Fr. Milan Ted Torralba
Chair, Diocese of Tagbilaran Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck our island-province of Bohol in the morning of 15 October impacted with deleterious effect: lives and limbs were lost, domestic dwellings were destroyed, some historic civic buildings were damaged, roads and byways were rendered impassable, and the community’s pride, our sense of collective cultural identity, which are our centuries-old heritage churches, were heavily and severely compromised in varying degrees. Two of these, the churches of Maribojoc and Loon, were literally pulverized by the tremor.
The Diocese of Tagbilaran has identified 20 of its 60 parish churches as heritage churches. Ten of these are declared by the Philippine Government cultural agencies as national cultural treasures, important cultural properties, national historical landmarks. Others are categorized as classified historic structures. It is difficult to illustrate the extent of the damage brought about by a 7.2 magnitude temblor.
Three weeks after the earthquake, the pre-restoration phase began in earnest with the retrieval and salvage operation and documentation of recovered cultural materials, starting with Loboc, Maribojoc, and Loon churches. This will be followed by their safekeeping, the conduct of detailed engineering studies, and soil boring tests. The same procedure begins for churches of Baclayon, Loay, and Dauis this week. This pre-restoration phase, budgeted at PhP 96,630,000.00, will be pursued for the next 6 to 10 months. The actual restoration phase will commence thereafter.
This is the reality now. Spectacular change has come to the island-province. The cataclysmic earthquake has re-drawn not only the geography of our island, but also the geography of our lives. The heritage churches which are our centres of culture, continue to exist on the topography of the place, but more so, in the topography of our soul. We have to be realistic. We cannot completely recover the original. Heritage is non-renewable. However, since these heritage churches possess architectural and iconographic documentation and conservation management plans, their restoration is feasible; reconstruction is doable.
This monumental project requires massive manpower and logistic mobilization. The ballpark figure of PhP 80M to PhP 100M per church has been quoted. It will also require the compatible fusion of old and new materials and the harmonious blending of old and new technology. In this way, the old is revealed by the new, and the new will be embedded in the old. This habit of thinking is what Jesus praised in the Gospel. He says, “Every scribe who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both old and new” (Mt. 13:52).
We will rebuild Bohol through the Boholanos’ indomitability of spirit. We will rebuild Bohol with your wholehearted help. We will rebuild Bohol with your and our firmer faith in God’s divine providence who leads us to where His grace will sustain us.
Mabuhay ang Bohol! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Daghan jamong salamat!