Have you ever seen bats inside a church? I’m not talking about the darkened or hidden nooks but out in the open — on the ceilings and walls where you can easily spot them.
I saw hundreds in the Spanish period church of Sta. Barbara in Iloilo. They were upside down on the stone walls or flying high up near the ceiling, and it was the middle of the day.
The Sta. Barbara church, at first glance, looks like the many others built across the country during the late 19th century. It is made from cut coral stones with the facade divided into three sections by cornices and capitals and topped by a trefoil-shaped pediment.
The bats, however, make the church distinct from the others of its kind.
I love learning about these little things that add a special dimension to structures and places. I would have loved to ask church parishioners how they feel about the presence of the bats while they hear mass. Unfortunately, the church was closed (we used a side door) and no one was there during our visit.
Our guide Irene Magallon, Sta. Barbara’s tourism officer designate, said Sta. Barbara has its own share of historic events. The Philippine flag was flown for the first time outside of Luzon in Sta. Barbara. That was during the height of the Filipino revolution against the Spaniards in 1898.
Today, the town flies one of the biggest Philippine flags, measuring 30×60 meters, on a flagpole that is 18 feet high.
She told us during our very short initial visit (less than an hour) that the big flag is hoisted only on special occasions. It is expensive and easily torn by the wind, especially these days when there are strong gusts.
Sta. Barbara is the next stop in Iloilo of InnoPub’s digital tourism project that is being implemented in collaboration with Smart Communications, Inc. We are creating a mobile app guide to Sta. Barbara and putting QR code markers on historical and other town landmarks.
The markers contain short snippets about the structures but additional information can be had by scanning the accompanying quick response (QR) codes.
Our overnight trip to Iloilo a few days ago was to finalize agreements with town stakeholders, among other things. Not only is Sta. Barbara very interested, it can help us with arrangements to expand our project in the second district’s other towns.
I look forward to learning more about this town as we utilize tourism and technology to give tourists access to information that would help make their visit more meaningful.