“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take” - Angela N. Blount. Baclayon is a town located in the eastern part of Bohol. Travelers used to trudge this route as it used to comprise of the highlands in Balilihan, Corella, and Sikatuna, which are located in the interior part of the province, along with the seaside location of Albuquerque and the City of Tagbilaran. This tract is where most travelers are inclined to take a detour to the upland areas. Hence, the name Baclayon, which originated from the term “bacayan” from the root word “bacay” which means a detour. Baclayon was the first municipality established in the province.
On the 17th of November, 1595, Jesuit priests, Fr. Juan de Torres and Fr. Gabriel Sanchez, left Cebu to start their mission of converting the natives into Christians. Through their patience, constant communication and the perseverance in establishing a relationship with the townsmen, they soon won the confidence of the natives of this part of Bohol. With the peoples’ help, the two priests started spearheading the building of a castle-like church with a belfry on the frontage. This space of the church was used as a watchtower to look for Muslim spies, who used to come and wreak desolation on the people.
Baclayon, as it was the residence of the Jesuit Superior General, became the “Residencia” or the center of Bohol missions. Unfortunately, Baclayon was attacked by 50 war boats with 300 Maguindanao Moros led by Datu Sirongan and Datu Sali. As luck would have it, their coming was noticed through the watchtower. Before these raiders arrived, the people were already long gone, except four people. Consequently, these remaining individuals were all killed and the spies then sailed away. Due to the fear of inevitable raids, the Residencia was transferred to Loboc. This story from the olden times has left marks of a friendship found, an established faith, and a battle won. To discover more fascinating history and culture in Baclayon, follow our guide for the top things to do here.
1. La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church
“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” - Francis of Assisi
La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church was constructed by two hundred native laborers who were actually “forced” to do the work. These craftsmen gathered coral stones from the sea and expertly cut them into square blocks. They used bamboo stems to move the stones into their respective positions and piled them like bricks. The church was completed in the year 1727 and in the year 1835, a huge bell was added. Another attraction of this site is the famous Pipe Organ, aged about 185 years old. This was built in 1824 and restored in the year 2008. It has been said that this primitive Pipe Organ is the third oldest organ in the country. La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church, also known as “The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception,” was also declared by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Museum of the Philippines as a National Cultural Treasure. With this and other several churches, the Baclayon church was previously included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List of the Philippines henceforth 1993 under the collective group of the Jesuit Churches of the Philippines.
Unfortunately, the Church sustained major damage due to the earthquake that hit Bohol. However, this did not hinder people from going to church, as masses were still being held outside. Thereafter, the government and even the people contributed monetary donations for the reconstruction of the church. The hands that labored, the artistry that was involved in the intricately woven piled blocks of stones, and the ingenuity seen in the concept of the bamboo pipe are a manifestation of the peoples’ faith that someday, the hardship would all come to pass.
Address: Baclayon, Bohol
Website: Baclayon Church
2. Baclayon Museum
Like a life lived in the mountain caves or a floating house on the seas, rare collections are always of an interest. The attractions you’ll see here in Baclayon include an old convent, which houses a small museum. This museum holds artifacts, centuries-old relics and other antiquities dating back to the 16th-century. Moreover, most of these are religious in nature, including the ivory statue of Jesus Christ, a statue of the Virgin Mary, St. Ignatius of Loyola’s relics, books with carabao skin covers, librettos of church music written in Latin on sheep skins, a host of books and hymnals, and many other aged handiworks. Do take note that the handwritten materials used plant sap as an ink. The museum also exhibits the vestments which are embroidered with gold. This ecclesiastical museum was established in 1969. The church’s narthex also has the Cuadro paintings of Liberato Gatchalian, a historically acclaimed Filipino painter who was executed in the year 1859. All of these are the legacies that were left by the Spaniards in the island. A visit here is a must for all history lovers and anyone curious about the culture and religion.
Address: Baclayon, Bohol
Website: Baclayon Museum
3. Baclayon Seaside Barbecues
Barbecue is a Filipino staple. You can see it on the streets almost anywhere in the Philippines. It basically is a thin slice of meat, either pork or chicken, that is placed on a skewer then grilled and smoked to cook. Just across from the Baclayon Church and the museum is an area where most people would visit for the feel of that cool and clean sea breeze in Baclayon. However, this is also a good place to satisfy your cravings by visiting seaside barbecues. It has always been a Filipino tradition that a meal should bring everyone together, not just to satisfy the hunger, but also to enrich relationships within the home. Here in Baclayon, there are places that serve the viand on top of and on the sides of rice, which is actually placed on a banana leaf and is just open for everyone to feast on. Habhaban (literally meaning taking a big mouthful of food) sa Baluarte is a place you will never regret visiting. No plates, no spoons, and no forks. It’s a military style of eating, where you eat with your hands while dining with your friends and family. They call this “boodle fight”. Just a casual, unusual, but quite engaging way to share food with your loved ones.
Habhaban sa Baluarte
Address: Baclayon, Bohol, Philippines
Website: Habhaban sa Baluarte
The church which has stood for centuries, the food that transcends culture, and tradition that has survived wars, disasters and the earthquake, are proof of the mystifying works of nature and the perseverance of the human spirit. One can never fathom its reasons but there’s only one thing for sure, one should always treasure memories. Make sure to visit Baclayon and make some of your own!
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