The old town of Caraga is famed for its treasure: one of a few remaining Spanish colonial era churches in Mindanao. The 19th century church (not 16th or 17th century as some websites say) in the Parish of San Salvador located at the poblacion (town center) is just a small and simple structure founded by the Jesuits especially under Fr. Pablo Pastells, SJ. It is made of coral and limestone blocks/rocks placed on top of each other.
The interior has been renovated already but the narra hardwood used as posts are still there and exposed. I’m not sure if the altar is still original but seems like it. The baptistry, found at the right side near the entrance, also has another large, probably antique, marble basin.
It is interesting to note that the upper part is made of wood, just like the other churches in Mindanao like Jasaan and the ruined Balingasag churches in Misamis Oriental. The reason might be to make it earthquake proof.
This church celebrated its centennial in 1996. The inscription bearing the symbols of Christ, and perhaps the Jesuits with the year, probably, of foundation as 1884. Note that churches usually takes many years and in some cases, many decades to finish, depending on the availability of manpower, tribute and sponsors that generally reflect the standing of the town and its size.
Caraga was founded much earlier by the Recollects but due to the rampant Muslim slave raiding from the middle of the 18th century until the middle of the 19th century, the town was severely depleted of people either lost to the raids or to the mountains where they took refuge was abandoned.
Not only that, as what historical chroniclers during the era say, the warlike Caraga, the tribal people, also conducted their own raids against the colonizers.
The church also have antique bells with the oldest, a small one, cast in the year 1802 (again, some websites erroneously refer it to as circa 18th century which should be 19th century). Unfortunately, thieves tried to steal one of the bells but because of its weight, were only able to carry the other half (above). The incident was only known a few days later.
The above reads:
On the 5th of January, 1897, buried in the cemetery of San Pedro, a visita of this parish, the body of Marta Mayong, widow (unreadable text) who died of natural death… in the morning at the age of 70. Witnessed the burial and extension of…
The antique parish records, still in good condition, are just kept inside a cabinet in one of the rooms of the kumbento (convent*).
Note: Its only in the Philippines that the word convent, traditionally meaning a nunnery or monastery that it has come to denote the priest’s house or casa parochial.