Around 30 minutes from the city of Legaspi, in the province of Albay, is a little sleepy town of Sto. Domingo. This is an off-route place when visiting Legaspi as a jump-off point to Donsol, Sorsogon.
An old town is evident from its church. Formerly named “Libog”, which is derived from the “libot” (in the Bicol dialect, the word means “roundabout”), it was created in 1749 as a municipality, Ibalon. In 1959, it was renamed to its patron saint, Saint Dominic of Guzman.
Built in 1820, the Sto. Domingo Church has two dome-shaped belfries, framing the main structure, which is the reason why it’s sometimes referred to as the Twin Belfry Church. It is built from solid squared stone walls unsupported by pillars, held together by a mixture of lime, “tangguli” (molasses) and egg albumin. This is the same binder used in other old churches like the Baclayon Church in Bohol.
The Sto. Domingo Church is complemented by the adjacent Municipal Building (another Spanish era structure), the Plaza Pugad Lawin, and the mausoleum of Potenciano Gregorio, Sr., compositor of “Sarung Banggi”.
It’s one of the most scary churches I’ve been into. The massive structure and the “interesting” nooks and crannies made my spine tingle. It’s a very old church reportedly built using forced labor, with many laborers dying during the construction process. I didn’t know that back then, when I decided to go up the belfry, but that didn’t make the experience less heart-thumping.
I already have reservations going up the narrow circular stairwell. But this is adventure, so upwards I go. A dark pathway at the other side greeted my view. It could be leading to the other belfry, but I didn’t want to know. The open door up the ceiling, spacious but pitch-dark, made me decide to go down. As I stepped back my attention was already focused to the bats at the roof, apparently agitated when the bells sounded. Then I felt someone, or something, standing at my back. I turned around and my heartbeat skipped for a mili-second. There was definitely something there, which turned out to be a statue of an angel. I was down the stairs in record time.