The driving distance from our jumping off point at the SM City parking lot in Iloilo to the church in Dueñas is approximately 44 kilometres. Which translates into a driving time of about ¾ hour to 1 hour.
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The original church built of stone was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1787 in an area called Laglag. In 1845 the village was relocated from Laglag about 4 kilometres east to what is now called Dueñas. The new village was named Dueñas in memory of the home town of the then Parish Priest Friar Florencio Martin, who later worked on the church in Alimodian.
In 1878, construction was started under the supervision of Fr. Nicholas Gallo. The interior follows the Tuscan school and the exterior the Doric school. It has one nave and two spacious transepts. It measures 65 meters long and 16 meters wide.
The heavy Doric columns are mounted on a rectangular section divided into three equal segments. Semi-circular arched blind fenestrations flanked both sides of the semi-circular arched entrance. Each one crowned with rose windows that indicates the second story and choir loft. The roundness of the front columns contrasts with the flat rectangular pilasters on the side wall.
Flanking the massive main doors are niches with statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and the Augustinian Seal appears just above each niche. In a central position above the main door is a further niche with the Statue of Saint Jerome. Above St. Jerome’s niche is the marker stone noting the year in which construction of the church was undertaken: “1878”.
In addition, on what would be the ‘second floor’ level we find five oculi, with the central on being on the balcony above the main entry.
Each of these oculi has a simple stained glass window in it depicting a plain flower.
St. Jerome’s which is hardly ever mentioned, is one of Iloilo’s finest examples of Baroque Architecture. Its imposing facade, the overpowering proportion of its octagonal belfries give the church an extraordinary beauty that is quite unique when compared with the other historical churches in the region.
Upon entering the church itself we are struck by its majesty a view up the nave towards the chancel show the Tuscan influence in the design, especially the dome and the arches supporting it.
The chancel is particularly bright because of the clerestory which allows in the brilliant sunshine.
The base of the eastern belfry is occupied by a small chapel in which we find a most attractive statue of the Pieta.
Similarly the base of the western belfry is occupied by the Church Baptistery. Containing what appears to be a pure marble baptismal font and overseen by a carved wooden statue of St. Jon the Baptist. The stairway in the background, obviously leads to the actual bell tower – which for security reasons is closed to the public.
As you can see from the above photo there is a small statue of Sto Nino, awaiting its turn to be placed in his new location in the church after the refurbishment currently underway. In addition, there is in the baptistery a statue of the Archangel Gabriel ‘fighting’ the devil… (see below).
As we move forward through the church, we find, under the dome gilt statues of the 4 evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
As we cross the transept, we spot chapels to the left and right. The altar and chapel on the east side is dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
While the altar and chapel on the west side is dedicated to: The Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The stone work and detail in both of these chapels is something to behold when you consider that they were built in the late 1870’s – those people were extremely talented individuals.
There are two other small ‘prayer areas’ available to the faithful on in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the other to “The Black Madonna”.
The sanctuary is breathtaking in its simplicity and beauty!
From the marble altar rail of old we ascend four marble steps to the altar and three more to the chancel. The pilasters are surmounted with urns and remind of more of the Ionic School in which the columns feature flutes, lines carved into the shaft from top to bottom, and scroll capitals.
A statue of St. Jerome takes up the central location behind the tabernacle and above him is a statue of Nuestra Señora de la O.
On our way out we make a further discovery. The Adoration Chapel which itself is very beautiful.
We then explore the gardens surrounding the church and discover a statuary throughout the property featuring: Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, St. Joseph, St. Martin de Porres with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Frances of Cabrini – the patron saint of migrant workers and then St. Lorenzo Ruiz, our very own Filipino Martyr and Saint.
All in all this is a very memorable and interesting church. Unfortunately, it was heavily damaged during World War 2 when it was burned and the Dome and western bell towers were badly damaged by the Lady CayCay Earthquake of 1948.
Restoration work has been on-going over the years since then until just recently when work was being doing to restore the façade and other exterior areas. One should always keep in mind that with treasures such as this one that restoration work is never ending and the church depends greatly on the support of parishioners and friends of the parish both at home and abroad.
Finally, the convento, church offices and activity centres are on either side of the main walkway leading to the church entrance. They form a sort of plaza, which itself faces to town plaza, just outside the gate.
Who then was Saint Jerome?
He was a “Croatian” by birth and lived from 347 to 420. He became one of the Church’s best known historian and translators. His greatest work is the Vulgate – a translation of the Hebrew Bible from the original Hebrew into Latin. He was fluent in most of the languages of the time: Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic and others. He travelled extensively throughout the then known world and was a prolific writer of commentaries and translations. He lived a monastic life and spent his last 35 years in the environs of Bethlehem working on his bible translations.
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