Abra tremor damages more heritage sites | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Extent of damage of the IFI Church —FR. CHRISTIAN EDWARD PADUA
Extent of damage of the IFI Church —FR. CHRISTIAN EDWARD PADUA

The 6.4-magnitude earthquake which struck northern Luzon on Oct. 25 damaged anew a number of heritage sites in the provinces of Abra and Ilocos Norte, all of which were already affected in varying degrees by the stronger 7.2 magnitude tremor of July 27.

In Ilocos Norte, heritage structures that were damaged, albeit not severely, are the late 19th-century Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos town and the ruins of the convent in Paoay.

Completed in 1890, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is a National Historical Commission of the Philippines-declared National Historical Landmark (2004), and has a National Cultural Treasure distinction from the National Museum (NM) which declared it as such in 2005, while the convent ruins in Paoay are part of the Paoay Church World Heritage Site.

Apart from these two, the brick convent of Sarrat in Ilocos Norte was severely damaged with a sizable part collapsing due to the tremor.

This convent dates back to 1896, the year it was inaugurated although not completely finished.

It was still being completed when the Philippine Revolution reached Sarrat in 1898, a reason portions of it remain ruin-like to this day.

The quake also damaged a number of religious images inside the convent, dislodged wood pieces inside the church, and dislodged bricks from the church’s belfry.

This church complex was declared an Important Cultural Property by NM in 2009.

Aglipayan Church

Interestingly, Sarrat Church was not exclusively used as a Catholic place of worship throughout its history, as it was occupied and utilized by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) as its church in town from the early 1900s to 1910.

It was one of many IFI-occupied Catholic churches and properties which were decided by the Supreme Court in 1906 to be returned to the former.

However, the case of one IFI church in Abra province piques interest.

This church dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de la Paz located at the corner of two streets in La Paz town was also affected by the recent tremor.

Its belfry, which was part of the church facade, collapsed. It also has cracks in the interior walls.

Extent of damage of the IFI Church —FR. CHRISTIAN EDWARD PADUA
Extent of damage of the IFI Church —FR. CHRISTIAN EDWARD PADUA

This church was already badly damaged during the July 27 temblor and just like the previously mentioned structures, was already assessed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for possible repair prior to this recent quake.It is a presumed important cultural property under the heritage law, as it is at least 50 years old.


The history of this church is a bit puzzling, as it is one of two Spanish-era churches in town which are both dedicated to the Nuestra Señora de la Paz and located a block away from each other.

One of these two could be the one built of bricks and stone by Augustinian priest Francisco Ornia in 1881, which was continued by another Augustinian priest Paulino Fernandez in 1888 and completed in 1891 by yet another Augustinian, Fr. Mariano Garcia, who also constructed the convent.

That Augustinian-built single nave church had a transept that measured 50-meters long and 15-meters wide, a description that fits the Catholic Church, as its Aglipayan counterpart is much smaller.

The church’s original façade is divided into two levels with two blind niches on both sides of the lower level and a main door flanked by engaged columns that extend to the pediment, which in turn has a central niche for a saint, presumably for the Our Lady of Peace. The façade is also flanked by two bell towers.

The façade has since been altered so much that one can no longer notice the division of the two levels, and the columns have disappeared. It is bland compared to its IFI counterpart, which still has a Spanish colonial architecture look.

Collapsed part of the Sarrat convent —FR. JOSE VERNON ILAO

Collapsed part of the Sarrat convent —FR. JOSE VERNON ILAO

According to the IFI Page Gallery, one of the Facebook pages of IFI, the oldest baptismal record kept at the La Paz IFI church dates back to 1895 and belonged to a certain Vicente Adriatico.This document points to the presence of a Filipino Catholic church (church independent from Rome) in La Paz years before the official establishment of the IFI.

This La Paz IFI church is significant nationally, as it is the oldest existing Aglipayan church in the country and perhaps one of the most beautiful among its churches.

Restoration plans

NCCA chair Rene Escalante earlier said that the national government will restore structures damaged by the July tremor and that includes the aforementioned edifices which were further damaged by the recent quake.

However, the restoration will only focus on “big-ticket restoration works” and the priority are those that have official declarations from the government as heritage structures that are privately owned cannot receive funding from the government unless owners are convinced to apportion an area for public use.

There is a proposal to at least restore the facade of privately owned heritage structures and let the owner restore the interiors, but this idea is still being studied if possible, said Escalante.

Escalante also said that the restoration of the structures could take five years to complete.

In a recent interview with Lifestyle, Escalante said a total of 24 structures have been identified for restoration by the national government.

These include seven from Ilocos Norte, 13 from Ilocos Sur, and four in Abra. In Ilocos Norte, these include the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Laoag Belltower, Sarrat Church, Paoay convent ruins, San Nicolas Church and old convent (now Sta. Rosa Academy) and Badoc Church. In Ilocos Sur, these are the Bantay Church and belfry in Bantay; Vigan Cathedral, Arzobispado de Nueva Segovia and Colegio Building in Vigan; the churches of San Esteban, Cabugao, Candon, Caoayan and San Ildefonso; Asilo de San Vicente in San Vicente; and the Cariño House in Candon.

In Abra, these include the aforementioned Aglipayan and Catholic churches in La Paz, Tayum Church and the San Lorenzo Ruiz Church in Bangued.

“We submitted already a budget proposal for 24 heritage structures and are waiting for funding from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council,” he said. He also said that his agency has a separate proposal in next year’s national budget, and actual works will commence next year.

Storm ‘Paeng’

Meanwhile, Severe Tropical Storm “Paeng” (international name: Nalgae) damaged or destroyed a number of heritage structures in the country, which include the collapsed steel truss Bantilan Bridge connecting San Juan, Batangas and Sariaya, Quezon.

The bridge, built in 1970, crosses the Malaking Tubig River, which drains to the Tayabas Bay.

The storm also flooded the village of Pinagbayanan, the old center of San Juan town, which still has remnants of the Spanish era church and some houses.

Constant flooding is the very reason why the town moved in the late 19th century to a much higher area called Bolbok, the site of its present poblacion.

Apart from Bantilan Bridge, the steel truss Bayunan Bridge in San Joaquin, Iloilo was also partly damaged by “Paeng.”

In Barangay Balimbing, Boac, Marinduque, the Labanan sa Paye Monument was ruined and collapsed into the Boac River when the river embankment was destroyed by the raging floodwaters.

The monument, which features a central Y-shaped pillar with a backdrop of relief showing scenes from the battle, was marked by the NHCP in 2000.

It commemorates the second battle between Filipino and American forces in Marinduque on July 31, 1900 during the Philippine-American War, a battle won by the Filipino guerillas. —CONTRIBUTED INQ