Siquijor Tour Series: Fifth Stop, Day 2 Lazi Convent and Church
The Philippines is the largest Catholic nation in Asia and you can find churches both centuries old and newer ones just about everywhere as you explore the archipelago. But it is the Spanish period stone churches that is most fascinating to me, so it was a blessing to learn that Siquijor has many of these aged-old churches waiting to be visited.
When you talked about Siquijor and churches, what comes first to your mind?
I bet Lazi Church or Lazi Convent was your first thought. If not, hmmm, I’d be really surprise hehe.
Lazi: Beautiful in its Simplicity
The town of Lazi is home to the famous St Isidore Labrador Church and Convent. Both Spanish era structures were inscribed and listed as part of our National Historical Shrines so you know that the church and convent are steep in history. The convent was the “place to be”, the vacation house for friars of those times in Siquijor so it was used for rest and recreation. It must have been a good place to rest, reflect and do some soul-searching because even up to this day, the town center of Lazi where you can see both the church and the convent conveys simplicity, peacefulness and calmness, how much more centuries ago, right?
When we entered the town of Lazi, I had this general feeling that this town is different. I have been to a lot of small towns and historic towns but there is something about Lazi that makes you want to ponder why you lead such busy lives back home. It’s like it demands for you to take stock of your life and think hard what matters most. Serenity seems to embrace the town. I have tried to think why this vibe and frankly I can’t pin-point the reasons.
When we alighted from our tricycle and stop for our Lazi town tour, I did not immediately go to the church or to the convent. I actually sat by the road side just observing. I was also not able to take lots of pictures of the St Isidore Labrador Church which I normally do when I visit a parish for the first time especially one that is listed as part of the National Historical Shrine. I was content just watching things and letting time passed by.
St Isidore Labrado Church in Lazi, Siquijor
It was a hot day nearing high noon yet I did not feel the heat. Sun rays were blocked by the dense canopy of these giant acacia trees lined-up on the side street. So I was there just seated looking at the surrounding and especially at the massive hundred years old trees. The leaves from each tree seemed to reach out to each other, happily swaying with the wind and giving travelers and locals cool shade to take refuge under.
Grand Acacia Trees in Lazi
It got me thinking again. Mayhap the serene and calm vibe was due to the locals who seemed to go about their day and lives unhurried or perhaps it’s because of the stately and grand acacia trees themselves or perhaps again because we were in the middle of two very important historical landmarks in the province of Siquijor. Or most likely all these reasons and more which give Lazi a distinct character, a feeling that the town has stood still in time where it matters most.
Right at that junction the town looks so calm, simple and beautiful. It’s like an old Philippine countryside captured on a postcard. The pictures I got does not do it justice as in!
Town Center of Lazi
While I was observing the surrounding, I did not know that Titus went ahead and has secured permission for us to go check out the second floor of the convent. Thank goodness he asked and was granted permission because I really want to see what is inside the Lazi Convent. Leaving my vantage seat by the road side, I stood up to join our little group exploring more of the place.
Lazi Convent Reputed as One of the Philippines’ Oldest Convents
Visiting and exploring the convent of Lazi in Siquijor is wayyyy better than browsing through pages of our history books. It felt like we’ve boarded a De Lorean vehicle and traveled back in time!
Wood and Stone and Beautiful Spanish Era Structure
The convent is your typical Bahay na Bato during the Spanish colonial period but on a grandiose scale. Notice that the first floor was surrounded by stone walls formed into massive arches supporting the second floor which is made up of hardwood. The lighting when we got inside was not so good for taking pictures, I would have wanted to have you take a look at the very wooden staircase, it was wide and impressive.
The second floor open to a huge hall, I think this would have been used as a function room in the olden days and also as the place for entertainment for and by the friars? The floor was made of wooden planks, narra perhaps. The main hall was also decorated with some images of Spanish priests as you can see from the pic below. You can also see there are pews on the right side, I don’t know if they still conduct mass on the convent or it’s just a prayer area. What’s great about this is that the room lets in air and sunlight minimizing the musty smell from all the years that passed. The capiz windows give more character to the place and a great area for picture-taking for tourists like us. Hehe.
The craftsmanship before was outstanding!
Capiz Windows on Lazi Convent
There are also smaller hallways which we did not explore as much as it might be forbidden. But of course it did not stop my sister from requesting to have pics on one of those dark hallways.
Today, the ground part of the convent has been converted to a school for elementary kids named St Isidore The Farmer Catholic School, a newer high school building is on the lot beside the convent.
The convent looks beautiful with its age. But the place really needs repair and utmost care. I hope there is enough budget for the repair and maintenance of this very important religious structure.
The Lazi Convent and Church is a must stop for your Siquijor Itinerary. History is right there.
San Isidro Labrador Convent – Declared as historical landmark by the Philippine Historical Commission.
San Isisdro Labrador Church – Declared as one of the most outstanding heritage churches in the Philippines, an honor bestowed by the National Commission for Culture and Arts.
Both convent and church are also declared as National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum.
Not soon after, we have to bid adieu to this town and on we proceed to what my brother was looking forward to – Siquijor’s famous falls “Cambuhagay”. Kids you know.