Our 5-week vacation here in Iloilo was marked with 4 deaths and 2 funerals (we can’t attend the other 2 since we are scheduled to leave tomorrow night for Manila and on the 8th for Seoul). Funeral photos never saw the light of my facebook screen (I don’t have other SNS). Not for anything else but, no. I sometimes overshare my moments but personal grief isn’t shareable content. The whole family went to Sta. Barbara church twice for these funerals.
And… in the Philippines, visiting churches is almost always looking into the Philippine’s past.
This couldn’t be truer than in the Church of Sta. Barbara.
The church and the convent beside it took an important role during the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish Rule. It became the headquarters of the liberation army headed by the local hero, General Martin Delgado. Thus,
“VIVA FILIPINAS! FUERA ESPANA!’
reverberated throughout Philippine History as the Cry of Sta. Barbara. The Philippine flagpole right in front of the town hall is said to be the exact location of the Cry of Sta. Barbara on November 17, 1898.
How General Emilio Aguinaldo sent the Philippine flag to General Martin Delgado was an amusing story of ingenuity and bravery. Tia Patron, the woman assigned to bring the flag to Gen. Delgado wrapped the flag around her waist covered by her patadyong and she had to act out a scene of a domineering wife so that the Spanish infantry ignored her and just let her through without thorough inspection.
General Martin Delgado was a mestizo and it wasn’t hard for the Spaniards to trust him. Unknown to Spain, he was sympathetic to the revolutionaries. More than that, he was credited to have laid down the groundwork for rebellion against Spain in the Visayas and Mindanao. Today, you can see a monument and a marker installed in his honor by the National Historical Commission right in the plaza facing the Sta. Barbara town hall. The plaza is also just right in front of the church.
In 2015, former President Benigno Aquino aptly made Sta. Barbara as the central venue for the celebration of Philippine Independence. Probably, it was just during this time when most Sta. Barbara natives began to be aware and appreciate the legacy of Sta. Barbara. Funny how we could take things for granted, right?
When I was a kid, I would go and visit relatives in Sta. Barbara and attend church service in what is now a national historical landmark as declared by the National Historical Institute. I would only see bats flying around while the priest continue with the mass, unmindful of these nocturnal mammals.
Don’t be deceived by the beautiful interior of the church. Bats sleep and fly around in here. My sons screamed while the funeral mass was going on because, in contrast to the frequent churchgoers, they weren’t used to having bats around… much more bats freely flying and people not even bothered by them.
On the West side of the Church is a little garden surrounded by the convent. The style is reminiscent of the Spanish influence. Though more Romanesque, it is also an example of a Filipino baroque colonial style.
Its arches and pillars, adobe, corals and red bricks whisper to the curious and the attentive of the polo y servicios that was forced upon the local population during its 30-year construction. The church was finally completed in 1878 and has survived the Philippine Revolution, the Philippine-American War and the Second World War.