The Spanish Colonization, which sought to spread Christianity all over the world, reached the Philippines during the 16th century. Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese, led the Spanish colonizers who set foot in 1521 in Cebu, where he planted his now very famous Cross. In all their conquered territories, the Spaniards built churches in population centers called poblaciones which helped them succeed in their religious conquest of the natives.
In places distant from the poblacion, the natives built improvised places of worship which they called visita. This was true in the case of Landayan. The Parish Church in San Pedro’s Poblacion, which natives called Bayan, was said to have been founded in 1736 with a Spanish friar named Fr. Manuel Eduardo as its first parish priest. At that time, a visita already existed in Landayan under the parochial jurisdiction of the Parish, although the natives would still travel to the church in the Poblacion to attend regular Sunday masses and other religious activities including Baptism and Confirmation rites of their children. Holy masses were held in the visita upon request by the natives, but only during special occasions like the annual barrio fiestas in May and September.
It was in this visita where sometime in the 19th century the icon of a dead Jesus was placed and became the subject of popular veneration. The image was eventually given the name Emmanuel Salvador del Mundo which old church workers said was inscribed in the icon’s original wooden camarin.The image would then be fondly called Lolo Uweng, derived from Emmanuel.
As the devotion to Lolo Uweng propagated, major religious activities were held in the visita, particularly during Holy Week. The visita was believed to have a belfry where an old bell, bearing the year 1836 in its body, was hanged. On the bell was inscribed some Spanish words which meant that the bell was dedicated to the Sepulchre of Sitio Landaian (which may be Landayan’s original name.)
The visita was managed by a caretaker called encargado. Elderlies can still remember Antonio Rediga, whom they call Tonyong Berso, who would use an old canon barrel called berso and a mixture of gunpowder to create fireworks during important church celebrations. Jose Oblinada, a.k.a. Juseng Bakbakan, took care of the church for almost 40 years.
The visita walls during the olden times were said to be made of bamboo strips and had a roof of cogon, a roofing material made from wild, tall cogon grasses. Later, part of the roofing used galvanized iron. The visita was said to be located on an elevated ground in the center of the barrio. There was story that during the early 1900s, Landayan was inundated by floodwaters which reached the old national highway.While the entire barrio was completely submerged in water, the visita remained dry.
The visita was said to be 20 feet long and 20 feet wide. During the American Occupation,it was used as a temporary school room where American teachers taught English to barrio children. A certain G.Calvery and William Gibish, a German who later on became an American citizen were the well-known English teachers at that time. When World War II broke out in 1941, the visita served as a refuge for natives frightened by Japanese war planes. When the Japanese occupied the Philippines, they did not prevent the natives from their religious activities, respecting their Christian faith.The visita also served as a hiding place for young girls kept by their parents whenever Japanese soldiers would pass by Landayan.
During the post-Liberation period, the visita walls were replaced with concrete materials. The whole roofing was made of galvanized iron sheets. The church were adorned with curtains. The visita slowly transformed into a small church with a relatively high belfry.Flooring tiles were installed. Marble stones were added to some parts of the altar.A perimeter fence was constructed around the church area.At this time,the church was already a sub-parish of San Pedro Apostol Parish in San Pedro town proper.