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SAVING A HERITAGE CHURCH

DPWH inspects leaning belfry in Bacolor

/ 01:42 AM November 04, 2016
The leaning bell tower of San Guillermo Church in Bacolor town, Pampanga province, gets the needed attention from the government as a team starts assessing the structure’s strength. — TONETTE T. OREJAS

The leaning bell tower of San Guillermo Church in Bacolor town, Pampanga province, gets the needed attention from the government as a team starts assessing the structure’s strength. — TONETTE T. OREJAS

BACOLOR, PAMPANGA—The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has answered the appeal of the San Guillermo parish here to assess its 440-year-old church’s bell tower, which started to tilt after the church was buried by Mt. Pinatubo’s lahar in 1995.

Antonio Molano, DPWH regional director in Central Luzon, has formed a team of engineers that will assess the structural integrity of the tower and determine if its leaning belfry poses any threat to the adjacent church.

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Molano said the team would start working today.

The church may also be digitally scanned to determine the extent of the tilting, according to Caloocan (Kalookan) Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, head of the Episcopal Committee on the Cultural Heritage of the Church of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

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This would cost about P500,000, an amount that the parish does not have at this time.

“The digital scan would enable us to come up with an exact 3D replica of the church—a big help in restoration work,” David told the Inquirer by telephone on Thursday.

In an agreement between the CBCP and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the bishops of individual dioceses have direct authority over their heritage churches.

The San Guillermo Church, established in 1576 according to records of the Augustinian order, has not been declared a national cultural treasure or given other recognition by the NCCA, disqualifying it from the agency’s financial assistance.

Heritage advocates hope that the town’s stature as the capital of the Philippines during the British invasion in 1762-1764, its role in the 1896 Philippine Revolution against Spain, its being Pampanga’s capital until 1904 and the brunt it bore from Mt. Pinatubo’s eruptions and lahar flows may qualify it for support.

The tilting problem surfaced as the San Guillermo Church turns 440 years old next month. It is the fifth oldest church in Pampanga after those in Lubao and Betis (1572), and Macabebe and Candaba (1575). —TONETTE OREJAS

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TAGS: Bacolor, bell tower, Church, dpwh, Pampanga, parish, San Guillermo Church
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