I have never been to San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, Pampanga before. But I have certainly heard about it, and grieved with many when the mudflow (lahar) from Mount Pinatubo left the church and many parts of Bacolor, Pampanga half-buried in nature’s wrath.





San Agustin Church was built in 1571. San Guillermo Church dates back to 1576.



Mount Pinatubo put us back in the world map with its disastrous eruption after a hundred years of dormancy. A sleeping monster. The ash fall covered a large area just as I was spending a holiday in a beach in Zambales that sad day in 1991. We cut short our holiday then, but it didn’t end with that. The large deposits of lava emitted by the volcano was a serious threat to the areas surrounding the volcano each time the country experienced some heavy rainfall. Four years after the eruption, the town of Bacolor, Pampanga met its sad fate from nature’s fury. San Guillermo Church was not spared.







Sad to think that a church nearly as old as the San Agustin Church in Intramuros stood helpless when lahar flowed from the slopes of Mount Pinatubo on that fateful day of September 3, 1995. Four years after it erupted on June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo continued to wreak havoc on this Philippine countryside. Half of the 12 meters of this baroque and neo-classical architecture lay buried in mudflow. Yet faith and perseverance united the Bacolor folks who wasted no time excavating the religious statues, altar and retablo which they carefully and lovingly relocated under the more spacious church dome where it would fit.




They moved the altar and retablo in this space under the dome, where it would fit.


Those bats gave me the creeps…………



We were the only ones visiting the church at the time. The silence and presence of bats guarding the retablo added to the mood. Such sorrow at seeing this church “halved” by this catastrophe. We entered and exited through what used to be the church windows. We lamented seeing the arches touch the ground. So with the windows touching the now-tiled floor. We stooped through low archways to get inside the Adoration Chapel. Thank God many of the religious icons were salvaged and painstakingly restored and preserved.





Yes, it reached all the way up there.



The centuries-old religious statues on display is a testament to the town’s faith and pride. A popular TV series (“May Bukas Pa”) had their location shooting in this church. We didn’t miss checking out “Bro” — a statue of the reincarnated Christ. There were more where we found Bro. All equally finely crafted.




Si Bro…..


Don’t You Just Love This Image of this thumb-sucking Infant Jesus?




For sure, “Bro” is pleased that nature’s wrath did not at all diminish the faith in this town. In a way, Bacolor “saved” the other towns in Pampanga as it served as catch basin for all that mud flowing down from Mount Pinatubo. Many lost their homes, businesses and loved ones. One can’t help but feel sorrow for their misfortune. God bless this town.