The driving distance from our jumping off point at the SM City parking lot in Iloilo to San Joaquin’s Church in San Joaquin is approximately 53 kilometres. Which translates into a driving time of about 1 hour to 1½ hours.
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This unique church was built between 1859 and 1869 in the settlement that was founded in 1591. Construction started in 1859 and was completed in 1869. Friar Thomas Santaren was the parish priest between 1855 and 1866 and oversaw most of the project. It is built of limestone quarried in Igbaras and sea coral gathered along the seashore in the immediate area.
But, what makes this church truly unique is its facade. Nowhere on the facade of the church are there any renditions of religiously oriented artworks. Rather, the facade memorializes the victory of Spanish forces over the Moroccan (Moors) army at the Battle of Tetouan.
The Spanish Army of Africa under the Spanish Prime Minister, Leopoldo O’Donnell defeated the Moroccan Army (Moors) under Mohammed IV of Morocco in the final battle of the Spanish-Moroccan War in February 1861.
When news of this monumental event reached Philippines later that year, Friar Santaren ordered his Chinese and Filipino workers to create this magnificent bas-relief rendition of the victory at the Battle of Tetouan.
It is said, by some, that it may be a memorial for his father who was a soldier in Spanish army and who took part in the battle at Tetouan.
It’s also important to remember that at the same time as news reached San Joachim of the magnificent victory at Tetouan that this whole area in Western Visayas was still subject to on-going raids by Muslim (Moro) marauders and slavers. This may also be an explanation behind the bas-relief of the battle – it serves as a reminder to locals of their own trials at the hands of the Moro marauders and slavers.
More recently, during WW II, in fact on January 29th, 1943 the guerrilla leader of Panay, Col. Macario Peralta ordered the church and homes in the town set ablaze to prevent them from being used by the Japanese occupiers.
On closer inspection, the fact that the church was heavily damaged by this fire can be seen even today in the black soot that covers many areas of its facade.
Once again the church was heavily damaged by the Lady CayCay Earthquake of 1948.
Also to be noted in the photo above, the statue at the peak of the roof. It is a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows (Neustra Senora de las Angustias – Thanks to Rodel Cervantes, AA for this correction we had originally said that the statue was of St Augustine).
Like most churches built in the region at this time (late 1850s), it was built with forced labour or ‘folio’. Under this system as we have seen previously, residents, including men, women and children (particularly the poorer residents) were forced to gather the stones, coral and other materials to be used in the construction and deliver them, on a regular basis to the site.
The wealthier residents were able to avoid the drudgery of the forced labour by relying on the poorer members of the village to fulfill their quotas. If, by chance, any of the residents were unable to fulfill their quotas they faced a severe flogging at the hands of the priest or his under bosses.
Although located a few hundred meters from the seashore, the church has a bell tower which was built, much as with the other regional churches, to act as a lookout tower in the event of a Moro raid.
Proof that it was in fact built by the Augustinian Friars is noted in the Augustinian Seal which is found above the main entrance.
The church is named afterSan Joaquin, who with his wife Saint Anne are said to have been the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Joaquin and Hannah (Anne) lived in Nazareth and were childless. On a feast day Joaquin went to offer a sacrifice in the temple but was rejected on the pretext that men without offerings were unworthy to be admitted to the temple.
Joaquin, grief stricken, went into the mountains to make his plea to God in solitude. Hannah, having learned the reason for the prolonged absence of her husband, cried to the Lord to lift the curse of sterility from her and promised to dedicate her child to the service of God. Their prayers were answered; an angel came to Hannah and said: “Hannah, the Lord has looked upon thy tears; thou shalt conceive and give birth and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by the entire world”.
The angel made the same promise to Joaquin, who returned to his wife. Hannah gave birth to a daughter whom she called Miriam (Mary).
The main entrance of the church is flanked by statues of Saint Peter Regalado (San Pedro is the Patron Saint of Bullfighters. San Joaquin is famous for the bullfights that take place every fiesta on the 3rd Saturday of January in honor of the Sto. Nino.) and Saint Francis of Assisi placed in small grottos to the left and right of the entrance.
Special deep felt thanks are due to Bro Rodel Benigno Cervantes, AA (a native of San Joaquin currently studying at the Assumptionist Seminary in Manila) for his suggestions and recommendations for changes and adjustments to our material. We have included them all and that makes all our experiences on the site better. Thanks Rodel, I really appreciate your help and interest!
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