Published on March 14th, 2010 | by Legazpi City
St. Raphael the Archangel Church, Legazpi
The St. Raphael Parish Church is located right in the heart of the Legazpi Port District, the city’s main business district. The Legazpi Port District began as a barangay called Sawangan whose inhabitants were mostly fishermen and farmers. In 1587, Franciscan friars of the Doctrina of Cagsawa began to convert the settlement to Christianity and in 1616 they transformed it into a separate town and parish called Albay. Its first parish priest built a small chapel and established the “Mission de San Gregorio Magno de Sawangan.”
The progress of two centuries was razed to the ground in the eruption of Mayon Volcano on February 1, 1814. The people was evacuated to Makalaya (now Taysan) and on the decree of the Gobierno Superior on October 1, 1829, prohibiting the founding of another town they finally settled in Taytay (Bagumbayan). In 1818, Sawangan, then already known as the town of Albay, was separated from Cagsawa and was made the capital of Partido de Ibalon (the old name of Albay Province).
St. Raphael Church Interiors | Photo courtesy of The Splendor of the Church
Some of the people, however, remained in the old town and began anew as a barrio. In lieu of their former patron saint, St. Gregory the Great, which had also been transferred to Albay, they adopted St. Raphael, the Archangel and transformed the ermita into a church. They finally regained their old status but never changed the name of the place as Albay Viejo or Banwang Daan. Even after their autonomy in 1856, they called it “Binanuahan”, meaning the former site of a town.
The original church was built in 1834 through the generosity of Pedro Romero. The church was extensively damaged in the Second World War and has since been reconstructed to its present form. One of the unique attractions of the present St. Raphael Church is its altar table made of a single block of solid hardened lava. The feast day of St. Raphael is on the 24th of October which is also celebrated as the fiesta of Legazpi Port and coincides with the yearly Ibalong Festival.