National Heritage Month Feature : The Church of Nuestra Señora de La Paz in La Carlota

While most cities of Negros Occidental enjoy coastal advantage, the blessing of landlocked La Carlota lies in its rich volcanic soil from Mt. Kanla-on. For good reason, the main office of the La Granja Agricultural Research Center of the Sugar Regulatory Administration is located here. And from there, new specimens of sugarcane are rolled out, one of them, the once popular variety that bears the city’s name.

This place of agricultural productiveness makes the perfect setting for a church of spiritual abundance called by the name of its patron saint, Nuestra Señora de La Paz, or Our Lady of Peace.

The pointed arch in the Gothic style points the eye upwards to the cross

Long before it was called La Carlota, the town was known as Simancas, bearing after the name of a negrito warrior known as Mangkas.  Throughout much of its early history, growing rice and tobacco were the main sources of livelihood for the native settlers of Simancas. Early settlers were drawn to Candaguit River from where Simancas expanded.

A row of Corinthian columns form a half wall around the altar.

The fertility in Simancas drew more immigrants through the early years of the 19th century.  With the increase in its general population, so came the rise in spiritual needs among the community.  The parish of San Enrique administered the spiritual needs of La Carlota until the latter’s foundation as a parish on December 4, 1876, under Father Eustaquio Cazcarro, the first Recollect priest to attend to the town.

A unique feature of the church are its massive arched windows that reveal the thick walls of the church.

It was under Father Cazcarro that the original bamboo and cogon church was made in La Carlota.  However, it was Father Andres Torres who became the first Recollect parish priest in this parish of Nuestra Señora de La Paz, serving for 18 years (1877-88, 1891-98).

Father Torres began and supervised the construction of a grandiose church made of red bricks from Silay in the north and white coral stones from Guimaras, the neighboring island to the west.

Unfortunately, the Philippine Revolution in 1898 forced them to stop its construction.  The Recollects left the parish at the outbreak of Revolution in 1898. The revolutionary armed forces captured five Recollect priests from this area. 

They were joined later by 30 other Recollect priests who were arrested in the island of Negros. For fifteen days, beginning January 20, 1899, these priests were subjected to hard labor, cutting grass, cleaning roads, hauling timber in the barrio of La Granja.

Construction for the church of La Carlota was at a standstill for the time of the revolution and in the years following.

Well lit and clean, the interiors is in stark contrast to the structure's exterior.

When the storm of Revolution was over, the Recollects resumed their ministry in La Carlota in 1902. Father Pedro Perez was the first Recollect to be assigned in 1902 until 1907. He toiled hard for the revival of the Catholic faith among the people who were very much swayed by the doctrines of Aglipayanism during the Revolution.

Father Perez's faithful endurance and dedication to his ministry gradually stabilized the church as the people regained their trust in the Recollect friars. The young and energetic Father Leon Galdeano succeeded Fr. Perez as a parish priest from 1908 to 1911. He labored much in defense of the church's properties against the attacks of the enemies of the Faith.

The altar, an amalgamation of neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance elements, houses the Sto Nino and above, Our Lady of Peace.

However, it was Father Leandro Nieto, parish priest from 1925 to 1929, who continued the construction.  As in other church constructions, the lack of funds delayed the completion of the La Carlota Church. Father Santiago Vilda who was assigned in 1931 until 1938 campaigned for more funds for the church. Finally, the church, under the patronage of Our Lady of Peace, was blessed on January 23, 1936. The last Recollect priests to serve the parish were Fathers Abundio Frias and Jose Cuesta from 1938 to 1939.

The Romanesque style of the facade of Our Lady of Peace Church, La Carlota features columns imbedded on the thick walls of brick and coral stone.

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

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