Sta. Monica Church: First Among Maidens in Pan-ay

The Church of Sta. Monica in Panay (or Pan-ay), Capiz–erected in 1774–is considered as the oldest Roman Catholic church in the island of Panay. Often referred to as the pioneer in Catholicism in the region, the first parish was established here by Fray Martin de Rada, an Augustinina, in 1566. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi set camp in Panay in 1569, making the town his temporary administrative capital after leaving Cebu.

Sta. Monica Church’s main architecture is neoclassical, but the use of coupled Corinthian piers points to Baroque influences. Adopting a cruciform layout, its main structure is of coral stone–70m long, 25m wide, and 18m high. The exterior walls are 3m thick, and the floor is covered with marble. It has a large central altar, with a magnificent gilded retablo–gorgeously sculptured of fine hardwood–as its centerpiece.

Sadly, Typhooon Yolanda did not spare this architectural marvel. Her strong winds blew away sections of the ‘dome’, exposing the intricately designed retablo to harsh rains. Rainwater also seeped into the ceiling, threathening collapse; thus, the church was emptied of other valuable relics, and a makeshift ‘chapel’ was constructed, where masses are temporarily being held. Restorative work was ongoing during my visit, so I was not allowed to go near the altar.

Of course, Pan-ay church is more famous for housing a very special relic–the biggest Christian bell in Southeast Asia. Secured in the topmost tier of a five-level bell tower is the ‘Daku nga Lingganay’ or Big Bell. Cast in 1878 from 70 sacks of coins, the bell is about 1.5m in diameter and 2m high; and at 10.4 tons, is probably also the heaviest bell in SE Asia.

For the achrophobes, an exact replica is displayed within the church grounds.

Sta. Monica Church was declared a National Landmark by the National Historical Institute of the Philippines in 1997.

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About Seeing with Brahmin eyes
My sense of humor can be keen, sarcastic, silly or corny -- sometimes all at once. I enjoy meeting new people with no preconceived ideas about what or what is not possible. You get much more out of life by being open minded and willing. I'm an easy going, good-natured person who loves life and loves people. I'm both optimistic and realistic and pretty objective when it comes to assessing situations, events, etc. In general I am a very positive person and you'll usually find we with a smile on my face.

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