along South Drive, have told stories of strange apparitions of the spirits of dead employees there. Some passersby in the area at night have also heard cries for help and seen figures against the spotlight that illuminates the area. In fact, for those driving along South Drive, the directed procedure is to honk your horn when passing beside the former Hyatt location, lest they run over a spirit crossing the street. Aromatic smells, coming out of nowhere, are also consistently reported.

  • SM CITY BAGUIO (a favorite shopping venue of mine while in the city), opened in 2003, was erected on the site where the former 4-storey, wood-framed, 423-room Pines Hotel used to overlook Session Road. On October 23, 1984, at about 11:30 PM, a 6-hour blaze gutted this government-owned hotel. To escape the thick smoke and flames, most of the dead (17 were killed, including 4 Americans) and 46 injured leaped from windows of this American Colonial-style, hillside hotel while others were seen slipping from rescue ropes.

Check out “SM City Baguio

SM City Baguio

Today, mall visitors have reportedly seen faces in bathroom mirrors that would not be there a second later. One patron, in the ladies’ room, gave a photographic description of a bloodied fireman (The Baguio City Fire Department lost four firefighters in the blaze).

  • The MANILA FILM CENTER had its beginnings in 1981 when then First Lady Imelda R. Marcos started the Manila International Film Festival (MIFF). Slated to start on January 18, 1982, 4,000 laborers working, round the clock, in 3 shifts in the rush to complete the project  in time for the MIFF. Tragedy struck, on November 17, 1981, shortly before 3 AM, when scaffolding and wooden support for part of the second basement collapsed, causing at least 169 graveyard shift workers to fall to the orchestra below and be buried or trapped under wet, quick-drying cement.

Check out “The Urban Legend That is the Manila Film Center

Manila Film Center

Rather than halt construction to rescue survivors and retrieve the bodies of dead workmen, cement ordered to be poured into the orchestra, entombing the fallen workmen, some of them still alive. The MIFF was to last another year but, instead of quality films, pornographic films were shown in an effort to gain a larger audience and, perhaps, to make up for the first festival’s financial losses. Later, in 1984, I would watch the premiere of Tikoy Aguiluz’ startling, controversial but highly-acclaimed first full-length film “Boatman” (Ang Bangkero), in its uncut version, at this very venue. Today, it is the venue of the Amazing Show, a Las Vegas-like song and dance extravaganza  where all the performers are transgenders.

The place, said to be haunted as well as cursed, is incredibly spooky. Various ghostly manifestations were reported within the building on the site, including poltergeist activity, apparitions; mysterious hearing of cries and moans; bleeding walls; and hands sticking out from under doors. The ghosts of those who died are said to roam the area, looking for live bodies to possess and take over as their own.

  • The UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES Diliman Campus , where my wife  and I graduated (with a degree of B.S. Architecture) has had a long history of alleged haunting, with a lot of paranormal hot spots. The Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, at the second floor of Palma Hall, is the residence of a  ghost named “Marisa,”  said to be a famous star of the university’s theater productions back in the 1970s who was eventually overshadowed by younger, more talented newcomers. Overwhelmed by grief and jealousy, she killed herself, in the most dramatic way possible, by hanging herself onstage, in costume. She’s known for making her presence felt by haunting the stage, the rest room and her old dressing room, joining the chorus during performances and, sometimes, showing up onstage.

Benitez Hall

Benitez Hall, home to the College of Education and one of the oldest buildings on campus and, naturally, has gained the reputation as one of the most haunted. A ghost, with blood red eyes, is said to wanders the halls. Kalayaan Hall, a residence hall exclusively for freshmen, has a ghost of a woman who supposedly shows up in the mirror facing the stairs to the second floor of the girls’ wing.  Abelardo Hall, home of the College of Music, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl vocalizing, or playing the piano or the gamelan in the middle of the night.

Melchor Hall

The lights on the top floor of Melchor Hall, the College of Engineering Building, where our college was then housed (the college now has its own building), was, for some reason, never turned off, the reason being that, sometimes, the lights there inexplicably turn to red. Many of my classmates have also seen a “Lady in White” come in and out of the corridor walls

  • The PINDANGAN CHURCH RUINS, the picturesque, roofless remains of a small vine-covered brick and coral church (the first in City of San Fernando, La Union) which I visited way back in 2004, is located 500 m. off the National Highway, near Camp Oscar Florendo. The nuns of the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Family are the caretakers of these church ruins.

