The Porteria Church
When we were young, we would regularly attend Sunday masses at this ordinary-looking church. It seemed to us that it's just the usual church people would flock to every Sunday.
So when we saw a few tourists taking pictures of this 'regular' church, my siblings and I were confounded. "Well, this was just the church we go to every Sunday. What was so special about it?," we murmured in our local dialect.
Unbeknownst to us is that this church which we often overlook and ignore is actually rich in history and architectural value.
One dawn, after waking up early, I decided to see if Mayon's beauty can be captured by my camera. The skies were clear, fortunately, so the plan was pushing through.
On our balcony, shots were taken.
I was not satisfied. Our town church was visible from the balcony. Tempted, I decided to visit it and take more pictures.
Popularly known as Daraga Church (named after our town, Daraga, Albay), I fondly call it the 'Porteria Church' to somehow break the monotony of naming important landmarks after the places where they are found.
I chose 'Porteria Church' since the patroness of the town is Nuestra Senora de la Porteria, or Our Lady of the Gate.
The Porteria Church is rich in detail. According to Wikipedia, it was designed in Churrigueresque architectural style, a Spanish Baroque style marked by extreme, expressive and florid decorative detailing.
The excessively florid details of this church is a beautiful contrast to the minimalist taste of mother nature. It actually overlooks the perfectly geometrical masterpiece, Mayon Volcano.
The usual subject of photographers is the church's eastern facade since this is where most of the details are found. However, what almost everybody doesn't notice is that Mama Mary is actually perched somewhere in its northern facade, looking over the community as if guarding the entire town.
The northern and eastern facades are detailed but the bell tower is very much simpler. Nevertheless, it still looks pretty.
Apparently, the bell tower is far from perfect - one can easily see its flaws - but this doesn't take away the beauty that it possesses. To my mind, it even emphasizes its appearance.
The church's surroundings has to have more flowers, though. You won't see much unless you look around. This bougainvillea plant lying across the church is not easily seen but is nevertheless a stunning contrast to the gray-and-white color scheme of the church.
Some parts of the church has been declared national cultural treasure by the National Museum as shown by the plaque displayed inside but it is a wonder where the western facade could be. I've been living in this town for all my life - except for five years - but I don't know and have not seen this part of the church.
Likewise, I do not know where the baptistery is. Well, that seems to be another reason to visit the church for yet another time.
Across the church is a restaurant with another important landmark. Though it may not be as significant as this centuries-old church, it is still necessary to be included in this article.
The siling labuyo is something many people attach to the Bicol Region because it is an integral part of our gastronomic culture. We Bicolanos love this spice. I, for one, find it to be very palatable.
The Porteria Church has been featured in a few tv shows and movies. At the top of my head is the blockbuster film, "She's Dating the Gangster." Another one comes to mind, a tv show this time - "I Will Survive." I'm not sure but I think "Walang Hanggan" has also featured this church.
The church has something for history buffs too - this is the church that replaced the more famous Cagsaua Ruins when the 1814 catastrophe destroyed it.
Perched on top of a hill, Porteria Church was strategically located to prevent the same mishap from happening. The hill where it is standing is known to locals as the Sta. Maria Hill.
This is just a very small and almost unnoticeable hill somewhere near the public market, but going to the church is quite a climb, especially for the elderly.
On top of the hill, however, are breath-taking views of the famed volcano and the pretty church that looks like a molten double-dutch-flavored ice cream.