Sta. Monica Church and Museum – The church that has a lot to share.

Sta. Monica Church formerly known as San Miguel Church is a beautiful red bricked church in Brgy. San Leandro (Poblacion) Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, built in 1779 and is currently the biggest church in the province. 1983, here in this baroque architecturally detailed church sets the wedding of youngest daughter of former President Ferdinand Marcos – Irene Marcos to Gregorio Araneta. The wedding was considered as the wedding of the century – rumored to cost over $10,000,000. The bride, Irene Romualdez Marcos chose to wear the wedding gown designed by Renato Balestra among her two other choice by which were from Givenchy and Valentino. This wedding filled with extravagance as described and just as how Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos picture it out to be - high style dresses - expensive flowers – and a scale of royal wedding.

Going back to the church, after centuries of standing though destructive disasters and months after the lavish wedding ceremony; August 17, 1983, parts of the church - mostly the front part where the statue of Sta. Monica is placed, collapsed when an earthquake of magnitude of 5.3 (Ml) on the Richter Scale and an intensity of VII on the Rossi-Forel Scale shook the province.

Locals rumored that the statue of Sta. Monica fell to the ground together with the thick hard wall and latwas later recovered, miraculously without any scratch or damage. The church was then reconstructed placing back the statue on top.

As per readings, the reconstruction was criticized as some says that it did not captured the baroque architectural details of the original, though I would still agree that it is such an amazing effort to have this place rebuilt. I just wonder how those nicely placed long cylindrical wooden beams supporting the new roof were place. According to the care taker those are Molave tree and I find it hard to picture out how it was done and carried that high because these kinds of trees are very heavy. Molave is one of the hardwoods that promise a strong quality and durability – in fact it is said to be commonly use in Netherlands as a yacht material; laying them elegantly like that is impressive.

Sta. Monica Church Museum

Beside the church is a convent called Casa del Palacio Real, it was connected to the church by a brick staircase (Pazodizo). Casa del Palacio Real was used as a Presidencia Municipal and now a museum as the Act of 1998, made the Sta. Monica Church Complex to the list of Important Cultural Property.

Luckily, we were able to get inside and see what was used to be a jail, the so called torture chamber where political prisoners were incarcerated and tortured, the sala court where the highest member of the church show up to save a convicted prisoner from being punished or executed, and the strangulation room where taking photo is prohibited. According to our guide the strangulation room is where executions are being held which that time uses the tool called Garrote, so I'm there standing and imagining a decapitated head and a falling dismembered body.

This sounds so gross but not in the actual – the lower part of the strangulation room was already renovated and built with shelves where antique decor and some religious relics are preserved, this is why they restrict taking photos. Seeing religious antiques is like facing some very important artifacts – this place makes me feel like I am a historian, or a archaeologist alike studying, observing and unraveling the secrets of time through the designs and details of thurible, chalice and paten, candelabrum, a seemingly Ethiopian Cross and 16th century Processional Cross.

Whew! Such an interesting place. Thanks to the care-taker and Kuya Glenn for the local stories.



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