Itbayat Sta Maria Church
Itbayat Sta Maria Church

I didn’t remember this road trek to be so exhausting. Or it must be the unrelenting mid-day sun bearing down on our backs as we walk the paved sloping road from Chinapoliran Port to the town Mayon Centro. It seemed so easy back then. Maybe because I was 5 years younger when we walked this path in a breeze back then. It seems so long and the thought of it make me feel old. But it’s nice to be back on this large rock called Itbayat. After walking half a kilometer and occasional stops where there are tree shades, a white pickup truck pulled over and offered us a ride to town. Nothing beats a welcome with kindness like this.

Mayon Centro
Itbayat Mayon Centro

We were dropped of the town plaza of Sta Maria also known as Mayon Centro. Nothing much has changed from I remember. The huge plaza ground is still verdant green with neatly cut grass. There were a few new structures on the side but they were made to fit the theme of the places-stone houses with a modern touch. We took a look at the Guesthouse at the plaza where we stayed before. Still the same. We hanged out there for a while with a couple of people from Basco to do some treasury work.

Laruz Carinderia
Laruz Carinderia Itbayat

For lunch we dropped by this quaint little hut called Laruz Carinderia just beside the plaza. It was so eye catching from the outside with its decorative weaved plates hanging from the door. Inside is more amusing with creative displays, like a buoy cut one-fourth on top to become a water container with cups, old tree trunks as table legs and other interesting decors creatively done.

Up the stairs to Sta Maria Church
Up the stairs to Sta Maria Church

“It was mom’s” the young lady there as she prepares our food. She was the one who designed the place. She just came back as well, probably on the same boat as ours. She’s just resting at that time as the journey from Basco to Itbayat is always taxing to her. We did meet her later that evening and had a very interesting chat.

Pews for men
There are pews for single men

In the meantime she pointed us to a nearby homestay we could try. Since I stayed on the Guesthouse before, I wanted to see the state of the other accommodations here. There are no hotels or inns in Itbayat. Most of them are homestay. We met Nanay Gordo, an enthusiastic retired school teacher who led us to her house just a few houses back of the Carinderia.

Church Window
Sta Maria Church Window

She showed us the rooms on the second floor of her house. Nothing fancy. Feels just like staying in at someone’s home as expected. But there’s a small fridge inside and the bathroom downstairs is really clean with strong running water. There’s a wall fan in the room but she gave each of us a kulambo (mosquito net) since power goes out from midnight to 6am. And there are mosquitoes and other insects roaming about. Full from lunch and feeling a bit sleepy, we decided to take the room with two beds. We had brief chat with Nanay Gordo about the places we could visit before she left.

Sta Maria Covent turned Living Quarters
Sta Maria Covent turned Living Quarters

The bed was hard to resist so we took an hour nap before going out to shoot again. Back into the plaza we head for the very charming Sta Maria Church. It looks magnificent against the blue sky and the clouds. I wasn’t able to shoot it much then since there was a mass being held. This time the church is free and when the Spanish priest Father Dennis saw someone shooting the church, she asked this little girl to open the church for us.

Father Dennis is a Spanish Priest who has been living in Itbayat for 42 years. We could say that the old ways here are still intact. We noticed that there are pews dedicated only to men. We were told single men and women seat separately but if you are married, you can sit by your wife at the front.

Itbayat Kid
The Itbayat Kid who Opened and closed the Church for us

The church also has a very interesting history. A wooden church and convent built by Vicente Araujo, stood there from 1853-1858. But the people themselves wanted to build a bigger and stronger church that really surprised the Spaniards living there. That’s why from 1872, from Port of Pagganaman, the people made a human chain 1.7 kilometers long to pass forth the coral stones to lay the foundation of the new church, truly a sample of strong faith and perseverance to build a house of worship. This human chain continued on until the last stone was placed and completed the church in 1888. A church truly built by the community for 16 years. We were told that people from UNESCO visited the church and is considering it to be included under UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

BP Lake Sebu

Don’t miss Backpack Photography’s Explore Lake Sebu Photo Tour. A Journey into the T’boli culture and Lake Sebu’s natural wonders. Join us on August 21-23, 2010. Check for full details and registration.

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