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Pindangan Church Ruins

It is said to be the home of the sole ghost of a headless stabbed priest who prowls the night, either carrying his severed head or searching for his head. Some have also reported hearing his head calling out for his body to find it. The wind here is known to whisper strange malediction to those that disrespect the location.  My picture of the site was featured in an episode of “Ang Pinaka: Scary Places in the Philippines,” aired during the 6:30 PM GMA News TV last October 22, Sunday.

  • The University of Santo Tomas, where my daughter Cheska graduated (with a degree of B.S. Medical Technology), served as an internment camp during the World War II.  Many prisoners died here of starvation and illness, and is reported by believers to be haunted. An alleged mass grave is located near the UST Museum.  One of the restroom cubicles in the Main Building is also haunted by a female student who hung herself.

Main Building of the University of Sto. Tomas

Other paranormal hot spots are the UST Hospital (haunted by a ghost wearing a red tag, which only corpses in the morgue section wear), St. Raymund’s Building (the comfort rooms on the first floor are haunted by the ghost of a girl was said to have committed suicide because she was bullied for her physical appearance), the Albertus Magnus Building (the Conservatory of Music where the piano is heard playing by itself) and Benavides Park (a.k.a. Lover’s Lane) where, at past midnight, students are greeted by a man wearing a Dominican habit who would later disappear (Sometimes, unfortunate couples hanging out in the park’s benches at night, have also heard a disembodied voice singing mass songs).

  • CLARK AIR BASE, being an American military installation, experienced major bombing from the Japanese during World War II. There are a number of reminders of that bloody past that still exist today and these locations are some of the most haunted in the Philippines.

Clark Museum

The area around the abandoned Clark Air Base Hospital has been rendered off limits to everyone as inhabitants have witnessed apparitions of violent spirits and heard mysterious voices.

Clark Cemetery

Early morning joggers have also reported hearing party music and excited talk coming from inside the obviously empty Home Plate canteen.  At the Clark Museum, the ghost of a serviceman who committed suicide by hanging himself still haunts the place.

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  • SAGADA, in Mountain Province, has an authentic culture dealing with death, free of Western influence. The caves of the town, in particular, are rumored to be site of ghostly mischief. According to the locals, whispery voices are heard and wayward shadows or apparitions are seen among the Hanging Coffins as well as graves up in the Echo Valley.

Hanging Coffins

The Igorots, however, generally say that if you show some respect and leave the coffins alone, you’ll make it out of the valley unscathed. At Sumaguing Cave, locals believe that the cave is haunted by the spirits of their ancestors.  I have explored this cave twice and, each time, I always felt an otherworldly feeling as I entered.

Check out “Back to Sumaging Cave

  • Historic CORREGIOR ISLAND, an island of history and heroism at the entrance of Manila Bay, has played a major role during World War II. Many Filipino and American soldiers died in its defense. During the liberation, the Japanese defenders here committed suicide via harakiri, jumping into the sea or blowing themselves up instead of capture or surrender. The ghosts of Corregidor’s World War II dead were also joined by Muslim soldiers who, in 1968,  were training in Corregidor for a  planned invasion of Sabah in Malaysia but were exterminated during the infamous March 18, 1968 Jabidah Massacre.

Hospital Ruins

At the Hospital Ruins, tourists who passed by have heard footsteps, rumblings of normal hospital activities, and wails of people.

One of the laterals of Malinta Tunnel. Notice the orbs?

Around the bunker area inside the Malinta Tunnel, shouts of people grimacing in pain can also be heard. Witnesses have also reported hearing eerie sounds and seeing a spirit near by. Manifestations would also appear in photos and videos. 

Check out “Ghost Hunting in Corregidor

  • In INTRAMUROS,  where the historical and the supernatural intersect, the possibility of ghost sightings in the oldest part of Manila is real. It attracts ghosts and ghost hunters in search of kapres, white ladies, demonic spirits, and other entities. In the dying days of World War II, Japanese soldiers reportedly massacred men, women and children in Baluarte de Dilao.

Baluarte de San Diego

Baluarte de San Diego, known as the break-up park for being the site where many a relationship met their demise, is where a crying White Lady often makes appearances.

