The Baclayon Church is the oldest Catholic stone-built church in the Philippines that provides a rich early history of the province of Bohol. It was constructed during the Spanish occupation as the very first Spanish Missionaries or Doctrineros settled in the area during the late 15th Century. Today, the original stone church can still be seen at Tagbilaran, Bohol.
Bohol is a haven for old and well-preserved churches in the region but the Church of Bacalayon is the most well-preserved among all of them. The erected building of the church used to be known as the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The area where the church stands was formerly the home of Spanish Jesuit missionaries when they initially arrived in the country. However, many locals believed that the Jesuits were forced to leave the area and move their headquarters to the town of Loboc in order to avoid being mobbed by Moro raiders.
By 1717, Baclayon was raised to the status of a parish and its further reconstruction was ordered. The continued renovation of the building required 200 native laborers to do forced work every day. These workers made use of coral stones from the sea which they carefully cut into square blocks. They then lifted the stones using bamboos to place into position as they piled them up like the bricks of today. More than a million egg whites were used as cement to cut the coral stones all together. This then became a great testament to the impressive skills provided by the native artisans during the time.
Finally, the church was completed in 1727 and a huge bell was added during the year 1835. The building of the church also had a dungeon that held captive the violators of the Roman Catholic Law during the Spanish era.
Today, the church provides a number of attractions around the venue such as an old convent that houses a small museum. Centuries-old relics and religious artifacts can be seen inside the museum as well as a 16th Century ivory statue of Jesus Christ. Other relics such as the statue of Virgin Mary, antiques of St. Ignatius of Loyola, gold embroidered ecclesiastical vestments, a line of books and hymnals and even the 1859 paintings of the famous painter Libertado Gatchalian can be found inside the museum.
The church is about 6 kilometers east of the city of Tagbilaran. Getting to Baclayon Church requires a boat ride to the Tubigon Port by use of the Roro water systems. From there, take an air-conditioned tour van and ask the driver to drop you off at the site of the Church. Travelers may also catch a bus or jeepney from Tagbilaran that heads towards the direction of Baclayon. Take a tricycle and head towards the church when you get to the town of Baclayon.
The Baclayon Church remains a historical landmark to not only the Bohol province but to the entire country as well. Tourists who are interested in the country’s early history can’t afford to miss it.