“Sinimbahanan” is a Bikol term known as the abandoned church buildings, mostly in ruins, that are found in the Bicol Region due to its long history of exposure to natural disasters and pirate raiding during the Spanish Period. Perhaps the best known among these sites called sinimbahanan by their locals is the Sinimbahanan Ruins of Tiwi, Albay. The building is still largely intact, with its walls and bell tower still standing, albeit overgrown with vegetation. Up until recent times, it continues to be used for liturgical services, once a year on Easter.
The Sinimbahanan Ruins marks the old center of Tiwi at Barangay Baybay. Tiwi started as Tigbi, a mission settlement under the St. Anne parish of Malinao, founded in 1658 by Franciscan priests at a coastal site in south-western Lagonoy Gulf. It is unknown when the Sinimbahanan church was built, but clues showing the prior existence of a friary or parish house (case parroquial) adjacent to the building may indicate that it was built before the Franciscans left the administration of the Malinao parish in 1696. The friary served as the temporary residence of the Franciscan friars assigned in the area.
A fine example of the so-called Earthquake Baroque, the Sinimbahanan of Tiwi was constructed like a fortress to withstand earthquakes and armed attacks. It is supported by massive buttresses on one of its side walls and its bell tower also served as a watchtower (baluarte) to spy on incoming raiders from the sea. In fact, it was recorded that cannons were placed on the bell tower and friary when locals would mount a defense against piratical invaders. The church was constructed on rubble (mampostería) composed of local stones, bricks, and shells held together by lime mortar.
The destruction of the Sinimbahanan is due to the attacks of raiders in 1841 and 1846. In 1880, new town center of Tigbi was established on site and now bears this old name of the town as Barangay Tigbi. It is also the site of a new parish church dedicated to St. Lawrence the Martyr.
In 2019, the Sinimbahanan Ruins was declared by the National Museum as Important Cultural Property.
Provincial Tourism Culture and Arts Office (PTCAO)