The Volcanic Churches of Albay




    Albay’s most famous attraction is the very popular Mt. Mayon. Its perfectly-symmetrical shape, refined by undulating slopes, makes it renowned the world over.

     The presence of this enigmatic volcano should make the extra curious ask if there are buildings or structures that reflect the province’s close relation to it. Well, yes, there are.

    This article unveils the volcanic churches of Albay, which have one thing in common, setting them apart from the rest: they’re all made of slabs of volcanic debris separated by grids and lines of white.

       The blackness of the bricks and the whiteness of the gridlines vividly contrast with the azureness of the sky...



All Coastal Towns in Eastern Albay


       For some reason, all three volcanic churches are located in the eastern coast of Albay, facing the Pacific Ocean. They are not far apart and may be visited in a matter of one or two hours only. These are Sto. Domingo, closest to the capital Legazpi, Bacacay, and Tabaco, which, because of its strategic location and progress, is now a city.

      It was an early Friday morning when I decided to make the brief tour to these three churches. I was supposed to make my first stop at Sto. Domingo because of its proximity to our home but it rained so hard that I was made to visit Tabaco first.



San Juan Bautista Church,
Tabaco City



The San Juan Bautista Church

          Completed in 1879, the church was built out of dark volcanic soil and stones found in the area. It is known for its beautiful bell tower embedded with rococo designs. [Wikipedia]


A spacious plaza fronts the church.

A monument in the middle of the plaza.

            A small plaza with a monument in the centre fronts the church. No cars can park here so it is exclusive for strolling only.

          The interiors of the church will delight the tourist. Some parts of the church’s walls still show the volcanic bricks without being plastered or painted. Despite this, they blend well with the elaborate details of the ceiling, the altar, and the floor.



Legato. Rows and rows of chairs inside the church are in perfect harmony with the rest.



The design of the floor has a rustic appeal.

The colors of the ceiling make a nice contrast with those of the walls.

One would be so pleased to take a vow in this church.



The altar seems new but it looks classical enough to be the right "fit" for the rest of the interiors.

One last look...

The contrast between the astuteness of the volcanic bricks and the fancy designs of the interiors gives the church some kind of flair.


Unbeknownst to many is that the church is the first National Cultural Treasure in Albay.


Sta. Rosa de Lima Church,
Bacacay
         

Midway between Tabaco and Sto. Domingo is the lowly town of Bacacay. While its poblaciĆ³n is still found within the mainland, majority of its territory actually consists of islands, large and small.


The Sta Rosa de Lima Church

          Like the other two volcanic churches, the Sta. Rosa de Lima Church is also made of volcanic stone blocks. Its altar and roof have been renovated, but the walls, floor, and some rooms like the baptistry remain in their ancient state.

  The basic structure and the massive belfry, believed to be built in the 1800s, have been well preserved to this day. However, the altar retablo and interior portions have been renovated. 







Despite the simplicity of the church’s design, it may still allure some tourists. I guess, one will never go wrong with volcanic bricks emphasized by white lines.


The statue of Sta. Rosa de Lima.


Sto. Domingo de Guzman Church,
Sto. Domingo



          My last stop is my favorite among the three, the church of Sto. Domingo. The church is coyly described in Wikipedia as an “artistic church with piedras labradas, chiseled balustrades and twin domes.” Also known as the Twin Belfry Church, its two belfries frame the main structure. 






          The church would have the imposing volcano as its background on a clear day. The clouds did not disappear when I was there however.

Photo Credit: Lucille Anne Pacres.


As the diva that she is, Mayon often eludes the ordinary traveler. At a certain dusk however, she bared herself in violet silhouette.

------

      The blackness of volcanic architecture in Albay is rarely appreciated by people. To me, however, they are part of the province's unique identity and heritage that deserves to be admired and promoted...

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