We first came to Dalaguete to see its famous landmark, the Church of San Guillermo Ermitaño. The church just like any other churches in southern Cebu is located in the old poblacion and is complete with a rectory, cemetery, mortuary, a church plaza and a perimeter fortification.
We got off from the bus in front of the old Municipal Hall along the National Highway. Built in 1832, the plain but stately structure is made of coral stones. It used to have tisa or clay-tile roofing and capiz windows. The roof has been replaced with G.I. sheets and windows with glass panes.
From the municipio, we walked to the Jose Rizal monument on the other side of the road. We learned that the same landmark was originally dedicated to Andres Bonifacio. So why did the image of the Great Plebian remove from the pedestal?
It was believed that the statue of Bonifacio wielding his bolo has inspired the people to become aggressive and violent that town authorities decided to replace the monument with an image of the Great Malayan to remind the people of unity and peace.
After few walks from the Rizal Monument, we’ve reached the church complex. In the 1800s, the church complex served as fortification protecting the townspeople from the frequent Moro attacks. The walls enclosing the church plaza consisted of thick low barriers made of coral stones with square pillars topped with pointed finials.
Just outside the perimeter wall is one of the three watchtowers in Dalaguete. Built in 1768, it served as an early warning line for invaders approaching by the sea. The tower was originally two levels high. Its upper level has been transformed recently into what the locals refer today as the kiosko.
The church plaza was traditionally used since colonial times as a processional route during religious celebrations. Standing at the center is the Cristo Rey. The imposing statue of Christ the King was built in 1938 by then parish priest Ruperto Sarmiento.
The foundation of Dalaguete began when it was established as a visita of Carcar in 1690. In 1711, it became a parish under the patronage of San Guillermo de Aquitaña. The current church was a product of the baroque taste of Fray Juan Chacel, who built it in 1802. The rectory on the right side was completed in 1832 while the octagonal belfry was added in the late 1850s.
We started touring the church from the outside in. The façade of the massive church has delicate floral and heavenly baroque motifs carved into the coral stones. The remains of an osarium in garden on the left side of the church suggest that the site could have been the location of the first Catholic cemetery in Dalaguete. Traces of the intricate carving on the pediment are still visible.
What caught our eye while inside the church were the biblical scenes painted on the barrel ceiling. Painted by Canuto Avila in the 1930s, the palette was mostly baby blues, pinks and greens.
We were especially taken by the beautiful painting on the ceiling supporting the choir loft above the main entrance. It depicts the symbols of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.