An 18th century church in the central Philippine province of Eastern Samar has risen from the rubble and was reconsecrated six years after it was destroyed by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
“What seems to be impossible has become possible,” said Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, outgoing papal nuncio to the Philippines who led the service on Dec. 8.
“It is now back, strong, solid, and will be able to endure for centuries ahead,” said the archbishop in his homily during the reconsecration of the Immaculate Conception Church in the town of Guiuan.
A large number of people, mostly typhoon survivors, attended the celebration with members of the clergy in the diocese and nearby areas.
Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, made landfall in Guiuan on Nov. 8, 2013, wreaking havoc to the town and devastating its ancient church.
Three years after the disaster, efforts to reconstruct the historical landmark was started by the National Museum of the Philippines.
About US$2.2 million was spent for the restoration of the church with the support of the U.S. government through the Ambassador’s Fund for cultural preservation.
Ana Mariel Teresa Labrador, assistant director at the National Museum, said the church was “painstakingly” brought back to the best condition possible.
She said the restoration remained “faithful to [the church’s] perceived original intent or design.” The project retained the church’s original altar, painted ceiling, and architectural design.
“Six years after the typhoon, the hope … that this parish church would rise again and have its former glory restored … was steadily realized,” said Labrador.
Archbishop Caccia lauded the collaboration between the church and the government, saying that it is “a sign that when we work hand in hand, miracles happen.”
“This is an encouragement to continue in this way,” said the papal nuncio.
In 2007, the Vatican and the Philippines signed an agreement recognizing that the cultural heritage of the Church in the Philippines constitutes a significant part of the cultural patrimony of the nation.
“This kind of cooperation has been possible because of this agreement,” said Archbishop Caccia.
“Let us pray that this celebration today will be an occasion for us to rediscover that we belong to each other, that we form a family, that we are brothers and sisters,” he said.
As early as 2001, the government has recognized the church in Guiuan, which is known for being the country’s only church with extensive shell ornamentation in its interiors, as a “cultural treasure.”
Before its destruction in 2013, the church has completely retained its appearance from colonial times, complemented by having its ceiling painted in the 1930s.