We visited three churches in Negros Occidental. The first was the San Sebastian Cathedral. It’s an old structure and has its attractions as such but the facade was covered with tarps about the Catholic Church’s war against the Reproductive Health Law and I lost interest. It didn’t help that right beside it was an imposing two-story brick building that turned out to be the Bishop’s Palace. I have everything against bishops (and popes) living in grandeur off donations from parishioners.
The third was the Chapel of the Cartwheels in Hacienda Rosalia, so called because it was made with old wooden wheels from carabao-pulled farm carts.
Constructed within walking distance from the Gaston Mansion, the chapel, unlike most Catholic churches and cathedrals, is unpretentious and devoid of any attempt to display opulence. It is the complete opposite, in fact. Looking at the structure and everything in it, the chapel seems to say that it is a place of worship of and for the farmers that populate the area.
The roof is fashioned after the salakot, that tall hat that farmers use to protect their heads and faces from the harshness of the sun. The walls are made of stone and cartwheels.
The altar is a slab of stone. The benches are rough planks of wood. The ornaments are simple and few. The flowers are stalks of heliconia, a plant that grows wild in the tropics.
The crucifix above the altar is a wooden sculpture sans the velvet robes and ornate wigs that usually adorn statues of Catholic saints.
The wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary depicts her in the native Filipino baro’t saya. Like the crucifix above the altar, the Virgin Mary statue is unadorned.
The windows, like parts of the wall, are cartwheels and broken bottles artfully arranged to mimic pricey stained glass.
The Chapel of the Cartwheels belongs where it is — it almost looks like it sprouted out of the earth like the sugar canes on the fields around it. It is both awe-inspiring and comforting in its rustic majesty.
I loved it.
And I don’t even like churches.