Manila Cathedral

The Aduana (Customs House) Building, which housed several government offices, is the most haunted building in Intramuros. Many people believe its demonic entities takes lives.  At Plaza Mexico, there have been sightings of reapers, or hooded figures who chase after wandering spirits. Many of the retail and commercial spaces along the wall of Puerta de Sta. Isabel have now been abandoned, supposedly because of numerous reports of hauntings. An ordinary-looking tree, along Arzobispo Street, has earned the gruesome nickname the Suicide Tree after a student, supposedly from Mapua Institute of Technology, killed herself by hanging.  Headless priests supposedly make regular appearances at the Manila Cathedral.

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago, where National Hero Jose Rizal was jailed, was used by the Japanese as a prison and torture chamber during World War II.  It is imprinted with the agony and sufferings of its many prisoners and is now also extremely haunted with ghosts of prisoners who drowned in its underground dungeons.

Check out “RevisitingFort Santiago

Ermita Ruins (Dimiao, Bohol)

The Ermita Ruins

Part of the Panglao Bluewater Resort-sponsored CountrysideTour

The 1,000 sq. m. ruins of the Spanish-era Ermita (Spanish for “church” or “hermitage”), situated parallel to the nave of the Church of St. Nicholas Tolentine, are the ruins of a coralline limestone structure built between 1800 and 1815 by Fr. Enrique de Santo de Villanueva. During the Spanish period, people were not allowed to hold wakes in their houses so they took their dead to Ermita instead.

It was allegedly used as a military fortress, a chapel and a burial site for members of the Spanish clergy. In 1844, due to its proximity to the church (which was deemed unhealthy), the cemetery was closed by Fr. Manuel Carasusan

In 1995 and 1998, archaeological excavations were done by the National Museum in a quest to uncover its mysterious past. At this burial site, the researchers discovered skeletons buried facing east, not properly arranged but just laid on top of each other (suggesting there was a mass burial), and human teeth remains (showing a tooth-filing tradition), suggesting a functioning cemetery.

However, they were surprised at not finding any remains in the small ossuaries or bone niches because these were considered “secondary” burial sites, which could be a carryover from the ancient Boholano practice of secondary burial. The bones found during excavation were transferred to the municipal cemetery. Every November 1 (All Saints Day), a mass is held inside Ermita Ruins for the souls of those buried there.

Ruins of the small church

On July 30, 2011, the St. Nicolas of Tolentine Church Complex, including Ermita Ruins, was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.

A honeycomb of burial niches

Closely resembling Paco Cemetery, its surrounding semicircular wall has at least 700 empty tombs arranged like a honeycomb, making it the only structure unique to the Philippines. The ruin of a chapel stands at the center of the Ermita. In front of the chapel is a mound where the krus dako (big wooden cross) was displayed.

The mound where the krus dako was displayed

Ermita Ruins: St. Nicolas of Tolentine Church Complex, Dimiao, Bohol.

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

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: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  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.

The Ancestral Houses of Sitio Ubos (Tagbilaran City, Bohol)

Part of the Panglao Bluewater  Resort-sponsored Tagbilaran City Tour

Tagbilaran City has a number of heritage houses that can be found in Sitio Ubos (Lower Town), the oldest district of the city. During this period, old rich Chinese families built their houses in this formerly major port town in the city to establish their wealth. In 1916, there were only four families living there – the Oppus-Borjas, the Rochas, the Manigques and the Butalids. Through the positioning of their houses, the Rochas almost wholly owned the place, showing their great economic clout. We visited three of these, all located in close proximity to each other.

Fortich-Rocha House

The first house we visited was Fortich-Rocha House, the home of Don Fernando Gorraiz Rocha. Formerly a renowned schoolteacher (known as Maestro Andoy) in the Spanish school for boys and also a former governor of Bohol in the early 20th century, Don Fernando lived here with his wife, Dona Catalina Fortich, a local lady of Spanish extraction. The house, probably built before the 1850’s, was made with wooden boards and had a nipa roof.

The ground floor of this house once served as a bazaar.  However, the house was made popular by the baking skills of the Las Hermanas Rochas, the unmarried sisters of Don Fernando, who once produced the best pastries in town – hojaldres, broas, kinatloan and the plebeian fare called dugmok (toasted left-over bread).

Antonio Rocha House

The most distinct and impressive house in Sitio Ubos today is probably the house of the mestizo sangley Don Antonio Rocha, once the escribiente (clerk) of the Tagbilaran parish.   It has a tile roof and stone skirting at the ground floor. On the back wall is inscribed the date 1831, most likely the year when this house was built. In the 1970’s, the owners rented out some of the rooms to students in Tagbilaran.

