Restoring the heritage churches of Bohol and Cebu provinces that crumbled from the temblor of October last year is proving to be a long, arduous process, given the enormous work involved in bringing them back to their iconic form.
Officials said putting the centuries-old churches back together poses a big challenge as rebuilding must be done brick by brick, not to mention the collection of debris, documentation and geological studies required.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Museum (NM) are overseeing the restoration and preservation of the churches.
At least 10 churches were damaged by the 7.2 magnitude quake that jolted the Visayas on October 15, 2013—the Church of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc, Bohol; Church of Our Lady of Light, Loon, Bohol; Santissima Trinidad Parish, Loay, Bohol; Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Baclayon, Bohol; Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Dauis, Bohol; San Nicolas Church, Dimiao, Bohol; Santa Cruz Parish Church, Maribojoc, Bohol; Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, Cebu; Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Cebu and St Catherine’s Church in Carcar, Cebu.
NHCP Director Maria Serena Diokno told The Manila Times they are still in the stage of retrieving all the debris, stones and other objects from the crumbled edifices. The process is tedious because workers not only have to retrieve and store these valuable materials; they also have to document every piece of collected debris, she said.
Diokno said the pre-restoration process started in December.
“Once we get the scientific results from the detailed engineering and the soil tests, then we will draw up a restoration plan, and once that plan is completed, we will implement and actually start (the restoration work),” she said.
Diokno explained that workers have to label every piece of retrieved brick, stone or object so that they can identify where a brick or stone came from. These materials will be put back in their original places.
“When we restore, we have to put them back on the same spot,” Diokno said.
She said that after the materials are labeled, they will have to be carefully put in storage.
In the pre-restoration phase, experts need to “scan” the wall using an instrument that provides a three-dimensional view to ensure that every part of the damaged material, including those which are not visible to the human eye, will be “monitored.”
After scanning, geological studies will follow. Soil samples from the foundation of the churches will be examined to check the stability of the structure and to ensure that the restored churches will be built on solid and stable ground.
The NHCP is overseeing restoration work in three churches in Bohol – the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, Santissima Trinidad Parish in Loay and Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Dauis. The National Museum is in charge of the restoration and reconstruction of the churches in Loboc, Loon, Dimiao and Maribojoc.
The NHCP expects to get the results of the scientific studies next month.
The churches have been declared cultural treasures and national historical landmarks.
Diokno said experts who are involved in the detailed engineering are either from the Philippines or abroad. The NHCP and National Museum will hold a series of meetings with the experts once scientific studies are finished.
Diokno said the NHCP will rely heavily on the comprehensive study of the geologists.
She noted that if geologists declare that the foundations of these churches are weak, then they may have to do some retrofitting, which may push the NHCP to introduce “foreign materials” to ensure that the “foundation is protected and the walls won’t collapse.”
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) said the government will release P650 million to the NHCP and National Museum.
Trixie Angeles, NCCA vice chairman of the National Committee on Monuments and Sites, said the Department of Budget and Management has allotted a budget for the restoration of all ruined churches.
Angeles said the NCCA allocated P1 million for the clearing operations last year.
“We also allocated funding to the NM because the clearing operations in Loon and Maribojoc have not been completed. There is also P8 million for these agencies for the clearing,” she said.
The government hopes to come up with a master restoration plan in June. In May, the NHCP and the National Museum will discuss the plan with all the experts working on the restoration projects.
“We know the degree of the damage varies from church to church. We really have to divide specific (tasks) and then maybe in June or July we may start to hold stakeholder discussions,” Diokno said.
The NHCP and NM will present their comprehensive study before stakeholders, including local government units (LGU), bishops and parishes before the actual restoration work.