Augustinian Churches · Cebu

Carcar – St. Catherine of Alexandria Church

Carcar, St. Catherine of Alexandria

Carcar, formerly called Sialo or Siaro, was originally located at what is the present site of barrio Valladolid, where it was an easy prey of Pirate raids. Once relocated to its present site, they called it first Mowag or Kagbkab, the name of a tall fern tree abundant in the area; and later on the name was hispanized into Carcar. Vela calls it Kabkar.

The present Carcar is located on elevated terrain by the coast not far from the sea, bounded by San Fernando and Sibonga, Barili and coast.

photo credit:

            On May 23, 1559 the council accepted the “convent of Our Lady of the Visitation of Siaro in the coast of Cebu as house of the Order,” and authorized the father provincial to appoint a religious to reside there. This suggests that Carcar was hen merely a visita of Santo Nino. On June 9, 1601 its acceptance was reconfirmed after have secured a consensus from the senior fathers, all of whom voted in favor. As in the previous meeting, no priest was assigned there. The acceptance was reaffirmed in 1607 but no action was taken on the assignment of priests; but the convent was made a priory, suggesting that Carcar continued as a visita of the Santo Nino until Fr. Juan de Ricobayo was named prior later on the same year. Soon after, it was made a vicariate, and the father provincial was authorized to appoint a minister as he wished. In 1610, the prior was given voting power in the provincial councils. In 1611, Carcar was placed under the administration of San Nicolasde los Naturales de Zebu. On April 29, 1617 it was segregated from it.

The Libro de Gobiernostopped using the name Siaro from 1620, using instead,  Cabcar and Carcar alternatively.

The convent was asked in 1653 to pay an annual rent of 300 chickens to the Santo Nino. This was commuted to 100 baskets ofborona in 1659, and the arrangement was maintained until 1662.

The prior lent 2,000 pesos to Fr. Manuel de la Cruz, representative to the court of Madrid. The loan, made in 1684, was to help Fr. De la Cruz defray the expenses for one of the missions to the Philippines. This could only have meant that the finances of the convent were in good shape. No wonder Fray San Agustin called it one of the biggest in the province of the Visayas.

The district of Carcar was extremely large and had many tributos; as a result, the father provincial proposed to have it divided on October 31, 1690. Thus, the matrix of Santa Catherina (sic) of Carcar  remained with the visitaof Simora, Sibonga, Argao, Dalaguete, Camayan, Mabuli, formerly as visitaof Carcar, became the matrix of the other vicariates that had Oslob and Tanong, as visitas. The two vicariates were independent of each other, and the prior of each was entitled to name one vicar.

In 1732, Caarcar had 1,116 souls. In 1760, it had 2,690 souls. In 1898, it had 24,230. In 1990, the population reached 70,842.

The first parochial buildings were burned by the Moro pirates. Historian Marin, however, does not specify the year of how many times the buildings were burned. Carcar, a flourishing matrix, must have had a good church and an equally good convent. One of the bells, inscribed with the year 1810, suggests that the church was finished in the early 19thcentury, if not earlier. The report of Redondo y Sendino, published in 1880, refers to the church as new.

Fr. Antonio Manglano started building the present church in 1860. This must have been the second or third. Fr. Gabriel Gonzalez continued the construction in 1865. Fr. Manuel Fernandez Rubio finished it in 1875, including the painting of the interior which astounded even experts. Fr. Rubio was also responsible for the construction of the road leading to the beach.

The church of masonry has one main nave and two aisles. It is 68 m. longs, 22 m. wide and 12 m. high. It belongs to the Graeco-Roman order. The roof of the church and convent sank during the typhoon of November 25, 1876. Fr. Rubio also constructed the masonry and wood convent. It measures 33 m. in front and 22 m. on side.

Fr. Gonzalez was imprisoned together with some of his parishioners on April 5, 1898 in the prison of Nicolas. They were captured by the revolutionaries of Carcar. All of them were freed with the help of a parishioner, Simplicto Sacedon.

The church is of Graeco-Roman style with strong Muslim influence.

The many entrance has a double arched design inviting attention to the massive rectangular façade. The twin bell towers, solid geometric pylons, act as buttresses but are integrated as part of the façade. They end up at the third level in the minaret shape common to mosques. Planes, recessed arches and surfaces of the bell towers are the important factors here. The only embellishments that have been provided are the geometric flora on the spandrels, the blind rose window below the upper recessed arch and the carved Augustinian symbol above it. The simplicity of design of the façade is counter-foiled by the complex pattern of the upper story of the Muslim-like bell tower and the Baroque pediment.

The statues of the 12 apostles, a recent addition to the church patio obstructing the view of the façade, are all carved in white except for one which is in black; the of Judas, the traitor, which the parishioners call the “penitent”.


Angels and Stones by Rev. Fr. Pedro G. Galende, OSA, 337-338.









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s