Later on, the owner sold it to a Manila-based antique collector who shelled out some earnest money so as to gain foothold in the house, after which he began methodically stripping the house of valuable antiques, including the frame of an Antonio Rocha painting.  He then sold it to the present Swiss owner.

On the opposite side of the road is the impressive Beldia House, built in 1858 by Don Esteban Butalid, a gobernadorcillo and businessman. Don Manuel Timoteo Hidalgo, the brother-in-law of Jose Rizal (married to sister Saturnina), stayed in the house for four months (in January 1889 and then again in December of the same year) during his exile to Bohol.  It is also possible that Jose Rizal himself may have visited the house when he supposedly toured Bohol in 1894. During the Spanish regime, the house served as a provisional municipio before a new one, long since disappeared, was built high on the cliff above Sitio Ubos. In 1971, Judge Antonio Beldia bought the house from the Butalid-Calceta-Gallares family corporation.

The Beldia House

The Beldia House, with its elegant floating volada atop massive masonry walls, has a lot in common with its neighbor, the equally outstanding and exceptional Antonio Rocha House.  Both have curving gambrel roofs of clay tiles with its bent-down ridges.  Unique in the province, it gives the houses a distinct Chinese feel. Likewise, both houses have massive ground floor walls made with coral stone.

Hidden in one of the side walls (which used to be the main façade), fronting a now vanished road, is the original main entrance, now serving as window to the former office of the late Judge Beldia. Its elaborate Neo-Classic facade, unique in Boholano domestic architecture, is flanked by two pilasters with particularly attractive Composite capitals (a whimsical interpretation of the Corinthian model) hewn from coral stone.  Its three-centered arch is topped by an architrave of Classic proportions.

Originally having a U-shaped floor plan, the house’s internal courtyard has now been roofed over and now serves as the main entrance. The upper floor has since undergone considerable alterations.  There are new jalousie windows and the old wooden panels were largely replaced by contemporary materials.

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: panglao@bluewater.com.ph. Website: www.bluewaterpanglao.com.ph.  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.

Arch of Guadalupe (Pagsanjan, Laguna)

Arch of Guadalupe: western facade

The Arch of Guadalupe, also called Arco Real or Puerto Real, is the imposing town gate.   To express gratitude to their patroness, the Our Lady of Guadalupe, from protecting the town from bandits in 1877, the people of Pagsanjan built this arch, through forced labor or polo y servicio, from 1878 to 1880 under the supervision of Franciscan Fr. Cipriano Bas and Don Manuel de Yriarte.

Eastern facade

With permission from the National Historic Institute (now National Historical Commission of the Philippines), the arch was restored under the supervision of Engr. Tito Rivera and was completed on May 25, 1975.

The word “Pagsanjan” with “1878-1880” below it. Above it are two Castillan lions and the royal coat-of-arms of Spain

Made with adobe stone, lime and carabao milk, it has three Roman arches, the taller central arch flanked by paired (single at the ends) Tuscan pilasters (on the western facade only), and is topped by two Castillan lions guarding Spain’s royal coat-of-arms (or escutcheon). The word “Pagsanjan” and “1878–1880,” the years of its construction, are written below it on the upper part of the gate’s western facade.

PHC PLaque

Arch of Guadalupe: National Highway, Pagsanjan, Laguna

How to Get There: the arch is located along the National Highway to Sta. Cruz, at the western entrance of the town, leading to Rizal Street (formerly Calle Real).

Old Spanish-Era Watchtower (Luna, La Union)

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (2)

After our short stopover at the Luna town proper (where we had a merienda of bibingka and visited the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria), we proceeded, southwest of the town, to the town’s coastline where we visited the town’s century-old Spanish-era watchtower, locally called Baluarte. During World War II, the tower served as the communication tower post for a temporary airfield for the USAFIPNL forces. In the past, this defense post was in fair condition, circular in shape and made of brick but the sea had already undermined its base causing half of it to break off and lean at a dangerous 20-degree angle toward the sea.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (4)

Located about 700 m. northwest of the Municipal Hall, the tower used to stand at a robust 5.6 m. high with an external diameter of 11 m. and an internal diameter of 5.5 m., with 2.5 m. thick walls made up of adobe, coral blocks and layered, stretched bricks fused together with mortar of lime and egg whites.  This massive circular tower sat about 34 m. from the shoreline during low tide.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (5)

The structure would have collapsed more than 10 years ago but, in 2007, the provincial engineering office propped it up with piles (concrete columns used in building bridges) and covered its perimeter with gabion mattress. The provincial agriculture office also prohibited the picking of stones 50 meters around the Baluarte to check erosion. However, all that were done were “band-aid solutions.”

