Church, Samar, Phillipines
Church of the Immaculate Concepcion, December, 2002
Photo Courtesy of Philwomenian
by email from Elmer Garado - 9-4-03
Dear Mr. Ralph Cooper,
I was exceedingly happy when I accidentally bumped into your article about the Immaculate Conception Church in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. I am a native of Guiuan and I am proud of my town. Recently, I have been eagerly looking for documents that could provide information about the role Guiuan played during the Spanish and American periods of Philippine history. I was lucky to have found two books telling about the indispensable role it played in my country's history.
      First was the discovery of the Philippines by the Portuguese traveler Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan saw the lofty mountains of Samar on March 16, 1521. The following day he and his crew landed on Homonhon, an island which is part of the territorial jurisdiction of Guiuan. During the early years of Spanish evengelization of the Philippine Islands, the Jesuits built a beautiful fortress church in Guiuan, the Immaculate Conception Church. Just like other oppulent pueblos in the Philippines, the Spaniards built stone fortification walls around the church complex.
      Delgado (1754, pp. 239-40), a Spanish author, aptly described the fort in Guiuan, to wit: "The fort of Guiuan is the best and most regularly planned in all the Visayas. It exceeds in grandeur the celebrated fort of Zamboanga. The Fathers with the aid of the townspeople built the fort for their defense.It was quadrilateral, each side being 70 brazas long. At every corner is a bulwark. On these bulwarks six pieces of artillery can be mounted. Within the fort, which is all of cut stone, stands the single naved church, large and capacious, and the house of the priest with all the necessary offices. It has four large patios, one serves as a cemetery and affords a commodious space for the schools. The other has a garden where a two-story warehouse stands. The kitchen is found in one of the bulwarks. On the bulwarks facing the sea are mounted six bronze cannons of various calibers, and a large one of iron, plus various lantacas, whipstaff, swivel guns, muskets and other arms which the ministers buy with the alms of the inhabitants. They also purchase gunpowder and bullets as an annual surety with which they can defend the town from any armed enemy attack."
     Today, however, only the southeastern and southwestern bulwarks and parts of the southern and western walls still stand, thanks to some unenlightened local officials and parish priests who had the other fortification walls destroyed to give way to some "improvements". Very recently the original parish house at the back of the church which was used as a school by the RVM Sisters was demolished.I am quite sad and disappointed at the blunder these people are doing to Guiuan's priceless heritage.
      I have formed a group of young professionals who are determined to see our heritage preserved for future generations of Guiuananons in particular, and Filipinos in general. We are looking for persons and/or organizations who can help us restore Guiuan's priceless treasures. I wonder how the old fort looked like, but an expert in the field of restoration work can bring back to us the fort which we were not able to see because of the blunder committed by some persons in the past.
     Although I don't know you, I mustered all the guts in me to write you, hoping that you could be of help to us in this endeavor. You may likewise know of some organizations which are into this kind of work. You could probably bring our cause to these organizations in America.
     It is worthy to note that the Jesuit mission to Guam and the Marianas was discovered through the mission in Guiuan. Although at one time or another, the Jesuits have touched upon these islands in the past, the return to these islands was fraught with danger. It was through some natives of Palau, who were cast adrift in Guiuan that the Jesuits found the route back to the islands.
     I think you are in a better position than me to talk about Guiuan during the Second World War. What I know is that it was once the site of the Navy 3149 Base. The airport built by the Americans is still occasionally being used today. But there is no commercial airline servicing the Guiuan route. I was surprised to know from historical accounts that three (3) days before General MacArthur landed on Red Beach, Palo, Leyte, his advance forces were already in Suluan, an island barangay/barrio of Guiuan. If you could share with us, your account as well as that of your comrades while they were still in Guiuan, we would be very happy to accept that. We, who belong to the younger generation of Guiuananons, want to know how it was in Guiuan during the war, how the people lived, and how the place looked like. It is our fervent hope that you would lend a hand to us. We would also like to thank you for the beautiful write up you made about our church in Guiuan.
Thank you very much!
Elmer M. Garado
Church, Samar, Phillipines Church, Samar, Phillipines
Altar of the Church of the Immaculate Concepcion
June, 1945
Photo Collection of Walter E. Lees
December, 2002
Photo Courtesy of Philwomenian

     Shortly after I married Walter's daughter Jo, in 1963, we were looking through her mother's photo album. I was startled to see a picture of Walter standing in front of this church in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Phillipines. I was on Samar in September of 1945, about a month after being graduated from the Navy's Radio Materiel School on Treasure Island. The war had ended, VJ Day was August 14, 1945, and they didn't know what to do with us. Consequently, we were stationed on Samar for about two weeks, prior to being sent to Tsingtao, China. I vividly recall being in this church and listening to a conversation between the priest and a group of sailors. One of them spoke Spanish and I recall hearing the phrase, "muy antigua." In fact, the church had been built in 1637 and was still in daily use.
     According to Walter's service record, he had left CASU (Carrier Aircraft Service Unit) 42 on 4 Jan 1945, so we weren't there at the same time, but it still seems like a small world to me!

     If you search for "Church of the Immaculate Conception" +"Samar" using Google, (9-10-03), you will find about seven links. One which is not revealed in this search is the following.
Significant Examples of Church Architecture in the Philippines
by Architect Augusto F. Villalon
     The photograph immediately below is one which was selected by the author to highlight some of the most important examples of church architecture in the Philippines. It includes seven other examples of church architecture and a brief biography of the author, which I am sure you will find to be interesting. You will also find links to two other articles by the author. To access the site, click on the title above.
I wish to express my appreciation to the webmaster of the
National Council for Culture and the Arts
for allowing me to reproduce the photo and the story on this page
Church, Samar, Phillipines
Church of the Immaculate Concepcion
(Guiuan, province of Samar)
Courtesy of National Commission for Culture and the Arts
     Built in the 18th century under the direction of the Jesuits, additions were made by the Recollects when they took over the church in the 19th century. This structure is an excellent example "fortress baroque." The church forms one side of the fort. Its exuberantly carved doors are also the doors of the fort. The richness of the interior is in total contrast to the squat, bulky and plain outline of the church exterior. Richly carved and highly polychromed retablos are the focal points of the apse and transept. The most notable aspect of the church is the shell and coral mosaic swags that outline the clerestory and the baptisery.

Posted: 11:44 PM (Manila Time) | Dec. 14, 2002
By Cyrain G. Cabueñas
Inquirer News Service
"GUIUAN, E. Samar -- Two 400-year-old life-size icons were reported missing from the Church of the Immaculate Conception here Tuesday, two days after this town's fiesta. Another statue had lost both hands, police said.
     Suspected thieves posing as ardent devotees fled with the bronze statue of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Roche and his dog, plus the ivory hands of St. Rita of Cascia..."

     To read the rest of this story, click on the title above.

     This page on the, Travel FAQ website, offers a very complete survey of Eastern Samar, especially designed for the traveler. It includes sections on History, Introduction, Transportation, Where to Stay, Places of Interest, (including Guiuan), Surfing, Resturants and Nightlife. It is profusely illustrated with some beautiful photographs. To take advantage of this wonderful resource, click on the title above.
     If you are interested in more general information on the Phillipines, you can go to the homepage by clicking on:
The Philippines
     From that point you can choose from a menu which includes an Introduction, Philippine Festivals, FAQs, Scam Warnings, Trike Guide, Surfing, Scuba Diving, Golf, Weather, Links and Provinces.
Church, Samar, Phillipines
Richly Carved door of Church,
December, 2002
Photo Courtesy of Philwomenian
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