CARAGA, DAVAO ORIENTAL – For the parishioners of San Salvador del Mundo Parish, Mindanao’s oldest church situated in the town of Caraga, Davao Oriental, two years of waiting to see once again the historical edifice back to life is absolutely worth the wait.
On July 6, 2020, the townspeople behold the beauty of the newly restored church as it was formally turned over to the Diocese of Mati which also means that people can now once again enter its doors to pray and attend mass.
Declared as a national historical site in 2012, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines took charge of its restoration in order to preserve the structure which has wealth in historical value.
NHCP Executive Director Restituto Aguilar, through a recorded message, expressed his happiness on the completed restoration as he outlined how the restoration works were done in two years.
“The restoration was a very meticulous process, based on the restoration guidelines of the agency. The walls were thoroughly cleaned and repaired, as well as the doors, windows, the roof, especially the corals. The Commission wanted to help the locality, the institution, and the parish so that it will remain preserved,” he said.
Aguilar emphasized that as a cultural heritage, “it should be inculcated in the minds of the people the importance of taking good care of a historical structure, considering these are treasures beyond measure.”
He added that the Commission is happy that the structure remains sturdy, reflecting the strong faith of the people despite the many challenges that tried them over the years.
In his acceptance message, Most Reverend Bishop Abel Apigo elatedly said that this is the realization of a dream come true for the parishioners.
“The day has finally come for the people of Caraga, for them to come and pray again inside the church. They have waited for the restoration. Making them happier is having a beautiful place of worship. The priceless collections that one can see inside speaks so much of the strong Catholic faith of the people,” he said.
The Bishop furthered that conservation of important landmarks, including buildings, ancient images, and church documents, is always the high priority of the church. And in Davao Oriental, San Salvador del Mundo Church is a concrete example.
“As a matter of fact, the rectory is a strong contender for historical preservation. One can really be amazed how these churches and important landmarks that could last for 500 to 1000 years be preserved,” he said.
Caraga Mayor Alicia Mori expressed her stand that “there is no separation of the state and the church”, adding that both can work together for the common good, including spiritual nourishment.
For Vice Mayor Melody Ann Benitez, the restoration is a manifestation that Caraga has been shaped by history, strengthened by time and fueled by strong faith. “Heritage that the church is, it is an important figure in the lives of all devout Catholics in Caraga,” she said.
The restoration project cost P20 million. This project was made possible through a resolution passed by the Sangguniang Bayan of Caraga and was consequently approved by the NHCP.
On the other hand, as its counterpart, the local government unit of Caraga allocated P2 million pesos – P1 million for the sound system and another P1 million for the sanctuarium and baptistry.
Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang said he is grateful and happy that the restoration was finally complete and the newly restored church was turned over to the Diocese.
“It is proof of a successful spiritual undertaking of the church and the state. There will be more collaborations for the people. In the province, we can boast of exchanges of support between the province and the Diocese, and the latest instance of support is evident in this time of the pandemic,” he said, adding that this beguiling historical site adds to the charm of Caraga town, urging more visitors to visit the town and other beautiful spots of the province.
The move for the restoration was initiated by the former parish priest, Fr. Uldarico Toroba with Fr. Jay Ramos during the helm of former NHCP Executive Director Ludivico Badoy.
The current parish priest, Fr. Diomedes Lagrom is equally happy as this will pave the way for a renewed faith among the people.
The San Salvador del Mundo Parish was erected in 1883.
The restored church will be opened on the occasion of its 137th parochial fiesta on July 16, 2020. By Neela Duallo/Photos by Eden Jhan Licayan