Catholic Church

Fire destroys convent of Romblon Cathedral, a cultural heritage site

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Fire destroys convent of Romblon Cathedral, a cultural heritage site

BURNED. The Diocese of Romblon appeals for donations after its cathedral rectory was gutted by fire.

Courtesy of the Diocese of Romblon

‘Our link to the past was eaten by fire,’ says Romblon Bishop Narciso Abellana

MANILA, Philippines – Romblon Bishop Narciso Abellana appealed for donations after fire destroyed the convent of Saint Joseph Cathedral in Romblon, a cultural heritage site, while its restoration was still being planned.

In his diocese, a special collection is set to be conducted in all five Sunday Masses of the month, beginning on Sunday, June 4, to help build a new convent or rectory.

“Our link to the past was eaten by fire,” Abellana said in a May 31 letter to the Diocese of Romblon, which is composed of more than 226,000 Catholics.

In his letter, Abellana said that the Romblon Cathedral rectory was “razed down, except for the old stone pillars,” in the morning of Saturday, May 27. When the fire broke out, he said, “there were already plans for its restoration” and “in fact, the initial stages had already begun.”

BURNED. Only the stone pillars of the Romblon Cathedral rectory survive the fire on May 27, 2023.

“It is, indeed, a tragedy because the centuries-old structure, which also housed the parish office, was declared a cultural heritage and, with the fire, all the canonical books and other records were turned to ashes,” he said.

The Philippine Registry of Cultural Property lists Saint Joseph Cathedral in Romblon, an 18th-century structure, as a “national cultural treasure” as declared by the National Museum.

The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 defines a national cultural treasure as “a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic, and/or scientific value which is highly significant and important to the country and nation, and officially declared as such by pertinent cultural agency.”

Church in Calape, Bohol, declared a ‘national cultural treasure’

Church in Calape, Bohol, declared a ‘national cultural treasure’

The law states that national cultural treasures are entitled to the following:

  • priority government funding to protect, conserve, and restore the structure
  • incentive for private conservation and restoration efforts
  • an official heritage marker
  • priority government protection in times of natural disasters, armed conflict, and other “exceptional” events

Lack of conservation efforts, however, threatens many of these cultural treasures that were built when the Philippines was a Spanish colony. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email