I reached Oslob, one of the lesser known towns of Cebu in the south, Oslob, just before lunch time. I found in its mercado some carinderia that serves delectable Kambing dishes. The calderata of course is a must – eat! like in the Tagalog provinces, taste varies for this dish, Cebuanos have their way. I was told that goat herding is a common backyard industry around here; this explains the abundance of Kambing in these small food stalls.
The place that I was looking for, the Cuartel (Headquarters), is somewhere near the church of Oslob. So after a satisfying meal I started asking locals where it was. I was told that it wasn’t that far – so I started walking. I’ve known that the Church was still undergoing construction after it was destroyed by fire in the summer of 2008. It was a heartbreaking news because the church of Oslob with Argao, Dalaguete and Boljoon are considered to be the finest example of Filipino-Spanish church still in existence in the province. The church now is being rebuilt with the help of donations and gratis labor.
The image of our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion has miraculously survived without significant damage! It is said to have been dug from a heap of tarred rubble after the fire has died down. The fire went on for 8 hours as the badly equipped fire fighters tried to salvage the church. They failed to put the fire in control, the fire is said to have started in the convento. Resident’s claims to have seen angels and the Virgin Mother during the raging fire – it was indeed a miracle that the wooden image of the Virgin have been spared.
It’s a gargantuan task to raise the church (the convent was completely destroyed) but I have no doubt it will rise from the ashes again; its foundations and structural design are still intact, still beautiful – though the interior was entirely destroyed there is much that remains. I know I’ll come back here one day with the church serving its town once again.
Near the Church is the ruin of what was once a giant watchtower built by the great Spanish Friar Bermejo to protect the Catholic converts of Oslob. The church and the Cuartel can be found in Calle Aragon, this could be the town’s main street during the years of Spanish administration.
The wall that they built around the bay to protect them from the strong waves stretches for kilometers. It provides an interesting site. Here can be seen, when the strong waves batters the man made barrier, what looks like a wall of sea water rising from the shore. I stayed and watch the water play for some time. The park in front of the old church is spacious and safe, no one would bother you even if you sleep under its trees. From here the neighboring islands of Negros Oriental, Bohol and Siquijor can be seen.
After this I headed straight to the Cuartel, an unfinished Spanish military installation. The Cuartel was a massive project, if it was completed it would’ve been one of the major Spanish naval base in the pacific but as the revolution of the Tagalogs intensified and begun to spread, its construction was placed in the back burner. Some people wonder why this ambitious project was positioned in the quiet town of Oslob. Many believe that it has do with the towns strategic position of course. Important documents about its planning are yet to be discovered, even the Archivo Nacional does not have any records of the Cuartel, this is the reason why many are left to speculate.
The news is that the Lady Governor and the local leaders have reached an agreement to restore it; by this I’m not sure if they would continue the unfinished structure. If the Cuartel would be completed, I wonder what the current local government plans to do with it, it’s dimensions are what we Filipinos refers to as “mala palacio”, its huge and it would definitely cost big money. The Cuartel is buzzing with construction workers now, it could be months away from being finished. As long as they maintain the architectural integrity of the unfinished building, the town and the province would surely benefit from it. I’m certain that people, local and tourist would want to see this memento of time when Filipinos were still building big.
Years of neglect, however, has cost the town some of its heritage structures to be lost; a baluarte in Guianon for example has been transformed to a house, and just last year, the fire that destroyed the church Oslob dealt a painful blow to the heritage conservationist of the town, as it was one of the few remaining structures that was intact. These small groups are racing against time. But there is hope. The Lady Governor, whom I know is very conscious of how important preserving these monuments of time (her brother Winston of GSIS was criticized for salvaging Luna’s “Parisian Life” from foreign bidders, which I believe was the right thing to do), has been meeting up with the Oslob conservationist and planning projects that would help Oslob reclaim its Filipino-Spanish heritage structures. We could only hope that these efforts would progress for the future generations of Cebuanos.