17th Century Daraga Church in Albay now a National Treasure
By Edwin A. Bandol
Commission on Temporalities
DARAGA, ALBAY (Aug. 28, 2009)—A historical marker from the Philippine National Museum declaring the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria (Our Lady of the Gate) as a National Cultural Treasure by virtue of the declaration signed by National Museum Director, Corazon S. Alvina last Oct. 29, 2007, will be unveiled here today in preparation for the annual patronal town fiesta on Sept. 8 this year.
Built in 1773 on a top of a hill by Franciscan Missionaries, the church is a priceless relic for art enthusiasts because of its rich baroque architectural designs carefully carved on volcanic rocks, and its facade gives the church its special distinction from the other churches in the country. It contains archeological relics of “santos” and rare religious seals ingeniously carved throughout the entire face of the church, even up to the belfry.
Church officials of the Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish led by Rev. Fr. Jose Victor E. Lobrigo, in an effort to avert the rapid deterioration of Our Lady of the Gate parish church due to natural or man-made calamities, has organized in Oct. 2005 the parish temporalities commission which was tasked to submit plans that will address the conservation and preservation needs of the Daraga church. The commission is chaired by Architect Ricardo Ibay, with the help of some architects, engineers and historians.
According to Fr. Lobrigo, the absence of renovation guidelines and maintenance procedures in the past have changed the original visage of the century-old church.
"Because of the many works of repairs, additions and modifications done in the lifetime of the church and its premises, there has been a considerable loss of cultural values," Fr. Lobrigo said.
For over two years now, with the help of its parishioners and other outside donors, benefactors and stakeholders, a massive restoration and preservation works of the Daraga church, its rectory, including the construction of a rip-rap perimeter fence around the church property is underway.
In a simple but meaningful occasion held Feb. 19, 2008 at the church patio and attended by well-meaning citizens of this progressive town, the reading of the declaration was made by Maharlika Cuevas of the National Museum saying that the eastern and western facades, belfry, and baptistery of the church and all the structures where these features are attached, become parts of the national treasure and therefore its intrinsic value must be safeguarded by the government. The declaration was concurred by a panel of experts and historians that the centuries old church of Daraga must be preserved and protected as important cultural properties.
The declaration reads: The Eastern and Western Facades, Bell Tower and Baptistry of Parish Church of Our Lady of Holy Gate in Daraga, Albay, was declared a National Culture Treasure by the National Museum by virtue of the powers vested in it by Republic Act 4846, as amended by Presidential Decree 374 and Republic Act 8492. Done in the City of Manila dated October 29, 2007, signed by Corazon S. Alvina, Director IV, National Museum.
According to Rev. Fr. Lobrigo, the coveted title of being a national cultural treasure conferred to Our Lady of the Gate parish church as defined by the National Museum is in recognition of the fact that it is a unique object found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value which is significant and important to our country and the nation. (Edwin A. Bandol)