THE newly-renovated Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Naic, Cavite is fast becoming a top tourist destination and a favorite place of worship.
The stone church, which the Wong Chu King Foundation (WCKF) restored to its original 18th century neo-Gothic glory, is Cavite’s largest. Built by the Dominicans in 1839, it features, among others, an intricately designed gold altar and stained glass windows.
“The restoration of the church to its original architecture has encouraged more people to grow in their faith, in a life of prayer and in a life of holiness, which is God’s desire for all of us. With this beautiful church, one can say that the presence of God is really felt by the people,” said Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista of the Diocese of Imus.
“The repair work of WCKF on this historic church has restored it to the pedestal of top tourist destinations in the country. This is also because of the important role that the church played in the history of the Philippines,” said James Navarette, WCKF general manager.
WCKF turned over the church back to the Naic Parish in a symbolic ceremony marking the foundation’s 24th anniversary last March 30.
At the ceremony, the parish presented a plaque of appreciation to Mrs. Nelia Dy Wongchuking, WCKF president and chairman of the board of trustees. The plaque is on display in the new garden at the church courtyard.
Exhaustive restoration work on the church began in June last year and was completed last February. This included the strengthening of the church’s wall structure with limestone, the renovation and repair of the roof and ceiling renovation and the creation of a new garden and fountain in the courtyard.
“Prior to the foundation’s help, the church roof was already crumbling. So they started working on the roof, then moved on to the walls and interior of the church, and finally the courtyard,” the bishop said.
“At first, the foundation focused on repairing the roof and ceiling. But Mrs. Wongchuking heard of the personal project of Fr. Virgilio Saenz-Mendoza, the parish priest, and the people of Naic to refurbish the outer walls of the church,” Navarette explained. “So she offered to help.”
Navarette said church restoration remained a major advocacy of the foundation. “Churches are symbols of strength and hope for Filipinos. To see a church survive earthquakes and other calamities easily uplifts the spirits of our people. We advocate the building of more churches that will help strengthen the Filipino faith,” Navarette said.
The foundation aims to perpetuate the memory of Mr. Wong Chu King, family patriarch and philanthropist, who provided support for the poor and underprivileged in his lifetime.
The church served as a backdrop and mute witness to turbulent episodes in Philippine history. In May 1897, Spanish colonial soldiers used it as a headquarters when they recaptured Naic from Filipino revolutionary forces.
In 1899, during the Filipino-American war, US soldiers used it as a barracks. From 1942 to 1945, Japanese soldiers used its belfry as a watch tower. Consequently, the American bombardment from Corregidor damaged the main altar, but its image of the Immaculate Conception was saved.