Roland Borja (Mobile: 0926-8061594) picks me up at around 9:00 AM. Tricycle drivers in Siquijor have been empowered by the government to be tourist guides. He said that the coastal tour of the whole island only takes a day.
From the town of San Juan, we travel to one of the most beautiful and historical places in Siquijor: the town of Lazi.
The Old Balete Tree, Campalanas, Lazi, Siquijor. I am tempted to say that this is one of those ordinary balete trees I have seen growing up, including those at the Jesuit’s Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches. But I will suspend my judgment.
The people here claims that this tree is around 400 years old, the oldest tree in the island. I particularly enjoy the nice cool pool that springs underneath its roots. The locals said that the pool has healing properties. Well, here are people dipping their feet into the water in what is known as a fish spa. Small doctor fishes (Gara rufa) nibble at their feet’s dead skin as well as eating bacteria that causes smelly feet. The service here is free, but donations are most welcome.
The Lazi Convent: Lazi, Siquijor. Built by the Augustinian Recollects in 1887, the Lazi Convent is said to be Asia’s oldest and largest convent. Its architecture is baroque and the structure is shaped like a “U.” It has two floors: the lower structure is made of stone, while the upper floor is made of hard wood. Because of its lower structure, the convent is popularly called, “Bahay na Bato” (House of Stone). Today, the lower structure is now used as a school facility.
Stone arches support the second floor of the Lazi Convent. Fr. Toribio Sanchez OAR built this convent after constructing the church, but he was not able to see the completion of his project on December 1894. He became sick for two and half years, and then he died in Manila. Immediately after the convent was finished, they began to build Lazi’s Municipal Hall.
Upon entry, I am greeted by young people. Between the porta de entrada and the grand stairs, I take a moment to enjoy a dancer rehearsing for a performance. At the end of the song, I take the stairs to check the upper floor.
At the second floor is the Lazi museum. A sign will tell you that taking photos is prohibited (Although I catch some local tourists defying the order). So, let me share what artifacts are inside that fascinate me: 1) facistol – foursided lectern for choirbooks, and for scripture reading; 2) An image of St. Joseph on his deathbed; 3) Old liturgical books prior to Vat II; 4) An acetre– small pail for holy water using hyssop for blessing persons/objects; 5) A custodia or monstrance; 6) An hostiario– a mold for making hosts for mass; 7) A cajuela– container of the chalice for Santo Viatico; 8) Libros de Bautismos– baptismal registers since 1857, handwritten in Spanish and bound in carabao hide; 9) A silla episcopal – the seat of the bishop during liturgical celebrations; 10) A sagrario or sanctuary of the blessed sacrament; 11) An old small keyboard.
“Sick priests used to come here (convent) to recuperate because of the healthy climate of the town of Lazi. This upper structure is made of wood, and resting on thick columns of stone. The rooms here are also spacious and comfortable, and are used both as sleeping quarters, dining areas, and others.” – P. Licinio Ruiz de Sta. Eulalia, Historica de la Provincia de San Nicolas de Tolentino de las Filipinas de la Order de Agustinos Recoletos. Translated by Raymond G. Roxas. Courtesy of the UST Library.
The corridor of the Lazi convent is made of sturdy wood. At the end of 1894, the painting of the convent was finished. I can’t believe the cost — just Php 800.00!
This is probably the Augustinians’ small chapel where they pray privately or as a community. Notice the beautiful scalloped design of the pews.
Large windows that surround the convent are made of colored glass panes that filter the sun’s rays.
The San Isidro Labrador Church, Lazi, Siquijor. I love this church. From the information I got at the museum, I am able to gather snippets of knowledge to appreciate this beautiful pinkish church. Let me share them with you.
The Augustinian Recollects built this church in 1857. Fr. Victor Garcia de la Virgen de la Providencia was its first parish priest. He constructed the school and convent during his term until July 25, 1868. In 1882, Fr. Toribio Sanchez built the Lazi church and convent we see today.
Fr. Gonzalo, the Vicar of the island consecrated the new church on 19 May 1874. Fr. Ramon of San Juan and Fr. Eustaquio Ruiz of Siquijor assisted him. “The labor in building the tabique walls of the church was voluntarily done by the townspeople; the tabique pampango of the facade and its framework were donated by the Cabezas to the patron saint, San Isidro, without anyone asking for donations. The day of consecration was the town fiesta.” From the Legato 56, Folder 2: Cosas Notables 1898, Courtesy of Archive Recoletos de Filipinas. Translated from the Spanish by Raymond G. Roxas.
From this close-up, you can see the source of the pinkish hue of the church. It comes from the coral stones (batong-dagat) used by the townsfolk, including the designs carved on the walls that make the church beautiful.
In 1886, Fr. Toribio Sanchez finished the construction of the nave of the church, part of the transept on the epistle side of the bell tower until the second level.
In church architecture, the nave is the central and principal part of a Catholic church, extending from the entrance (narthex) to the transepts (transverse aisle crossing the nave in front of the sanctuary in a cruciform church). We commonly call it the “central aisle” where the bride walks in a wedding procession; or in a wider scale, the whole part where the pews are. In the Middle Ages, there were no chairs, and people stood all throughout the mass.
I also notice that the flooring is made of superior lumber, the ceiling painted, although some of it has already deteriorated.
This is the apse of the San Isidro Parish. It is the end point of the church where the retablo and the altar is. It is often elevated. This church is very spacious, with beautiful retablos and two pulpits. In the past, priests used the pulpits to give homilies and exhortations to the faithful.
There is a legend about some of these images of the saints. The townsfolk believe that they travel at night when the town is asleep. When the townspeople come to early morning mass, they notice that the feet of these images are usually full of mud. Before Siquijor’s circumferential road was built, the roads to different settlements were wet and muddy during the rainy season.
The Baptistry of the church is very, very old. In fact, you can check the baptismal records at the Lazi museum. The records date as far back as 1857.
I am fascinated by bell towers because of its functions in the life of the community. In the past, bell towers indicate time. It also warns people when marauders attack. Lazi’s bell tower is solid-filled at its base while the church is made from rubble stones.
On September 1897, Lazi experienced an earthquake, but it did not damage the church. It was recounted that the bells in this tower were heard ringing by themselves during the earthquake.
On September 1897, “A very strong earthquake occurred at 3:30 AM lasting for more than a minute. The earthquake destroyed the newly built church in San Juan. There were no major damages to the Lazi Church and convent, except for two cracks at the arches of the convent. It was the first time the people of the island experienced the strong earthquake.” From the Legato 56, Folder 2: Cosas Notables 1898, Courtesy of Archive Recoletos de Filipinas. Translated from the Spanish by Raymond G. Roxas.
Cambugahay Falls, Lazi, Siquijor. I have to walk down 135 stone steps without a rail into this three-tiered waterfalls. You can dive into the water or take a rope swing and let go – like this child in the air.
Cambugahay Falls has three tiers that flow into a small stream. This is the first tier. The origins of the waterfalls come from natural springs and watersheds from the rainforest of Siquijor’s mountains. The stream will go down about 3 kilometres into Lazi Bay.
This is Lazi Bay.
Lovers bathe under the 2nd tier of the Cambugahay Falls.
A child in mid-air dives into the cool fresh water coming from the 2nd tier of the Cambugahay Falls.
And finally, this is the first tier.
In Part III, I will take you to the towns of San Juan and Maria with their old churches. I will also tour you to the natural beauty of San Juan’s cold springs, Maria’s Salagdoong Beach and their man-made forest that provided lumber for the growing furniture industry of Siquijor. Here are the links to the other parts of the story.