Bato Church & Batalay Shrine | Catanduanes, Philippines

Our last day out at Catanduanes crept up quietly upon us and with that wee bit of disappointment that we are going to have to leave the sleepy town of Bato the following morning. We ended up taking a back seat, skipped the thought of visiting any other beaches and stayed home all day.

Or you can say, we were sulking while trying to look like we were chilling and I was helping out in the kitchen when the friend suggested out of the blue that I should take another look/ one last look around town for it is uncertain when will be the next time I am going to revisit Catanduanes.

I was lazy enough for a big part of the day already and it really won’t do harm to move around a little…

[Catanduanes & Luzon | Philippines October 2015]
13 October 2015
Bato Church & Batalay Shrine

One thing you will definitely not miss when you are in Bato is Bato River, the river that runs through the quiet town! I know it is definitely way wider (and possibly deeper) than Singapore River, but it reminds me of the river we have here in Singapore and how both rivers brought life to the town anyways.

And I also heard and read about how Bato Church has been sitting on the banks of Bato River for centuries and I always wanted a closer look. So my little tour commenced at Bato River…

Bato River
13 October 2015: Bato River | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Bato River used to be a deep river that separates Bato into two. There used to be an abundance of marine life but due to floods and soil erosions, the river is gradually drying up. And (almost) everyone I met has a story relating to this river!

Somehow kids from Bato grew up swimming in this river with their childhood friends with much disapproval from their parents but they still do it anyway! Aiya… Bad kids!

And those stumps you see in the foreground of the photos are the remnants of the columns of the old bridge that links the town together. It was very badly damaged by a flood and eventually replaced by the current one I was standing on.

Anyway, it is either you jump off the bridge for a swim in the river or you simply use it to cross over to the other side of town but no one really stops there just to enjoy the view. So as quickly as we stopped, we moved on to our next stop before someone mistaken us for some crazy fellas. Haha!

Bato Church
13 October 2015: Bato Church | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
When the Spanish first arrived at the Philippines, they brought along with them their religious beliefs and introduced it to the native people. And one of the many churches they built all over the islands of the Philippines is Bato Church or also known as St. John the Baptist Church.

Constructions of Bato Church began as early as in the 1830s and was only completed 50 years later. Today, the church with a mossy coral stone facade and overlooking the scenic Bato River, stood the test of time and remained strong and unaffected by countless of extreme weather conditions that hit the peaceful town of Bato.

13 October 2015: Bato Church | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
There was a small crowd that gathered at the nicely shaded courtyard of Bato Church but it was absolutely empty inside the church itself except for its caretaker trying to clean up the area.

Even though it was the exact same place the friend and family had the birthday mass for Mamagulang, there was a totally different ambiance since the place is empty this time around. And it was so peaceful and quiet that somehow, I started to tip-toe my way around the church for no darn reason. Haha!

It was nice to see the church up close again in daylight. And when I was done getting mesmerized by every inch of moss that grew over the stone facade, we threw ourselves a little off course and headed out to Batalay, approximately a short 10 minutes drive from Bato River.

Batalay Shrine
13 October 2015: Batalay Shrine | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
We passed Batalay Shrine on our way to Sakahon Beach the other day and the friend pointed it out to me while briefly sharing with me about the history of the church (You can read about it here.). And it was really nice to visit the church to take a closer look but it was a pity that the church is already closed by the time we got there.

Well, some say that the structure in front of the shrine is an unfinished construction while others said that it is the remnants of the original church that was damaged by a typhoon many years ago. I think I will have to ask Mamagulang for an accurate account of the history of Batalay Shrine! Haha!

And we surely heard the sound of running waters coming from underneath the church where the natural spring, with water that the church claims to have healing properties, is located. But since there seem to be a few devotees there, I decided not to disrupt them and moved on to check out where gravel path and stairs in front of the church will lead me to!

13 October 2015: Batalay | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines

13 October 2015: Batalay | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
And I stumbled upon what seemed like a back alley with their own little promenade along a short river or what seems more like a lake created by natural erosion and deposition over time! How serene and beautiful! It is like a sanctuary!

13 October 2015: Batalay | Catanduanes, Bicol, Philippines
Rice paddy fields in Bato

And that summed up the short tour I took around Bato on my last evening there! It somewhat dawned on me that I really enjoyed the vast open spaces and clear view of the sky in any direction I was to look. Everything slowed down so drastically for me while I was out in Catanduanes and it felt like I am already getting used to the place and the slow pace.

But the biggest torture and reality of life is that there is an end to everything and my short visit to Catanduanes ended and we flew back to Manila where we spent a couple more days there before our flight home to Singapore.

p.s. Can’t wait to revisit Catanduanes!

More posts from Catanduanes & Manila | Philippines October 2015 travelogue series:

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