Thursday, July 9, 2015

Capiz: For Whom The Panay Church Bell Tolls

Panay is a third class municipality in the Province of Capiz. This historic town used to be the province's capital after it was established by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi during the Spanish colonization period. Nowadays, toursists visiting nearby Roxas City would often include a side trip to Panay in their itinerary with the purpose of seeing the heritage town's most popular attraction--the Santa Monica Parish Church which houses Dakong Lingganay, the biggest church bell in the country and in Asia. 

From Roxas City Plaza, we boarded a tricycle which took us to the terminal of vans going to the eastern part of the province. A white van was about to leave as we disembarked from the tricycle and thankfully there was still enough space for me, my wife Malou and our guide Albert to squeeze inside. The van ride lasted less than 20 minutes and before we knew it we were already in the town proper of Panay.

A short walk from the highway took us to the vicinity of Santa Monica Parish Church, also known as Panay (or Pan-ay) Church. I was immediately impressed by the church's grandeur with its imposing structure built in Filipino Baroque Style with Neo-Classical influence. Mostly made up of coral stone, it has a total length of 70 meters, width of 2 meters and a towering height of 18 meters.

Panay Church is the oldest church in the whole island of Panay. It was first built between 1692 and 1698 but was then ruined by a typhoon. It was rebuilt in 1774 but was again damaged by another typhoon in 1875. Finally it was restored in 1884 under the direction of Fr. Jose Beloso. A National Historical Institute marker is posted on the church wall declaring it as a National Historical Landmark.

We then went inside the church, passing through its huge main doors made up of hard wood with intricate carvings. The interior is equally impressive with its high ceiling adorned by chandeliers and black-and-white marble flooring flanked on the sides by walls 3 meters thick.  The floor layout is shaped in the form of a cross which leads to the beautiful grand altar.

As we intend to see the famous church bell up in the belfry, we registered on a log book and paid the minimal donation fee. The number of guests who can go up the belfry at the same time is limited so we have to wait for our turn. While waiting, we decided to further check the vicinity of the church.

Adjacent to the church is the Santa Monica Parish Church's museum and parish office. It is built in the tradition of Spanish colonial structures. Various church memorabilia and artifacts are housed inside this museum.

A replica of the Dakong Lingganay (meaning "big bell") is built outside the museum. For those who could not climb the belfry and see the actual bell due to physical constraints may opt to view and have their photos taken beside this replica.

After minutes of waiting, we were finally allowed to climb the bell tower. We passed through a long and steep stairway leading to the belfry at the fifth level.

After a short but exhausting climb, we finally see the Dakong Lingganay. Measured at 7 feet in diameter and 5 feet in height and with a weight of 10.4 metric tons (or 10,400 kilograms!), the bell indeed is impressively huge!

Heavy duty chains were used to hang it on the trusses.

It is interesting to note that this bell was cast from 70 sacks of silver and gold coins donated by the townsfolk in 1878.  According to the church's tourist guide, the sound of this massive bell can be heard as far as eight kilometers!

A Spanish inscription is engraved on the bell’s face; Soy la voz de Dios que Ilevarey ensalzare desde el principio hasta el fin de este pueblo de Panay para que los fieles de Jesus vengan e esta casa de Dion a recibit las gracias celestiales.

It means "I am God’s voice which I shall echo and praise from one end to the other of the town of Panay, so that the faithful followers of Christ may may come to this house of God to receive heavenly graces".

To give you an idea of how huge this bell is, check out these two photos showing me and Malou standing both outside and inside it.

There were 8 other church bells which surround the Dakong Lingganay. From the belfry, one can see the overlooking view of Panay town proper.

Visiting the town of Panay was a worthwhile part of our short Capiz itinerary. Though we barely scratched its rich heritage and culture, we were able to take glimpses of its most popular landmark , giving us another perspective and additional knowledge of our country's history.

How to Get There

Panay is located 8 kilometers away from Roxas City. You may ride a passenger jeepney, van or tricycle and simply ask the driver to drop you near Panay Church.

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