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St. James the Apostle Church, Betis, Guagua, Pampanga
Part 3 of the Libotero Pampanga and Malolos Heritage Series
After the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Guagua, the next church on my list was the Church of St. James the Apostle in Betis, still in Guagua.
I asked around for directions on how to get there and the best option was to take a tricycle and so I did. Betis is actually a barangay located a few kilometers away from the town proper. Although the barangay is now known as San Miguel, locals and old-timers still prefer to call it Betis (same as how we Cebuanos still refer to Osmena Boulevard as Jones Avenue). The tricycle ride cost me P30 and I was dropped right in front of the Church.
As I saw the Church, my jaw dropped in awe. The Church was so massive and pretty in pink! I knew about this church since my good friend, Eric would always mention about it everytime we’d talk about beautiful churches. And when I finally saw it in person, I could say that it’s not just beautiful, it’s marvelous!
Built in 1754 and completed in 1770, the Betis Church is marked by Baroque-inspired architecture which was predominant during its period of construction.
Although the exterior is massive, I wasn’t really that impressed, especially that I’ve seen tens of churches all over the country. But as the saying goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. The true character of the Betis Church lies within.
The main door was locked but I managed to sneak in through the Convent while everyone else was busy with the Pre-Jordan seminar. Evil me!
As I got in, I felt goosebumps as my eyes began to wander around every detail of the church interiors. I’ve heard and read that this church is often called the “Sistine Chapel of the Philippines” and at that moment, I had no reason to doubt it.
No amount of descriptive words could accurately present the real beauty of the Betis Church. You have to be there to really appreciate and experience the art!
Let’s start with the main door. The entrance to the Church features some heavy details. The carvings portray the “Gates of Paradise”. It’s like a grand welcome to heaven!
The intricately painted ceilings, which were painted in a way that would make them look 3-dimensional, shows various biblical scenes and reminds us of the power of faith in God to influence and inspire people from all walks of life. Someone named Simon Flores, is said to be the man originally behind the amazing artwork. In the early 1900s, the church interiors were said to be extensively beautified and restored.
The dome is spectacularly breathtaking! And take note, those railings are not paintings, they’re real!
Finally, all of the beautiful grand details of the interiors meet at the retablo. Religious icons are placed inside niches in successive levels, made of carved grand old timber, showcasing the patrons of the various communities under the Betis Church. The characteristic is common among Church built during the Spanish Colonial Period.
The church’s interior is nothing short of an art masterpiece. And for its beauty and historical significance, the Betis Church has been rightfully declared as a National Cultural Treasure. As I take a look at all these details, I feel very much thankful to the artists for sharing their craft for everyone to appreciate. And ofcourse, major thank yous should go to the locals and everyone else responsible for the efforts to restore and preserve this one-of-a-kind Church!
P.S.: After I took all of the above photos, a guy approached me and asked me if I was taking pictures. I said “yes, but I deleted them”. He then replied, “Good, because taking pictures is prohibited here. You have to ask permission from the office first before you can shoot”. Then I sneaked out of the Church, LOL. I’m sorry but I was only reprimanded after I took all of the photos and therefore, I should share them with you here, hehehe!
(…to be continued)