December 2008 Ultimate Kapampangan Tour (2 of 3)

Before going to Bale Dutung in Angeles City, we bus-seated toured around the old houses in Bacolor and Guagua. We also went out to check the two of the oldest churches in Pampanga.

BACOLOR CHURCH, The Half-Buried Church

bacolor church before pinatubo eruption

(An old photo of the church pre-eruption displayed in the mini-museum). Bacolor Church reminded me of Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, Albay. As written near the church entrance sideways to the bell tower that survived:

San Guillermo Parish Church is named after the town’s patron saint. The church was originally constructed by the Augustinian friars in 1576 – also the town’s founding – with Fr. Diego De Ochoa, OSA, as the town’s first parish priest having been installed as such two years after. In 1880, the church was destroyed by an earthquake only to be rebuilt by Fr. Eugenio Alvarez in 1886. Lahar flowed from the slopes of Mt. Pinatubo which erupted into world notice on June 15, 1991, buried the church at half its 12-meter height prompting of its more than 50,000 town residents to evacuate to safer grounds in resettlement areas.

(L-R: Me fronting the half-buried church, one of our guides Ivan Man Dy doing the introductions, an image of Nuestra Senora del Rosario, retablos)

I was in first year high school when Mount Pinatubo (This is where former President Ramon Magsaysay, a native of Zambales, named his C-47 presidential plane which crashed in 1957. This killed him and 24 others onboard.) erupted. It is recorded as the second largest terrestial eruption of the 20th century and the largest eruption in living memory.

after lahar

During the tour, I noticed that the used to be clogged with sediments rivers (when I took a short summer vacation in Pampanga years after the eruption) are now aquatic with water lilies on it. Also, there were sighted crops being grown in the half buried houses near the church.

Used to be window now a door

The windows of the church now serve as main doors. You will notice that it has fairly recovered from the eruption, keeping the altar as the most glamorous area.

Bacolor church, altar, bike, no fancy ceiling

I noticed locals visiting the church even if there’s no scheduled mass that day. Even a bicycle was parked inside it.

used to be window, bell tower

(Used to be windows now ground leveled.) I compared the current state of bell tower with the old photo of the church pre-eruption several times. I’m still mesmerized.  The bell tower is like a humble representation of strength of its residents and ancestors in Bacolor, having survived the moods of the dormant stratovolcano.

half buried

A considerable portion of the church serves as a mini-museum showcasing old photos and images of saints. Beside it are two houses which you will notice are half-buried, too.

bacolor church

Unlike the other churches which have fancy ceilings, posts and corners, you will instead find in Bacolor Church old photos taken as early as the Spanish era, ruined walls, and images of saints. These I think, are the main source of the church’s beauty. It’s ruined state testifying that the residents of Bacolor kept their faith and stood the test of fortuitousness.


BETIS CHURCH, The Sistine Chapel of the Philippines

Had I known that a gem exists in Betis, I would have definitely made a side trip to this when going to Arayat years ago. I see Betis Church a humble one. It’s simple on the outside, but the magnificence lies within the epidermis.

betis church

A wedding ceremony has just concluded as we approached the church entrance. Slowly as you walk towards the altar, you will be amazed with the interior of the church.


This baroque style church was built during the Spanish colonization. This is the Parish Church of Saint James the Great, which is situated in the small town of Betis.

It is of reasonable basis that it is called the Sistine Chapel of the Philippines.

sistine chapel of the philippines

Among the things which consist the interior, this one situated at the ceiling caught my interest the most. You will see the image of different nationalities gathered before Jesus Christ.

Betis Altar and Pulpit

You will tirelessly click your camera to capture the beauty of the ceiling, pulpit and every corner of it. Though I am layman when it comes to arts, the effects of the interior is very convincing that I find myself staring at my favorites (or is it all?) many times.

Betis Baroque Style

My interest about the painter and sculptor was hugely piqued. This is the most interesting excerpt that I’ve found:

Simon Flores, a local artist, is credited for the original interior painting of Betis church. It is noted in the book Great Churches of the Philippines that Flores’ passion for profuse decoration was inspired by the San Agustin church in Intramuros. However, subsequent retouches over the years have complicated the original character of the paintings.

Betis Ceiling

This is an added reminder to the ingenuity of the Filipinos. Let’s hope that this rare structure will be preserved and will not be devasted by lahar, just like what happened in Bacolor Church.

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  36 comments for “December 2008 Ultimate Kapampangan Tour (2 of 3)

  1. January 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    These are amazing pics. I really hope we can preserve this church and its paintings as well. I love the painting on the ceiling portraying different nationalities united in worship. I’ve never visited the area where lahar went through, but I’m glad to hear that plants are growing. Life is beginning to flourish after all.

  2. hpf
    January 14, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    i’m glad you appreciated this side of my hometown. thanks for sharing the pics!

