The San Roque Parish in the town of Cordova stands out because of its Moorish-influenced design with two majestic columns on each side of the facade. The church is located at the town center,

But before the structure that you now see was built, the residents of the town built a rickety structure made of stones, wood harigues or tabique pampango and a roof of nipa palm, church records said. It was built under Fr. Jose Salazar, the first parish priest. On May 22, 1863, the Cordoba Parish was presented to the Cebu District and was designated San Roque Parish of Cordoba, proclaiming Sr. San Roque as the patron saint.

A year after it was built, records show that religious rites and ceremonies were performed there. Eleuterio Casquejo and Lorenza Escasenas were married by Fr. Salazar on October 10, 1864, the first Catholic wedding in the town. On October 13, 1864, the first Eucharist or viaticum of a person was performed for Pedro Casquejo. On October 15, 1864, six children were recorded as the first to be baptized at the church, Calixto Pacaldo, Pilar Silkab, Brigado Inoc, Bruna Digamo, Francesca Bentulan, and Luisa Tirol.

By 1866, Cordoba’s population totaled 3,400. On June 6, 1867, under Fr. Pedro Seyson, the parish was first visited by the bishop of Cebu, Bishop Rumualdo, in the course of a “Visita Iglesia” to check the situation of the new parish.

The parish was later led by Fr. Dionesio Noel, followed by Fr. Domingo Bentulfo in 1870-1877, Fr. Dominguez in 1874, and Fr. Ambrosio Rallos in 1874-1876.

On November 25, 1877, the original parish building was destroyed by a typhoon. Under Fr. Jose Baztan, the town built a church mortar with pebbles and tabique pampango. Parishioners built a brick roof to defend to make it sturdier and glass windows protected by steel bars. It also had gigantic wooden double doors.

In 1901, Cordoba was made part of Opon when the Americans established the civil government. In 1913, Cordoba town regained its municipal personality and the spelling of its name was changed to Cordova. In 1914, World War I broke out and the parish established its vision and mission, with the help of Rev. Fr. William Byrne.

Secular priests and Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus worked to fully establish the Cordova Parish. Rev. Fr. Filomeno Orbita and Rev. Fr. Lucas Incon led the construction of the parish by rebuilding the old church during its celebration of the diamond anniversary in 1924.

In 1949, the second reconstruction of the San Roque Parish Church of Cordova started under Rev. Fr. Antonio van Odjik. The third reconstruction of the parish was completed in 1962 under the mission of Rev. Fr. Martin van’t Westeinde, MSC.

Today, Rev. Fr. Rolito Ramil Baluran, MSC, and Rev. Fr. Alvin B. Lao, MSC, lead the church.

More than a fortress of faith, the parish is a shelter people turn to in times of need, including calamities. Church worker and catechist Elsa Lacierdo said the church helped her during her illness in 2010.

The mother of four said the church is at the forefront in helping its community, citing how the parish and its people helped victims of a fire in Barangay Catarman in 2018.

When Odette hit Cebu, many people evacuated to the church, where they were given food and a place to sleep.

“Di halos maihap pila ka households ang mipasilong sa simbahan atong gabhiona. Dako og tabang atong simbahan, dako pod kaayog natabang sa mga paghatag sa pagkaon. Ubay-ubay pod ang natagaan sa grasya,” Lacierdo said.

Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering Cebu City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since...