The third instalment for my Bolinao series, I’ll be featuring one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, The Bolinao church or historically called St. James Parish, The Great Fortress. Located in the town’s center just beside the public market, this grand century-old stone structure has served as a fortress against pirates, Americans, Japanese and the English in the past, and has become a major tourist attraction for the town in its own right over the years.
Built in 1609 by the Augustinians, the church is a three-storey stone structure with its original exterior majorly still intact except for some of the original artifacts displayed outside, particularly the two stone Saints situated beside the main entrance where one was apparently stolen and instead replaced by a wooden one. The church’s interior is obviously has undergone some renovation yet you can still see some of the original thick woodwork on the upper level and doors. In 1788, half of the Church Tower (Tallest in Pangasinan then) was toppled by an Earthquake and in 1819, the Church Convent accidentally burned. On May 7, 2009 the Church was heavily damaged by Typhoon Emong.
During my first visit in Bolinao way back year 2010, our tour guide told us that the town of Bolinao is challenging some historical facts about where the first mass in the country was held. They are saying that the first thanksgiving mass was held in Bolinao church instead of in the south of the Philippines as written in our history books. I’ve been in and out of the town last year and I never miss a chance to visit the church, it has become one of my inspirations why I wanted to travel around the globe or even just around the Philippines so as to see more historical structures like this. Structures that serves as channel to connect their past to our present and even to future generations to come. I surely hope you too could visit this magnificent church someday and be awed.
Bolinao Series Part 1
Bolinao Series Part 2
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