Cebu News

St. Michael the Archangel parish In Clarin, Bohol: Rising from the rubble

Michael Vencynth H. Braga - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - A few meters from the national highway in Clarin, Bohol once stood a structure that dwarfed all the other nearby structures, prompting motorists to make the Sign of the Cross when they pass by.

The old Saint Michael the Archangel Church, built in 1929, was not just a structure of faith; it also stood as witness to thousands upon thousands of stories of the locale for more than 80 years.

But at 8:12 a.m. in October 15, 2013, a 7.2-magnitude temblor reduced the church into rubble in just 33 seconds.

Since that fateful day, Sonia Tolibas, 59, could only stare in disbelief every time she would pass by the church, which she considers her second home since she has been serving there as a catechist for 25 years.

Like Sonia, the other residents of Clarin town were devastated with what was left of the Saint Michael the Archangel Church after the earthquake - the façade, stones, and the wall behind the sanctuary of the church.

Despite the devastation, however, the parish continued celebrating Holy Mass in a small makeshift church beside the rubble.

The 7.2-magnitude earthquake also caused severe damage to at least 20 other old churches in the Diocese of Tagbilaran where the Saint Michael Parish belongs to.

These churches included the Church of Our Lady of Light in Loon, Bohol which was constructed in 1814 and the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, the oldest church in Bohol originally built in 1602 but rebuilt in 1638 after it was razed by the fire.

In an effort to rebuild the Saint Michael Church, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops poured in P57 million for the reconstruction. The total project cost reached over P65 million, including the construction of a new convent.

Clarin launched a fundraising drive dubbed as "Simbahan ko, Tukuron ko" to support the reconstruction effort. The Diocese of Tagbilaran also partnered with Bahay ng Diyos Foundation Inc. to help raise funds. The foundation, for its part, tapped private and government institutions, professionals and technical experts, and parish communities. It reported that the parish community of Clarin was able to raise P3 million in 2014, which was utilized to start the reconstruction project.

Almost three years after the earthquake destroyed the church, a new structure has risen from the rubble.

Engineer Elina Lipang, chairperson of the Saint Michael Parish Technical Working Committee, said she is confident with the integrity of the structure since it was designed to withstand high-magnitude earthquakes and strong winds such as those unleashed by super typhoon Yolanda.

She added that the technical group, which is composed of volunteer engineers, has been strictly supervising the project to ensure the quality of the construction.

Lipang said appropriate methods of deflecting rainwater into the gutter system were incorporated in the roof installation. The roof of the church, she said, was designed to be water-proof, cautiously pitched for proper drainage, and fastened in a manner that it could not be easily ripped off by strong winds. The engineers were very critical when it came to the details of the roof edges and parameters, which are crucial during strong winds, she added.

Architect Manuel Ambos Jr., senior project manager of Dakay Construction and Development Corporation, said they also installed steel trusses for roof framing system.

As to the structure itself, Ambos said the old church was completely demolished and replaced with a new concrete structure from footing to columns and beams.

"The structural engineer of this project already anticipated and included in the structural design that the new church building can resist earthquakes that are greater than 7.2 magnitude, as well as typhoons," he told The FREEMAN.

Perimeter driveways were also established around the church to give churchgoers easy access. The church design is also ready for heavy downpours with its perimeter drainage system.

Ambos, however, added that the reconstruction of the church was more costly than regular constructions because of the additions to its structural design.

"But at least we are assured of the strength of the structure. We used standard construction materials," he said.

The parishioners at the Saint Michael the Archangel Church are finally hearing Holy Mass again in a church that is as strong as their faith.

Sonia, when she walked toward the altar of the new church for the first time, said that she felt like she was walking toward the altar of the old church, as if the earthquake and the destruction never happened.

"Perti na gyod nako'ng lipaya. Nindot kaayo akong gibati. Sa una, nag-antos mi sa gamay nga simbahan apan karon nindot na kaayo nig paso, komportable na mi kaayo (I'm so grateful. Following the quake, we had to cramp inside a small church but now we can walk down the aisle comfortably)," she shared with The FREEMAN.

The destruction brought about by the earthquake was considered a test and a nightmare that will always be remembered by many, but Sonia said it opened a lot of opportunities for her and her fellow parishioners, including the opportunity to return to the Almighty.

She disclosed that apart from the spirit of solidarity in the church reconstruction effort, the number of people attending Holy Mass has grown to more than double.

"Nadasig mi bisan atong panghitaboa. Gisuway mi sa Ginoo pero iya gihapon ming gipahiluna (Despite the incident, we were spiritually stimulated. God tested us, but he still attended to our needs)," she said.

Filipinos are known to be a resilient people. The devastation caused by the powerful earthquake in October 2013 and super typhoon Yolanda a month after tested that resiliency.

But getting up after falling is not enough. Getting up and becoming stronger after a fall is a must. Just like what happened to the Saint Michael the Archangel Church. From the rubble rose a stronger, more sustainable church. (FREEMAN)


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