Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church

To the people living in the settlement of Boljoon in the 19th century, this church of the Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio served a dual purpose: that of worship and, at the same time, refuge.

The settlement’s location along a wide bay made it a prime target for Moro raids in the early 17th up to the 19th century, and a particularly vicious attack in 1782 reduced the town to ashes, its houses and church burned, and a big number of the population taken captive.

In the absence of clear written records, it is probable the current Boljoon Church was rebuilt on the ruins of its burnt-down predecessor a year after that disastrous raid, Paul Gerschwiler wrote in his book “Bolhoon: A Cultural Sketch.”

It may be that Fr. Ambrosio Otero, the parish priest, used the remaining foundations and charred walls by having them cleaned and repaired and replaced the parts destroyed by the fire, he added.

What’s clear is this edifice of stone in Boljoon, the only church in Cebu honored with the distinctions of being a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1999 as well as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum in 2001, was considered finished during the term of warrior priest Fr. Julian Bermejo in 1841, according to the Cebu Archdiocese book “Balaanong Bahandi.”

When Fr. Bermejo started supervising the parish in October 1802 and hearing stories about the vicious attacks, he saw the need for a proper defense against the Moros.

Fortress church

He directed the construction of a quadrangle fort complete with bulwarks that enclosed the important settlement structures and turned the church into a fortress where people could seek refuge during the Moro raids, said Ronald Villanueva, the town’s heritage and tourism officer.

Gerschwiler, in his book, cited that the church’s high walls were fashioned from thick coral stone slabs stacked on top of the other and glued together by local mortar, and reinforced with 26 massive buttresses.

In Fr. Bermejo’s time, daylight entered the church through rows of very high windows on the side walls. The semi-circular windows underneath were cut out much later.

Villanueva said this allowed the people of Boljoon to find refuge within the church where the Moros could not get to them.

He added that 90 percent of the edifice is originally of the 19th century construction, and it is the only one in the country with an almost intact enclosure.

Although the pipe organ doesn’t work anymore, it has been preserved and is displayed at the original choir loft.

Style elements

Although the church has been tagged as Baroque-Rococo, it is not really of a particular style but a blend of different influences – medieval, classic, baroque, Moorish, and other elements modified by local and Chinese motifs, explained Gerschwiler.

He contends that the rebuilt church was completed in 1829, after which Fr. Bermejo modified it by constructing a crucero (transept) that considerably enlarged the floor area.

The surface of the transept walls is noticeably finer than that of the side walls, and this difference can be seen as well in a comparison of the original buttresses and the cover stones of the side portals, he notes, adding this shows the 1783 reconstruction of the church had most likely involved the reuse of the previous church walls.

Gerschwiler said the facade of the Boljoon Church, rather austere when compared to the lavishly decorated San Miguel Arcangel Church in Argao, may seem to be a mystery since the structures are only a few kilometers apart and built at around the same time.

This, according to him, is proof that the walls were of the previous structure set ablaze during the Moro raid in the late 18th century.

He said the Boljoon Church is one of five built by the Augustinians with a unique facade pattern: “two horizontal levels topped by a pediment, divided vertically into three segments by pilasters, which results in a total of nice facade panels.”


Carvings and artwork that can be found on the church facade include:

  • A niche in the center panel of the second level that carries the statue of the Patrocinio de Maria, patroness of Boljoon. This niche has a trefoil arch and is framed by decorative carvings.
  • The intricately carved pilasters flanking the niche decorated with floral and fruit motifs.
  • Other pilasters on the facade repeating the carvings of flowers and hanging fruits with the biblical snake at the bottom.
  • The Augustinian symbol carved on the topmost part of the pediment; Spanish coat-of-arms beneath the niche.
  • The bas reliefs on the side segments of the facade’s first level: at right is San Juan de Sagun with his left arm crossed over the chest and the right arm holding a chalice while on the left is San Nicolas de Tolentino with bread on his left hand and a palm on the right.


Entrance to the church is through a semi-circular portal with a massive wooden double door.

Gerschwiler said the main nave plus the transept measures 65 meters long, 12 meters wide, and 12 meters high. On the buttresses by the side walls are the 14 stations of the passion of Christ.

The centerpiece of the interior is the retablo in the main altar which is made up of nine niches. It has five niches on the first level, three on the second, and one on the third.

Flanked by symmetric columns crowned by Corinthian capitals, the niches used to hold nine wooden statues of different saints but all except three were looted and sold. The three left are the images of Santo Tomas Villanueva, San Agustin de Hippo, and San Nicolas de Tolentino, and these are now displayed at the Boljoon Parish Museum.