  3. kg
    January 14, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    ganda ng mga churches na yan. [kind of reminds me of those in Europe.] the hal-buried church is so interesting. meron rin pala nyan dyaan. kala ko kasi yung sa bicol lang meron, yung cagsawa ruins. but that is an almost-buried church. :)

  4. January 15, 2009 at 12:57 am

    nice churches. It’s that they were able to preserve the church.

  5. January 15, 2009 at 2:08 am

    amazing photos. i particularly love the painting of people of different personalities gathered together to worship God.

    sana one day makapasyal din ako doon.

  6. January 15, 2009 at 2:55 am

    hey jo! glad you were able to enjoy your trip. i just got back din and i’m trying to sort out my photos ;-) i haven’t been to this part of pampanga since pinatubo, but when i the apos were alive we were there almost every week. miss the food sobra ;-)

  7. January 15, 2009 at 3:16 am

    You had such a fantabulous vacation Jo, inggit ako! I wish I could have a tour like that too…

  8. January 15, 2009 at 3:59 am

    i’ve been to pampanga countless times but never knew it held so much cultural jewels as the ones you featured here. would love to go on that same tour. :-)

  9. January 15, 2009 at 9:28 am

    My mother hails from Bacolor Pampanga and I remember going to that church after the Pinatubo eruption. We wanted to see if the cemetery behind the church where my grandfather is buried was still there but unfortunately it has been buried under the tons of lahar.

    I was able to go back there and see how the little town is slowly getting back on its feet.
    I’m glad you were able to explore Pampanga!

  10. January 15, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Beautiful churches! And that’s a gorgeous photo collection you have there :)

  11. January 15, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    What gorgeous pics! I can only imagine how amazing it was to see in person :)

  12. J.
    January 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I love old churches! Thanks for sharing all these gorgeous pics and info. (Am I related to Simon Flores, kaya?!?! I’m intrigued tuloy! Haha.) Happy new year from one J to another! :)

  13. January 16, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Lovely photos Wits. Thanks for sharing!

    You know what? this post reminds me of my kapampangan friends slash officemates (all of them are working at UAE na kasi). I really miss them na…sigh

    jeannys last blog post..Just Wanted to Know?

  14. January 18, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    beautiful churches!!!
    i’ve only been to the churches in intramuros, i dragged kj along in 2007 then, and we were totally blown away. i wish your picture was a little bit bigger though. :D

    odettes last blog post..craft corps

  15. January 19, 2009 at 5:16 am

    Bilib talaga ako sa artisan skills ng mga Kapampangan, especially those from Betis. Their good with their hands and their craftmanships is shown in their church’s interior. Not only that, magaling din silang gumawa ng furnitures and fake vintage cars. : )

    BlogusVoxs last blog post..I’m Relieved His Stepping Down

    • Abby
      May 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

      hello there, would you know where can I find the vintage cars? Are they for rent? Thanks….

  16. bw
    January 19, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    real nice pics ! and the artwork is quite impressive. Lots of interesting sights to see in Pampanga :)

    bws last blog post..It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

  17. January 21, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Great photos! I was in 1st year college when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. I’ve never visited lahar affected areas but I’ve seen many documentaries about it on TV.

    Thanks for sharing these great photos. Those old churches are remarkable.

    Rach (Heart of Rachel)s last blog post..A Godfather At Five

  18. January 20, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Thanks, J. Happy new year to us!

  19. January 20, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Are they in Abu Dhabi also? Or Dubai? You should meet when they go home for a vacation. :)

  20. January 20, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Thanks, Odette. I love the churches in Intramuros, too. =)

    Bigger pictures are in my Flickr. Oh, the one where im in front of the half buried church? I think I intentionally had it smaller, heehee.

  21. January 20, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Hi Daphne, I thoroughly enjoyed the cuisine and places in Pampanga

  22. January 20, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Thanks, Sinta. :)

  23. January 20, 2009 at 6:50 am

    It’s good to be visiting old churches.

  24. January 20, 2009 at 6:52 am

    I never thought these gems exist in Pampanga. I hope you can join in the next tour.

  25. January 20, 2009 at 6:52 am

    I hope you can join the same tour in the future. It’s good to explore Central Luzon as well.

  26. January 20, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Yeah, I remember the one in Cagsawa. Bell tower na lang yung natira.

  27. January 20, 2009 at 6:57 am

    I hope you can join in the same tour in the future. It was a good experience.

  28. January 20, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Glad to witness that the town is getting back on its feet.

  29. January 20, 2009 at 7:03 am

    I should have known you’re a Kapampangan! That’s why you’re a foodie (since birth, lol). I have Kapampangan roots, too.

  30. January 20, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Lot of interesting churches in Bulacan, too. I wish to explore someday. :)

  31. January 20, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Wow, visiting there weekly before? I used to go to Arayat ages ago. I’m looking forward to your ‘kwentos’ about your vacation. :)

  32. January 20, 2009 at 7:13 am

    You’re very right about their artisan skills. Heehee, the vintage cars.

  33. January 20, 2009 at 7:15 am

    There’s much to explore in the Philippines. :)

  34. January 22, 2009 at 5:39 am

    It’s good to see (and revisit) interesting places like these. =)

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