By Marjorie Gorospe
CALASIAO, PANGASINAN– Parish priest Fidelis Layog believes this town’s greatest treasure is its Spanish-era church. Also known as the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul, the church of Calasiao houses valuable antique and other centuries-old artifacts.
Built in the 17th century, it is the second oldest church in Pangasinan (next to the San Carlos church) but is considered the most well-preserved.
It houses an original retablo – a Baroque-style carved wood where statues of saints are placed – prominently displayed behind its altar. Apart from the prized retablo, the painted ceilings and the overall exterior have been preserved by parishioners for centuries.
The Calasiao church is among 30 Spanish-era churches that are registered as “National Cultural Treasures” and whose preservation is designated of utmost importance by the National Historical Commission.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is also promoting it as a must-visit among Colonial churches in the north.
“Despite these recognitions, we still need to work on promoting awareness to both locals and tourists so that they may be able to appreciate the value of this church,” says Father Layog, noting that Calasiao is still not as visited as other Baroque-style churches in the Ilocos region.
He laments that the church does not even have a market indicating that is a National Shrine. Already, he’s making it his mission to gather support from the locals of Calasiao in preserving this cultural and historical treasure.
“We are hoping that soon, people will come to us not only during the Lenten season but they’ll also visit to pray and then appreciate the church structure.. as it is after all part of our rich history,” says Father Layog.
The church also has a bell tower and a bricked front wall, which were renovated after a devastating earthquake in 1990.
A particularly interesting and distinct feature of the church is its dome-kitchen structure – placed separately from the church and the kumbento or convent at the back. It was designed this way so that the rest of the church complex won’t get damaged in case of fire.
Some parts of the church are currently being renovated as there are plans to promote it as a tourist attraction. Father Layog adds there are plans to put up a gallery so that visitors can appreciate the church’s historical value.
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