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (6)

To really strengthen the foundation of the Baluarte, it should be first declared a National Historical Landmark before funds can be allocated for its construction and preservation. Two years ago, the Luna Municipal Council passed Resolution 68-2013, requesting the National Historical Commission to declare the watchtower as a National Historical Landmark to enable government agencies to fund the preservation project.  They also passed Resolution 69-2013, asking the National Museum to also declare it a National Cultural Treasure.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (7)

On November 2014, this tower, together with the other watchtowers of the province (Bacnotan, Balaoan and San Juan towns and Carlatan in San Fernando City) were declared as National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum (NM).

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (8)

However, this tower was further damaged when Typhoon “Lando” (international name “Koppu”) struck northern Luzon on October 20, 2015. The half that was already breaking off toward the sea finally collapsed as the old shoring failed when the entire beach underneath was swept away by big waves and strong winds. Right after the typhoon, the National Museum sent a team for a preliminary ocular inspection and to coordinate with the local government to secure the fallen pieces of the brick structure.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (9)

Now that the tower is a declared National Cultural Treasure, it is my hope that funds will finally be made available for its repair and preservation.  If nothing is done, another big storm could finally destroy the Baluarte for good as storm surges can reach up to 10 m., towering over the structure that was already weakened, in the past, by the elements.

Sunset over Darigayos Point

Sunset over Darigayos Point

Old Spanish-era watchtower: Darigayos Point, Brgy. Victoria, Luna, La Union.

How to Get There: Luna is located 267.48 kms.  from Manila and 34.8 kms. north of the City of San Fernando.  Air conditioned buses from Dominion Bus Lines, Philippine Rabbit, Partas, Fariñas, Maria de Leon, and Viron depart from terminals in Manila that is bound for Ilocos. Destinations can either be La Union, Narvacan, Vigan, Laoag or Abra. Just tell the bus attendant that you are going to Luna.

Dampol Bridge (Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya)

The nearly two century old, single arch Dampol Bridge

The nearly two century old, single arch Dampol Bridge

While my media colleague  Alexis Romero was busy interviewing Fr. Ferdinand E. Lopez at the Church of St. Vincent, I walked a short distance to Dampol Bridge which was said to have been built at the same time the church was being built.  Most tourists and some locals pass by it and don’t know that they are stepping upon or driving on one of Dupax del Sur’s historical treasures.

Approach to Dampol Bridge

Approach to Dampol Bridge

This nearly two century old, single arch unreinforced bridge that spans the Abanatan Creek which divides Brgy. Dopaj and Brgy. Dumang, was built in 1818 by the Isinai and other indigenous groups living in the area.  Its red-colored bricks were made from an old adobe workshop near the church, when Spanish Dominican friar Fr. Francisco Rocamora was vicar.

Abanatan Creek

Abanatan Creek

During a road construction and widening project undertaken by the DPWH -Nueva Vizcaya 2nd District Engineering Office in 2014 (who regarded the bridge as part of the National Highway), this important cultural and historical landmark was spared from demolition after an outcry from the Isinai community, but not after part of the protective brick wall had already been taken down in sections, exposing the inner filling to decomposition.

The damaged portion of the bridge

The damaged portion of the bridge

Today, only light vehicles (load limit: 5 tons) such as cars are allowed to cross the bridge, one at a time.  A suggestion to re-route traffic away from Dampol Bridge is now being considered.

Oslob Town Proper (Cebu)

From Tumalog Falls, we again boarded our airconditioned van for the short trip to the town proper of Oslob.  Within its Municipal Heritage Park are a number of Spanish-era structures and at the center of it all is the town’s massive Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Conception).

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

The church was designed by Bishop Santos Gomez de Marañon (the same prelate who built the kiosk of Magellan’s Cross in Cebu City) to replace the destroyed church at Daanglungsod (Boloc-Boloc).  It cornerstone was laid by Fr. Julian Bermejo on May 4, 1830. Townspeople from neighboring Tañon (now Santander) and Ivisan (now Nueva Caceres, Oslob) helped in its construction. The church was finished in 18 years and blessed by Bishop Romualdo Ximeno in 1847.

