The St. John The Baptist Church in the municipality of Bato in Catanduanes has weathered great storms and violent typhoons for centuries. Also known simply as Bato Church, it is the oldest church in the island province having been built in the latter part of the 16th century, when our Spanish colonizers were spreading the word on Catholicism among locals.
It is believed it took more than 50 years to build the structure, not to mention several parish administrations. Located “beside the highway parallel to the extensive Bato River,” as per gocatanduanes.com, the regal and imposing structure, with its massive walls and bunches of greens sprouting from different parts of its facade, is a Catanduanes heritage site.
It is unfortunate that the most recent super typhoon caused it major damage. The town of Bato, after all, was the typhoon’s ground zero. Of the large number of structures in the island affected by Rolly when it made landfall, the church was among the worst hit.
From the pictures ABS-CBN reporter Jeff Canoy took Tuesday, the strength of the wind was such that it tore off a huge part of the church roof from the structure; on the ground, meanwhile, the pews were in great disarray.
It is more heartbreaking when you realize the church was actually undergoing restoration, and according to a Manila Bulletin report, was already in the final stages of the process. Two years ago, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, through the General Appropriations Act 2019, “allocated around P8.6 million for the second phase of the restoration of the church in hopes to restore its image back to its ‘original glory.’”
Here's a before and after image we found on Facebook that shows the damage from its left side, and how it was looking during the restoration.
The church’s shell, it seems, remain intact, thanks to its foundation of mortar and coral limestones. Many homes and infrastructure in the province have not been as lucky.