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Published: July 22nd 2012
San Guillermo Church
All of 12 meters. Before the lahar flowed from the slopes of Mount Pinatubo. Half-buried, but still "whole" in faith and in soul.
The year was 1991. Mount Pinatubo's eruption marked the Philippines in the world map. It was the 2nd largest volcanic eruption in the whole world in the 20th century. Just a year before, a major earthquake struck an area just a hundred kilometers from the Mount Pinatubo region. About 7.8 in the Reichter scale. Enough to awaken this dormant volcano of a hundred years. And just like the disastrous earthquake, this Pinatubo disaster left many dead and homeless.
It was June 15, 2001 when Mount Pinatubo unleashed its fury. Who would have thought that this eruption of a volcano lying dormant for a good century would be the major force to drive out the Americans from their military installation in Clark Air Base in Angeles, Pampanga? I have seen too many rallies and protests seeking to drive out the Americans from this military camp. None worked. Yet one major eruption from Mount Pinatubo and they left in a heartbeat.
Year after year after the 1991 eruption, the towns surrounding the Mount Pinatubo area were threatened by lahar or lava flow whenever this region experienced a heavy downpour. And for good reasons. On September
Church Windows Now as Entrances
These days, one enters and exits through what used to be the windows of the Church.
3, 1995, lahar flowed from the slopes of Mount Pinatubo and nearly buried one of the oldest towns in Pampanga. Bacolor, Pampanga's San Guillermo Church , founded and constructed in 1576, lay helpless as mudflow buried half of the 12 meter-high baroque and neo-classical church. The sleeping monster allowed all that mud, mixed with spewed out rocks and boulders, mercilessly cross across the entire town of Bacolor, Pampanga. Yet nature's wrath did not diminish the faith of the Catholic residents of this old town. The religious icons were saved, cleaned, preserved and reinstalled in the same Church, now diminished by half in size.
Because Bacolor served as catch basin for the lahar flow, one can say the town saved and spared the other neighboring towns. This last visit I made, I found it amazing that San Guillermo Church would suffer this fate while another old, and equally beautiful Church in the next town survived through these years.
Though only half of the original front is now visible, the Church of San Guillermo still stands proud amidst the hardened lahar. The interiors are diminished in richness and elegance, but after hearing the stories behind what
A Half-Buried Church
Right beneath the dome, the altar was moved to this area after the lahar disaster because it is only here where it would fit.
remains of the church today, its beauty is even more magnified and its charm enhanced by the faith of a people whose lives were forever changed by the catastrophe. As we drove away from the church and out of the town, we passed some houses which have only half of its original structure to show. We imagined the sorrows that befell the families of those who lived there.
The photos tell the story. Should you want more details and photos, you can browse through this piece on Bacolor, Pampanga
. How to get there: Bacolor, Pampanga is just an hour's drive north of Manila. Driving along NLEX (North Luzon Expressway), one takes the San Fernando Exit and drive right along the Jose Abad Santos Highway. From there, one turns left towards Bacolor. The church of San Guillermo can actually be partly seen from this highway.
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