Saturday, April 19, 2014

Whispers From Guinsay's Neglected Treasure - Durano Foundation Church (Danao City, Cebu)

In the rustic town of Guinsay, some 15 minutes east of Danao, I hopped on a motorbike to reach the Durano Foundation Church, more officially called St. Anthony of Padua Church, which I followed from a lead I read while researching about Danao. Not much is written about it. But the church hosts hundreds of busts of the Roman Catholic Church's well revered Popes from eras long forgotten. 

The town itself yawns like it has been in hibernation for eons and promises never to make a squeak. It is a long way from Cebu City proper to Danao: a two-hour immensely uncomfortable V-hire ride (vans converted to mini-buses in Cebu and in Davao) from the SM City Cebu terminal. 

I have to warn people about the V-hire because waiting for it to fill cuts so much into your time. I arrived at the terminal at 7 AM and it wasn't until 8:30 when the vehicle finally pulled out of the terminal. Greed mostly takes over these drivers and operators because what has a capacity of 10 won’t depart until 15 souls fit into its space. In fact, the waiting is almost longer than the trip itself. If you can find a bus or a jeep, take them because they are more comfortable - and way cheaper too! 

From Danao, I found a guy on a motorbike who agreed to take me to Guinsay for P50. The ride was short and the town was pleasant. Guinsay is one of the 42 barangays of Danao, a third class city known for producing guns. It has a population of roughly 120,000.  

Unfortunately, like the town’s slumbering vibe, the church compound, constructed by the influential Durano clan, is in a merciful state of disrepair. The paints are chipping off as do the foreheads and noses of the Santo Papas being paid homage to. The caverns housing 14 dioramas of the Stations of the Cross have fallen to vandalism. The altar of the church is gathering dust. The stained glass art surrounding the church is interesting and deserves to be seen. Moreover, there's hardly anyone there - something that's more convenient for me. This renders the place a wistful atmosphere all throughout. 

Aside from the church and the stations, there’s the Nativity and a praying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I wasn't able to locate the Calvary Rock, the rock itself has been imported straight from Jerusalem. A personal favorite is the Last Supper, a palpable reminder of how fragile faith is – and how even the closest of kin could renounce or betray you. 


The busts of hundreds of Popes have fading labels, some date as early as 300 AD up to the time of Pope Paul VI (1963 to 1974). St. Peter, being the first, was duly represented. There has been 266 Popes up to the present, 262 of them supposedly represented here. There are commonly used names, like Pius, Benedict, Innocent, and Clement. Then there are odd names like Urban, Boniface and Sylvester. How about Pope Lando, you would think we’ve had a Pinoy Pope, right? Beautifully arranged, the busts are a fitting homage to the otherwise unfamiliar, albeit forgotten “human fathers” of the Roman Catholic faith. If you blinked and got disoriented, you would probably think you’re far from Cebu.


I do have a note to the hundreds of vandals whose names shall forever be etched on the walls of these structures, like Chiko and Gelz whose names are found in many spots; Mash, Vshang, Charie Mae, Janedell, Meah, Lorna, Pangkel, Hade, Genesis, Rocky and Jaive whose undying affection to Febe Amor is immortalized in these disrespectful gestures. May you live your short lives constructing things that aren't marred and destroyed by anonymous others.   


Occasionally, students are seen milling around the 2 hectare property, situated beside the highway. During my visit, the church was open, but empty and dusty. One wonders how often masses are being heard here. Mostly though, the place has an atmosphere of piety and introspection. There’s a lake at the back of the property. If for anything, Durano Foundation Church compound is a good place for spiritual reflection.  

Ramon Durano, the patriarch of the Durano clan, spent oodles of money to create this lavish spiritual tableau transforming a sleepy nook into one of artful magic. But with time passing languidly, the place is left to crumble. Why has devotion waned? It is sad. If I were in the local tourism industry, I’d venture into its upkeep because it’s a marvelous place for pilgrimages and tourism.

Despite its distance from cosmopolitan Cebu, Danao has been appended to the conurbation of Metro Cebu. It’s one of the places worth visiting north of the big city.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

St. Marcus is the one in the foreground. He was a Roman who was consecrated pope in January 18, 336 during the reign of Constantine the Great. 

The Nativity (above and below)

A pond at the back of the compound.

The entrance to the church is at the back of the compound away from the highway.


Unknown said...

Lucky you havent seen those poop at the back where the last supper is located. youll probably more disgusted :)

eye in the sky said...

Indeed, thank heavens I didn't look there. I was "guided" somehow. :)

Lodit Mercader said...

This is where we attend Sunday masses and indeed such place should be preserve bec. of its unique setting. I hope the Durano Family would see this blog :(

eye in the sky said...

Thanks. :) I hope that the Durano family would consider giving the place the much needed attention. Otherwise, it would be such a waste to see it eventually "go". :(

Haman said...

Been here and liked the idea of its uniqueness but was disgusted by the way it has been neglected. Nice place if somebody or the church rises to the challenge of restoring it.

eye in the sky said...

Sad thing about this is that it's privately owned by a "rich and influential family" well known in Danao and beyond. I am not sure though if some one else has assumed administrative duties in the care of this place since masses are held in the church.