Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul of Bantayan

Official Name: Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul of Bantayan[1]

Classification Status: Classified Historic Structures (covering all Colonial Churches and other Houses of Worship, per NHCP Res. No. 3, s. 1991)[1]

Town or City: Bantayan

San Pedro y San Pablo Church is an ancient Roman Catholic church in Bantayan, Cebu's northern region. Established in 1580, it's the Visayas and Mindanao's first and oldest parish. [2]

The church's history began with its founding by Augustinian friars on June 11, 1580, previously under the patronage of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion. In 1603, the diocesan clergy took over its administration. However, the area faced frequent attacks from sea raiders over the years. In 1628, many townspeople were captured, and in 1754, the church was destroyed. The construction of the present church began in 1839 and was completed in 1863, led by Fr. Doreteo Andrada del Rosario.

Bantayan received an exemption from fasting during Lent through an "indulto apostolico para el uso de carnes" issued in 1843. The parish museum displays a document from Spanish ecclesiastical authorities containing this declaration, which allowed meat consumption during Holy Week.

Several theories attempt to explain this exemption. The predominantly seafood-based diet of the parishioners made it easier for them to attend religious services during Holy Week without fishing. Additionally, the forced labor during the church's construction may have necessitated the exemption. Lastly, fear of perilous waters or divine punishment for not observing Lenten obligations deterred islanders from fishing during that time.[2]

Parish Church of Sts. Peter & Paul is considered a national heritage zone/historic center. A Level II marker under House of Worship was installed by the National Historical Institute in 1980.[2]

The church stands out with its unique design, featuring an ornate main entrance, exterior wall, and pediment adorned with niches and decorative elements. It includes four pairs of embellished pilasters, plain moldings, and a frieze with relief icons. The pediment showcases the Holy Trinity, Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario, and St. Peter, with an inscription detailing the church's construction on the entablature. Stone domes and crosses crown each corner of the pediment. Above the main entrance, you'll find the Papal coat of arms flanked by saint niches. The church also boasts a four-level bell tower with open arches on the second and third floors. The interior ceiling underwent the Dibuho Kisame Project, covering 1,130 square meters, completed by twelve artists in June 2019.[2]