The church's historical plaque

The church’s historical plaque

The church's modern interior

The church’s modern interior

The bell tower on the church’s left was built by Fr. Apolinar Alvarez in 1858 and Fr. Gregorio de Santiago Vela installed 11 bells at the fifth storey in 1894.  The bells were transferred to the fourth storey when the fifth was destroyed during a strong typhoon.  The bell tower was later repaired by Fr. Mauricio Alvarez (who also built the cemetery, municipal tribunal and the municipal church and made known the medicinal uses of the sulfuric waters of Mainit springs).

The still unrestored, roofless convent

The still unrestored, roofless convent

The convent on the right was started by Fr. Julian Bermejo. The church was finished and reinforced with solid buttresses from 1848 to 1850 by Fr. Juan Jose Aragones, Oslob’s first parish priest (1848–1854 and 1859–1861) and later Bishop of Nueva Segovia.  It was renovated by Fr. Constantino Batoctoy in 1977. The roof, made of tejas sourced out and baked locally at a place now known as Lulukhan, were replaced with corrugated iron sheets by Fr. Pablo Alaxa in 1932.  The church was totally burned by Cebuano guerillas in 1942 and, later on, the vault and dome fell.  In 1954, the wooden flooring of the church was replaced with baldoza tiles.

The now 4-storey bell tower

The now 4-storey bell tower

Fire of unknown origin gutted the complex on November 7, 1955 leaving only the masonry walls of both buildings.  It was restored, with the cooperation of the townspeople, by Fr. Benedicto Zapra and completed in 1980 by Fr. Constantino Batoctoy in time for the sesquicentennial celebration of the original church’s construction (1830 to 1980).  A 2.5-hour (1:40-4 AM) fire again hit the church and adjacent convent on March 26, 2008 but spared the icon of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, which is inside a glass case, and the 73 other icons near the door to the bell tower.  The church was complete restored on December 10, 2010.

The church gate

The church gate

The church is 64 m. long, 15 m. wide, 9 m. high and has a simple, sober but attractive facade with a semicircular arched main entrance, rectangular widows, half-embedded pilasters and a triangular pediment.  The 4-storey, 30 m. high and octagonal bell tower has rectangular and semicircular arched windows alternating with blind ones. The dome is typically Neo-Classic.

A garita (guardhouse)

A garita (guardhouse)

In front of the church is a prayer room, also known as a waiting chapel, built in 1847.  It was used as an isolation chamber for leprosy-afflicted patients. It has a pediment decorated with a relief of a human skeleton.

Calle de Aragones

Calle de Aragones

Calle de Aragones historical plaque

Calle de Aragones historical plaque

On the left side of the church is Calle de Aragones, the town’s oldest street, built in 1879.  It was named after Fr. Juan Jose Aragones.  At the end of the street, at the intersection of Calle Aeternidad, is the unique, unfinished cuartel.

The unfinished coral stone cuartel

The unfinished coral stone cuartel

The cuartel's double row of arches

The cuartel’s double row of arches

The construction of this barracks for the Guardia Civil was started by el gran maestro Don Marcos Sabandal but was halted with the arrival of the Americans in 1899.  The coral stones used in its construction of its 19 cm. thick walls came from the remnants of the floor of the collapsed church bell tower.  Its façade features a double row of arches.

The interior of the cuartel

The interior of the cuartel

Historical plaque of cuartel

Historical plaque of cuartel

The thick coral stone walls and gates surrounding the church complex, called paril, are topped by a series of inverted, cone-shaped stones.  They were built in 1875 as a defense against raiding Muslim pirates.

The church walls and gates

The church walls and gates

Historical plaque of church walls and gates

Historical plaque of church walls and gates

Along Calle Eternidad, parallel to the coast, is a baluarte (a watchtower locally called lantawan), one of 7 built by the warrior-priest Fr. Julian Bermejo, parish priest of Boljo-on.  Hexagonal in plan and occupying an area of 48 sq. m., it has massive 7 m. high crenellated walls.  Only about a half of the watchtower remains. In 1813, this baluarte, as well as the other watchtowers, helped Fr. Bermejo and the townspeople of Oslob repel Moro slave raiders led by Sultan Goranding during a naval battle near the waters off Sumilon Island. Sultan Goranding was captured during the battle.