Painted ceilings were quite the rage in the 1920s, and in Boljoon the parish priest commissioned not the well-known artists but a local one by the name of Mariano Villareal.

A replica of the original image of Boljoon patroness Patrocinio de la Nuestra Señora or Patrocinio de la Santisima Virgen is displayed inside a glass case at a side annex of the church.

Bohol Featured

Free tourism app released to guide Bohol visitors

Tourists visiting Bohol, including those travelling for the annual Sandugo festival, now have a handy guide to the province, with the free Bohol Guide app.

The release of Bohol Guide is part of a nationwide Digital Tourism campaign by wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and new media startup InnoPub Media that harnesses mobile technology to deliver tourism, cultural and historical information. In Bohol, the program is implemented in partnership with the Bohol Provincial Government.

Festivals News

Are you headed to Boracay? Share, tweet, post about your experience

Will you be among the thousands heading to Boracay for the Labor Day weekend? Share, tweet, and post about your summer experience, a tourism official said.

Department of Tourism Western Visayas Director Atty. Helen Catalbas and Smart Prepaid Head Joel Lumanlan encouraged the thousands of visitors expected in Boracay to share their experiences online to help promote the island.

An estimated 75,000 visitors are expected in Boracay over the Labor Day weekend from May 1 to 3, triple the number of visitors on regular summer weekends.

Albay Featured Places

Albay launches digital tourism program with Smart, InnoPub Media

Travel to the many attractions of Albay, from Mayon Volcano with its near perfect cone to Spanish period churches and other centuries-old structures, has been made easier with the launch of a mobile app that serves as a handy guide to the province.

The Albay Guide, made possible through a collaboration among the Albay Provincial Government, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), journalism startup InnoPub Media, and other tourism stakeholders, is a comprehensive travel app that can be downloaded on iOS, Android, and Windows phones and other mobile devices.

Albay Digital Tourism
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda leads the unveiling of the Daraga marker to mark the launch of the Digital Tourism initiative in the province. The project is a  collaboration among the Provincial Government, Smart Communications, Inc., and Cebu-based startup InnoPub Media.

“Albay is one of the most beautiful provinces in the Philippines. It has been cited by international tour organizations as the best destination in Southeast Asia,” said Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The app lists such Albay destinations as the Cagsawa Ruins, Lidong National Park, Mayon Skyline and Mayon Resthouse, Misibis Bay Resort, Lignon Hill Nature Park, Vera Falls, Kawa-Kawa Hill, Embarcadero de Legazpi, and Danao Lake and provides information useful to visitors, such as detailed instructions on getting to the sites and the many activities they can do when they arrive.

Albay Guide

Intrigued by Mayon Volcano’s perfect cone? The Albay Guide gives you the many ways you can enjoy Mayon.

Whether it is just to know the best spots to view or take a photo of Mayon or get up close and personal through an ATV Ride along the volcano’s lava trail, the Albay Guide is your best bet for information on these activities.

“We’re excited to have this opportunity to bring our digital tourism program to Albay in collaboration with our partners. The province has been a long time partner for various initiatives like disaster preparedness. Aside from enriching people’s travel experiences, digital tourism also opens up opportunities for local communities and businesses,” said Ramon R. Isberto, Smart public affairs group head.

Albay’s beauty, according to Salceda, is not limited to its natural assets. He said the province is also rich in arts and cultural heritage, citing its man-made citadels and monuments, a culinarian that showcases the best in food and thrilling innovations in fine dining, and ladies who have been winning beauty pageants around the world.

“With Albay’s 7.1 percent share in foreign tourists and expanding number of domestic visitors, Smart’s Digital Tourism program will further fortify the province’s position in a highly competitive tourism industry,” said the governor.

Digital tourism

The free Albay Guide app and digital markers on top destinations will lead to greater customer satisfaction through easily accessible tourism information and result in more repeat visitors, he added.

Albay Digital Tourism
Blessing of Digital Tourism markers, represented by the one that will be placed on Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church in Daraga, Albay.

“Digital Tourism will boost our product positioning and brand franchising of unique iconic features like Mayon Volcano and Cagsawa Ruins and such unforgettable engagements as the Mayon ATV. It will also fortify our positioning as ecotourism, cultural, and culinary destinations,” Salceda also said.

Also provided in the mobile app are details on travel to Abay’s ancient churches and other heritage monuments, the best places to sample local fares like Bicol Express, pinangat, and sili ice cream, the best pasalubong and where to buy them, hotels and accommodations, as well the top things to do in the province.

