At one point in the Poor Traveler’s Bicol trip, we dropped by the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria (Our Lady of the Gate, more commonly knows as Daraga Church. This awesome 18th century baroque structure stands on top of a hill, overlooking the sea and the majestic Mayon Volcano. The National Historical Institute declared this site a National Cultural Treasure on October 29th, 2007.
WHY DARAGA CHURCH IS CALLED CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE GATE. OR WHY “THE GATE?”
Church of Our Lady of the Gate? I’m sure you’re wondering why “the Gate.” You can trace its roots to the 18th century when a Franciscan lay brother, Fray Luis de San Jose, worked as a porter and gardener at a convent in Avila Spain. It’s said that the Virgin Mary saved his life during a flood. He had a drawn image of the Holy Mother and displayed it at the convent’s lobby. Many venerated this image since. Today, the convent’s reception area is called the “Spanish porteria.” The picture is called Nuestra Señora de la Porteria. When the Daraga Church was constructed, the Franciscan friars decided to name it after this image.
HISTORY OF DARAGA CHURCH
Daragaparish.tripod.com says this about the church: As mythical as the tale that the Daraga church was built by young maidens or Daraga is the common belief that it was built after and on account of the eruption of Mayon Volcano that buried the town of Cagsawa in 1814. The historical truth is that it began to be built more than 40 years earlier, in 1773 to be exact.
Yep, the Church of Our Lady of the Gate was built in 1773 by Franciscan missionaries at the time when Daraga was just a part of Cagsawa. Mayon’s disastrous eruption on February 1, 1814 devastated Cagsawa and four nearby towns killing around 2000 residents. What remains today is the belfry of the Cagsawa Church. (You can just imagine how catastrophic that eruption was.)
Survivors of this tragic calamity chose to move to Daraga. In 1815, Vernando Espiritu Salomon was appointed the first captain of the newly formed govenment of Daraga, a new town then. The rest is history. Today, Daraga is a progressive, bustling town.
ARCHITECTURE OF DARAGA CHURCH
Daraga Church’s architecture is Baroque but many say it’s a mixture of Mexican baroque and renaissance gothic. It’s facade is mostly volcanic stones. It has four columns, each with medallions at its core. The medallions have images of the Evangelists. The church’s facade also carries the coat of arms of the Franciscan Order, images of Franciscan saints, and of course, an image of Our Lady of the Gate.
On the other hand, the belfry is an octagonal column carrying images of the 12 apostles. These are made from volcanic stones, too.
As mythical as the tale that the Daraga church was built by young maidens or Daraga is the common belief that it was built after and on account of the eruption of Mayon Volcano that buried the town of Cagsawa in 1814.The historical truth is that it began to be built more than 40 years earlier, in 1773 to be exact.