National Heritage Month Feature : Sta. Maria Magdalena Parish in Hinigaran

Coasting southward along the main highway of Negros Occidental, the traveler encounters several churches in an oft recurring scene. The churches are usually positioned alongside the highway and facing the town plaza with the highway dividing the two. For most, the series is a blur owing to the usual grey stone facades. The one distinction in the linear vista is a church which stands out with a brick tower.

The church with the brick tower is the sign that one has reached Hinigaran. Hinigiran, a municipality 53 kilometers south of Bacolod is home to the church of the Sta. Maria Magdalena Parish. The early inhabitants of this town were a unique blend of natives called "Mundos" and "Ambaks", and then infused with immigrants from across the Guimaras strait. The new settlers were called "Tagahigad" which means 'from the side', "higad" being the root for the town's name, Hinigaran.

The imposing facade of the St. Mary Magdalene Church, Hinigaran features a single bell tower, a rounded pediment and an oriole window.

Interestingly, the church of the Sta. Maria Magdalena Parish is a structure on the side in consonance to the town's name. The church sits along the main road and within the vicinity of the gentle coastline which made it a favored landing site for the immigrants to Negros.

While immigrants came in through the 18th century, it was not until the month of November in 1848 when the first Augustinian Recollect Parish Priest arrived in Hinigaran. Fr. Juan Pavon was responsible for building a temporary church in the town which was made of light materials. This was the forerunner of the current church we now know as Sta. Maria Magdalena.

Construction began in 1858 at its present site. The construction was overseen by Parish Priest, Fr. Frahcisco Ayarra, and the residents of Hinigaran.  In constructing the present church of the Sta. Maria Magdalena Parish, each of the natives who helped construct the church was required to bring 25 pieces of chicken eggs which would be added to a mortar with lime, corals, and bricks. Such aggregation of varied materials provide the unique architectural storyline of this landmark in Hinigaran.

Two rows of Corinthian columns supporting shallow arches lead the eye to the altar.

Those materials, together with hardwood used as church pillars, were said to have been carried from Guimaras, Palawan, and the upper section of Hinigaran known as "Patiqui” (Paticui). All of these were transported to the place known today as Kinsehan (Quincihan), derived from the wages of the workers then, which were 15 Centavos for every 15 days of work.

Figures of Christ and St. John the Baptist stand next to the portrait of St Josemaria Escriva, founder of the Opus Dei.

The original church bell, dated 1807.

The main entrance of the church features two "Judas" doors, designed for daily use of the parishioners.

As the construction of the church of Sta. Maria Magdalena Parish in 1858 progressed through the years, the activity also resulted in the rapid conversion of the natives to Catholicism, a praiseworthy reminder of the fervor and devotion among the parishioners. Wealthy Hinigaranons donated their landholdings for the support of this church making the Parish of Hinigaran one of the richest parishes in the province.

The church with the red brick bell tower stands out as the beacon of Catholicism in this serene coastal town of Negros.

The tower combines brick and coral stone, two of the most common materials for churches in the Visayan islands.

Photos by Ronnie Baldonado
Video by Grilled Cheese Studios
Text by Lloyd Tronco

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