Baluarte (watchtower)

Baluarte (watchtower)

Historical plaque of baluarte

Historical plaque of baluarte

How to Get There: Oslob is located 117 kms. (a 3-hr. drive) south of Cebu City.

Pamilacan Island (Baclayon, Bohol)

Pamilacan Island

Pamilacan Island

It was now Day 2 of our 3-day media familiarization tour of Bohol.  After a very early breakfast at Panglao Bluewater Resort, we were slated to do some dolphin watching off Pamilacan Island, followed by lunch at Balicasag Island.  The tide was still low and our large motorized outrigger boat was anchored some distance off.  To get on board her, we took turns riding a tandem kayak until all were on board.  The sun was already up in the sky when we got underway.

On our way

On our way

The island’s name was derived from the word meaning “nesting place of manta rays.”  However, it has also been interpreted to to have been derived from the word pamilac, a harpoon (large hooked implement) used to capture manta rays, dolphins, whale sharks and Bryde’s whales. Under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Baclayon, it is situated 14 kms. (8.7 mi) south of the Bohol mainland.

Our spotter scanning the horizon for dolphins or whales

Our spotter scanning the horizon for dolphins or whales

The waters around the island are home to at least 11 species of dolphins and whales, including the playful Spinner Dolphins, Bryde’s whales and the gigantic Sperm Whale. Blue Whales are sometimes seen in the early months of the year. The whale watching season begins in March until the onset of the rainy season in June or July.

Soon to make landfall

Soon to make landfall

The 15 to 20 m. long boat we rode on was possibly a former canter, a boat formerly used for whale hunting.  These have been refitted with seats and roofing for a comfortable ride for 7 to 10 passengers who want to go whale or dolphin watching.  A skilled, elderly spotter, who is also an excellent guide, soon took his place at our boat’s bow, scanning the horizon for any whales or dolphins. Resident dolphins and small whales can be found all year round but sightings are dependent on weather and sea conditions.  Just like my first try in 2003, we were unlucky to find any of them.

The island's immaculately white sand beach

Footprints along the island’s immaculately white sand beach

We made landfall at the island’s beautiful white sand beach located on its northwest side.  Upon landing, we were welcomed by members of the island’s small and closely knit fishing community which has around 200 families living in 3 sitios – one facing Baclayon, another amid an island and a third on the southern coast.  Their main livelihoods now concentrate on dolphin and whale watching tours and subsistence fishing. In the past, it also included whale, dolphin and manta ray hunting. However, with the strict enforcement of marine life preservation laws in the country, this practice was stopped. Their houses, though, are still adorned with jaws and bones of these marine mammals.

The island's barangay

The island’s barangay

When we arrived, a table (with red tablecloth) and chairs were set up under a shady palm tree, beside some picnic sheds.  A merienda of sliced camote (sweet potatoes), either steamed, caramelized or fried, plus rice cakes and corn coffee were prepared for us. The latter looked and tasted like your good old caffeinated coffee but is said to be healthier.

A merienda of camote, rice cake and corn coffee

A merienda of camote, rice cake and corn coffee

After this filling repast, I together with Czarina, Euden, Joy, Kathleen and Lara went on a snorkeling tour on 3 small boats, each with a local boatman who paddled for us.  Czarina joined me on one boat.  The island’s wide flat reef, now a marine sanctuary, offers good snorkelling and diving (it has some great dive sites such as Dakit-Dakit).

Dining al fresco along the beach

Dining al fresco along the beach

After some great snorkeling over coral gardens, we returned to shore early as Czarina wasn’t feeling good.  Back on dry land, I explored the nearby Spanish-era fort which, in the past, served as a watch station for pirates, intruders and other enemies. Triangular in shape and probably constructed in the 19th century, it was made with rubble while cut coral blocks lined its portal and windows. The three corners of the structure were supported by round buttresses.

The triangular, Spanish-era fort

The triangular, Spanish-era fort

Another view of the fort

Another view of the fort

Inside are embedded trusses and a triangular pillar in the middle, indication that the fort may have had a second floor, probably made of wood. A large hardwood cross, with an 18oos date carved on it, once stood near the fort but is now housed in a nearby modern chapel. The fort was said to have formed a network with the towns of Baclayon, Loay and Tagbilaran.

