Caraga, Davao Oriental—For 128 years, the old church here has been standing like a sentinel near a promontory facing the Pacific Ocean, as if guarding this seaside town from intruders from the sea.
But the old stone and wooden structure, which started as a mission station of Recollect priests in this part of the country during the 19th century, surprised residents for surviving unscathed the recent onslaught of typhoon Pablo in December 2013 while the buildings surrounding it were badly damaged.
“Most people considered it a miracle,” said Caraga parish priest Uldarico Turoba.
“The church is very close to shore, it is located along the coast, but except for some of its GI sheets that got blown off, it practically survived almost unscathed the strongest storm to visit Mindanao,” said Turoba, glancing at the dome of the St. Mary’s College building just across the street, totally wrecked by the storm wind.
Turoba said the Caraga church has been considered the oldest surviving stone church in Mindanao.
Built in 1884, the church used to serve as the Spain’s first mission station in Mindanao.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared the church a national historical site last July 16, Caraga town’s fiesta; making it one of the country’s newest national historical landmarks.
Turoba said the insignia found on its main door bore the symbol of Christ and dated back the church’s foundation in 1884.
From where it stood a few paces away from a promontory facing the Pacific Ocean, the Church, as townspeople liked to believe, strategically guarded the town against intruders for centuries.
Among the old artifacts that the church still holds are the church bell dating back to 1802; two gigantic seashells more than a hundred years old serving as holy water font for churchgoers; an antique baptismal basin near the entrance, and an ancient statue of San Isidro Labrador.
But Turoba said the church was not totally spared by the typhoon.
He admitted having soldered back at least 38 pieces of GI (galvanized iron) sheets to its roofing after they were partly damaged by the wind.
Turoba noted that the old GI sheets used by the church were sturdier compared to those in the market now, which could have explained the relative low damage to its roofing.
“This can only mean that our church is strong, it has been with us for a long time, it had withstood the test of time, now it has survived the strongest typhoon to have arrived in Mindanao,” Turoba said.
He said that like everything else, the recent typhoon has brought an important message to the people.
“And the message is that we should take care of the environment, and that, we should strengthen our faith; just as the church of Caraga has withstood the test of times.” Inquirer