TEXT A FRIEND. Out of extreme excitement to discover the heritage trail of southern Cebu which usually begins in the farthest of the five heritage towns, we missed out doing a research about the town of Oslob. Instead, I depended on fellow traveler and blogger Arnold Arnaiz of With One’s Past who sent me the following text message:
…brnd down chrch and c0nvnt, mortuary, d bggest ‘sana’cuartel or military hq. Ska hnpin m0 un stone mrkr ng calle arg0n nd ruins ng wtchtower –nold
CALLE ARAGONES. Heritage structures in Oslob are easy to identify. For one thing, the focal point of the town’s oldest street, Calle Aragones from the national highway is the unfinished Spanish cuartel.
As we walked down the street, we found the street sign that was carved in cut coral stone intact together with the year the street was constructed readable -1879. The street was named after Fray Juan Jose Aragones, the first parish priest of the town.
CUARTEL DE ESPAÑA. We continued walking towards the cuartel. No historical marker has been installed yet. A local historian said that the cuartel was built by El Gran Maestro Don Marcus Sabandal to serve as barracks for the Spanish armies. It is also believed that the cuartel served as the first line of defense for the naval infantry due to the town’s strategic location. However, its construction was put on hold when the Americans arrived in 1899.
The Spanish cuartel with its double rows of arches and its 91 centimeter-thick walls of coral stones were left to stand unfinished for more than a century. It is said that the stones used for its construction came from the remnants of the collapsed floor of the once five-level bell tower of the nearby church of Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepcion .
THE MASSIVE CHURCH OF OSLOB. Fronting the coast of Oslob is the massive church of Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepcion. Constructed in 1830, the plan for the church was designed by Bishop Santos Gomez Marañon. He is the same prelate who had built the kiosk of Magellan’s Cross in Cebu City.
However, the construction of the current structure is attributed to Fray Julian Bermejo, the warrior-priest who organized a military defense system composed of bantay sa hari or watchtowers and fortress churches in the southern coastal region of Cebu.
OLD RECTORY RUINS. The church was razed by an 8-hour fire in 2008. Nothing was left of the old rectory except for the ruins of what seems to be an oversized bahay na bato.
Flanking on the left side of the main church is its four-storey massive belfry. It is said that the Oslob belfry used to be five-levels high however the topmost floor was destroyed by a typhoon and was never rebuilt. Another account describes the belfry to be a seven-storey high with 10 bells which have collapsed in 1871.
OSLOB FORTRESS. The walls and gates surrounding the church, called the paril were constructed in 1875 to act as front line defense of the complex against the moors that enjoyed invading the pueblos along the coast. The thick antique coral stonewalls are topped by a series of inverted cone shaped stones. This unique feature completes the medieval fortress.
In front of the church is a prayer room. Built in 1847, it is also known as the waiting chapel during the Spanish period since it has been used as an isolation chamber for those inflicted with leprosy.
CALLE ETERNIDAD. Walking along Calle Eternidad –a street parallel to the coast, we spotted another street sign that was carved in coral stone. The inscription was hardly readable as Calle de Camposanto 1897.
CALLE CAMPOSANTO. As we continued walking along what is then known as Calle Camposanto, we realized that we have been following the processional route that connects the church complex with that of the cemetery. At the end of the road is the cemetery gate. A block of stone called summit acroterion sits at the top center portion with an inscription of the year it was built -1870. Blocks of coral stones quarried from the sea enclosed the whole cemetery.
The panteon is the focal point of the cemetery complex. According to tradition, it was in this site where the Spanish priests have their penitential rituals every 8 in the evening over a platform that once stood at the center.
OSLOB WATCHTOWER. From Calle Eternidad, we slipped through a street leading to the beach to view one of the seven watchtowers built along the coastline of Oslob.
Constructed in 1788 by Fray Bermejo, one can only imagine how it looked like from the ruins which can still be traced based from the hexagonal plan, the rear portion of the massive wall, gun-slits and the small entrance.
BONPUA HOUSE AND MUSEUM. On our way out of town, we passed by the plaza. Once the site of the Ayutamiento, the town plaza has played host to political rallies that were attended by Philippine presidents like Ramon Magsaysay, Diosdado Macapagal and Carlos Garcia along with famous political figures. Infront of the town plaza is an area that resembles a skating rink. We had no one ask about its real function. Instead we were drawn to the period houses around area.
One of them is the converted house-museum of the Bonpua family called the Museum of Sacred Art. The house’s guestbook is a historical memorabilia in self since the visiting who’s who in Philippine politics have stayed in the house. But that’s another story.
-8 December 2009 Feast of the Inmaculada Concepcion, patroness of Oslob