View of the fort from another angle

View of the fort from another angle

The ladies were already back from their snorkeling trip when I returned.  Soon enough, we were back on board our boat for the second half of our island hopping expedition – Balicasag Island.  The waters were already choppy when we left and our boat had to travel slowly as the waves kept pounding the boat.  Soon a number of us (including me), especially the already ill Czarina, were already feeling seasick and, since our destination was still a long way off and it was already way past noontime, it was decided to just return to our resort.  Anyway, I have been to Balicasag Island 11 years ago, going around it on foot and snorkeling its coral gardens.  However, I felt sorry for those who haven’t been there. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

The triangular pillar in the middle of the fort

The triangular pillar in the middle of the fort

How to Get There: Pamilacan Island is located about 20 kms. southeast of Tagbilaran City, 23 kms. east of Balicasag Island and 11 kms. (a 45-min. pumpboat ride) offshore from the town. Pumpboats can be hired at Baclayon port.

Malagonlong Bridge (Tayabas City, Quezon)

Leaving the Tayabas City proper, Jandy, Maricar, Violet, Lanny and I continued on our way to Lucban.  About 2.4 kms. outside the city, we made a stopover at the now unused, Spanish-era Malagonlong Bridge across the Dumaca-a River.  This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this bridge, having seen it on our way to Mauban to attend the Maubanog Festival 3 years ago.

Malagonlong Bridge

Malagonlong Bridge

However, this would the first time I would actually explore it, crossing the bridge’s 445 ft. (136 m.) length to the other end. The first time, I just took pictures of it from the modern, girder-type concrete bridge parallel to it. On August 12, 2011, it was declared as a National Cultural Treasure under the Historic Bridges of Tayabas. On its eastern side is the plaque installed by the National Historical Institute.

The plaque installed by the National Historical Institute (NHI)

The plaque installed by the National Historical Institute (NHI)

An older plaque installed at one of the bridge's balconies

An older plaque installed at one of the bridge’s balconies

The oldest in the province, the charming, ivy-covered Malagonlong Bridge (Puente del Malagonlong) is one of the few remaining and the longest Spanish colonial, arch-type bridge in the country. One of 11 Spanish-era bridges within Tayabas City, it connects Brgy. Mateuna with Brgy. Lakawon.

Dumaca-a River

Dumaca-a River

Built with about 100,000 adobe blocks, limestone and molasses, it was started, during the term of gobernadorcillo Don Joaquin Ortega’s term, by Spanish Franciscan parish priest Fr. Antonio Mateus in 1840 and completed 10 years later during the term of gobernadorcillo Don Julian S. Francisco. 

The bridge's 6 m. wide carriageway

The bridge’s 6 m. wide carriageway

The bridge has five spans, the first arch with a height and width of 36 ft (11 m); the second at 33 ft (10 m); the fourth at 30 ft (9.1 m) and the fifth at 18 ft (5.5 m). It has a width of about 20 ft (6 m.) and six small balconies.

The author posing at one of the bridge's balconies

The author posing at one of the bridge’s balconies

How to Get There: Tayabas City is located 147.28 kms. from Manila and 10.62 kms. from Lucena City. Malagonlong Bridge is a 15-20 min. tricycle ride from the city center.

Taytay Boni (Miag-ao, Iloilo)

On your way to Iloilo International Airport, we again passed the town of Miag-ao.  Here, we made a short stopover at Taytay Boni, a Spanish-era bridge that once passed through a creek and connected Miag-ao with Guimbal, before the construction of the national highway.

Taytay Boni

Taytay Boni

Now enclosed within a small park, this stone bridge’s name was derived from the Ilonggo term taytay  (meaning “ bridge”) while “Boni” is the name of  its construction foreman and cantero-mayor (major carpenter) Bonifacio Neular.

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It was built in 1854 through forced labor, during the term of gobernadorcillo Miguel Navales. The large, yellow-colored coral stone slabs (tablea or tabreha) used for its construction were transported from Igbaras, located 5 to 6 kms. from the site, by means of karosas, sleds pulled by carabaos. Lime was used to hold the stone slabs together.

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The bridge was still passable before and after the World War II but was partly damaged during the January 25, 1948 Lady Caycay (magnitude 8.2) earthquake. The bridge now rests on dry land, a result of the ground opening up during the earthquake and sucking in large amounts of water. The bridge is located at Crossing Kamatis, about a kilometer from the town proper, between Brgys. Kirayan Sur and Igtuba.

How To Get There: Miagao is located 40.04 kms. from Iloilo City, 12.2 kms. from San Joaquin and 8 kms. from Guimbal.