Sto. Domingo Church (Sto. Domingo, Albay)

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.

The Sto. Domingo Church is a great stop for those who plan a visita iglesia in Bicol, perhaps in conjunction with a trip to see Mayon Volcano and the butanding of Donsol, Sorsogon.

One thought on “Sto. Domingo Church (Sto. Domingo, Albay)”

  1. If you felt the presence of something else there, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s an old building with a lot of history. Keep in mind, that it wasn’t only used as a church. During WWII it was also used as a base of operations for the Philippine Armies “Bicol Brigades,” which was a unit that used guerilla warfare tactics against the Japanese Imperial Army. My grandfathers brother Maj. Faustino Martinez Flor, was 1 of the leaders of brigade of soldiers there. My Julian Martinez Flor, who had just retired from the U.S. Navy at age 40, was called back into duty by the U.S. govt., to assist his brothers brigade. He was to provide them with American weaponry, tactics, and support, for their guerilla attacks. Now if you know this church well enough, another thing about the church that might make the avg. person feel uncomfortable, is the fact that there are priests buried within the walls of the church. If you take a walk around, you’ll see headstones built into the walls, and behind those headstones, are the remains of various priests that worked there. In fact, one of the headstones belongs to my great great great grandfather D. Martin Martinez. Notice that Martinez is my grandfather, and his brothers middle name. Despite its close vicinity to home, and that holy places were usually not attacked, the resistance used the church as their base of ops. The priest was was my grandfathers great grandfather.

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