Last August I joined a group of friends on a day tour of Pampanga. It’s north of Manila, about a drive of an hour and a half. We had a special ten-course lunch scheduled at Bale Dutung, but had the morning free to visit a couple of old churches and take photos.
The San Guillermo Parish Church of Bacolor dates back to Spanish times. After the original church (constructed in 1576) was destroyed in an earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1897. In 1991 half the church was buried in lahar during the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. In one of the photos below you’ll see that the arched windows on the sides of the church are now as low as the tops of the pews.
From Bacolor we traveled to Betis, Guagua – an old town famous for hand-carved furniture. Built in the 18th century, the Parish Church of Santiago Apostol (St. James the Apostle) is known for its splendid retablo art. Its facade is quite simple and relatively recent, but old carvings decorate the church door and selected pieces of the church’s original wooden furniture. The altar is rich with more carvings, gilt and saints. But the showstopper is the church’s ceiling, painted in the early 20th century. We were requested by church staff not to use flash photography, to protect the artwork.
The lovely thing about these churches is that they’re still working churches, serving loyal parish families throughout their town’s history. If you have a long weekend coming up, a map, a camera, and a sense of adventure, this sort of trip is immensely rewarding.