Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church is a Roman Catholic Church in Daraga, Albay. Located on a hilltop with a commanding view of Mayon Volcano, it is one of the most visited churches in Albay. The Daraga Church, as it is popularly known, began to be built in 1773 after the people of Cagsawa were allowed to transfer their town center to avoid the disasters brought by the eruptions of Mt. Mayon and the flooding of Yawa River. However, it was only in 1815 that the transfer was fully materialized, one year after the volcanic eruption that destroyed the old Cagsawa.
Daraga Church is a rare and outstanding example of the Churrigueresque style in the Philippines.
Developed at the height of Spanish Baroque from the late 17th to the early 18th century, the Churrigueresque style is often described as “Baroque on steroids” because of its florid and detailed ornamentation. This is reflected in Daraga Church with the use of Solomonic or ‘twisted” columns, floral motifs, various Biblical emblems, and even local geometric motifs that add a Bicolano touch to the dialogue of artistic traditions. Although this style was popular in Mexico, it was introduced rather late in the Philippines, which explains its rarity in Philippine architecture.
The idea behind the unique design of the Daraga Church is in its representation as gateway to heaven and refuge of salvation, perhaps owing to the catastrophes experienced by the locals at Cagsawa. This idea is conveyed in many ways, as for example the use of Our Lady of the Gate of Heaven as patroness, the retablo-style facade that emphasizes heaven as communion of saints, and the use of floral motifs in reference to the Garden of Eden. The use of Solomonic columns also connects the church to the Temple of Solomon because of the long-standing belief that those columns were used in this temple, which was similarly built to represent the Garden of Eden.
For these exceptional features, the Daraga Church was declared as National Cultural Treasure in 2007, the country’s highest designation for a cultural property.
In celebration of the month of May as National Heritage Month, the Provincial Government of Albay launches Albay Heritage Month, a virtual program highlighting the significant heritage properties that have given Albay and the Albayanos their unique identity.
One heritage property will be featured on social media daily. Every Albayano is enjoined to participate in the celebration by taking efforts to learn, appreciate, and promote their heritage.