The earthquake that jolted the central Visayas islands in the Philippines on Tuesday reduced ten churches dating back to the Spanish colonial era to mounds of rubble or close to it.
Seven of the churches are labeled national cultural treasures or national historical landmarks. In Cebu, the country’s oldest church, the 16th-century Basilica of the Holy Child, lost its bell tower.
The largest church on Bohol, the 250-year-old limestone Church of Our Lady of Light in the town of Loon, was razed to the ground, burying three worshipers in the process.
Monitoring the damage, cultural writer Edeliza Macalandag described the toll on the country’s architectural heritage as one of the worst aftershocks after the quake.
“One word. Torture,” she wrote on the social news network Rappler.
Meanwhile, search and rescue efforts have been badly hampered by the devastated infrastructure. In Loon, residents have largely been left to fend for themselves.
Farmer Serafin Megallen told AFP that he had to dig up the bodies of his mother-in-law and cousin from their destroyed home by hand. Since the funeral parlor had been destroyed, they were ferried over the river, where companies organizing kayaking and boat tours help out by transporting victims.
“But no one will give them last rites because the church was also destroyed,” Megallen said.