The Albay Guide is one component of Smart’s digital tourism program that was launched last Friday, April 10, in the historic and majestic Our Lady of the Gate Church in Daraga, Albay.

“It is a unique launching place: it is on top of Santa Maria Hill, in front of the centuries-old baroque church, overlooking the center of Albay, and under the shadows of the Majestic Mayon Volcano. How nice it would be to unveil a technological wonder so close to the clouds yet firmly grounded on the natural wonders of Albay,” said Salceda.

Mobile travel

“Mobile plays a key role in travel. A study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT showed phones are used throughout the travel process – from getting travel inspiration to planning, booking, experiencing and even post traveling – with 67% of leisure travelers and 78% of business travelers using smartphones,” said InnoPub co-founder Marlen Limpag, “Our phones do not just keep us connected during our trips, they are our cameras, boarding passes, portable media players and, in our Digital Tourism program, travel guides.”

Interactive markers will also be deployed on special sites like churches, plazas, and monuments to provide visitors more information on Albay’s rich historical heritage.

The markers contain quick response or QR codes and near-field communications or NFC stickers that, when scanned or tapped with a compatible device, trigger the download of more information about a site or structure.

Smart’s digital tourism program is a nationwide initiative that harnesses technology to deliver tourism, cultural and historical information. Through the collaboration with InnoPub Media, the project has been rolled out in Cebu, Iloilo, and Baguio City. It was given an Anvil Award of Merit in February 2014.


App offers tips, guide to Baguio visitors

People travelling to Baguio for the annual Panagbenga festivities now have a mobile app to turn to for quick answers to questions like where to stay, what to eat and how to get around during the much anticipated flower festival.

Developed by Cebu-based startup InnoPub Media in partnership with Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), the Baguio Guide app is a reliable and handy tool, especially for first timers in Baguio City.

“With the Baguio Guide app, people can plan ahead their itinerary, accommodation and travel plans, and other activities they want to do in Baguio. It’s like a virtual tour guide that can help them maximize their stay in Baguio as they participate in the flower festival,” said Smart Public Affairs Group Head Ramon Isberto.

Baguio Guide
Developed by Cebu-based startup InnoPub Media in partnership with Smart Communications, Inc., the Baguio Guide app is a reliable and handy tool, especially for first timers in Baguio City.

Must-try, must-visit

Apart from the section about the Panagbenga festival, the app also features helpful information about the city. Articles on must-try food and must-visit places in Baguio, as well as the Department of Tourism-accredited tour guides and tour operators are also listed in the guide.

One interesting feature of the app is the “tap to call” feature allowing users to call phone numbers in the app with just a click. It has a directory of important contact numbers of hospitals, emergency units, and police stations.

The app also provides location data. Some places featured in the guide are GPS-tagged with a “check location” link. With a single tap, the app will suggest routes and directions to the desired destinations via the GPS guide system of the users’ devices.

“The Baguio Guide is a useful resource to tourists because it is on a device that people take with them wherever they go: the phone,” said InnoPub Media co-founder Max Limpag. InnoPub recently released a new version of the guide for Android users.

Panagbenga livestreaming

Smart, in partnership with Sun.Star Baguio, will also make available the live streaming of Panagbenga activities through the Baguio Guide app, from Feb. 28 to March 1.

The Baguio Guide app may be downloaded for free at Google Play Store and Windows Store.

The development of tourism e-guides is part of Smart’s digital inclusion advocacy, which aims to include more Filipinos in the digital conversation by making information available and accessible through the use of mobile and web technologies.

Aside from Baguio Guide, Smart and InnoPub also developed tourism guide apps for Iloilo City, Sta. Barbara (a town in Iloilo), Cebu City and Cebu municipalities namely: Samboan, Boljoon, Carcar, and Argao. Smart and InnoPub also developed the Sinulog Guide last year. Its 2015 version released last month generated around 2,500 downloads, and positive feedback from users.

In addition to the apps, Smart and InnoPub also deploy interactive tourism markers that, when scanned or tapped with a phone, trigger the download of tourism and historical information about that certain place or structure. The interactive markers are currently installed in various heritage and tourist spots in Baguio, Cebu and Iloilo.


Baguio GuideGet a guide to Baguio City in your phone or tablet by downloading our free Baguio Guide from the Google Play Store or Windows Phone Store. The app is a comprehensive guide to the Philippines’ summer capital, listing things to do and places to stay or go to. It also contains a portable directory of important contact numbers and DOT-accredited establishments.