Built in 1842, the San Miguel Arcangel (St. Michael Archangel) Church in this southern Cebu town has served the people of Samboan for close to 200 years.
Fr. Felipe Redondo, church historian, described the Samboan Church in his book Breve Reseña published in 1886 as a building made of mamposteria with only one nave, quite unlike other Spanish-built structures of worship in Cebu which are cruciform in design.
The edifice also distinguishes itself by its bare facade, bereft of the bas relief and other embellishments present in many other colonial churches.
Except for the four urn-like finials found above the horizontal cornice that serves as the pediment’s base and the niche for the patron saint above the semi-circular arched entrance, the Samboan Church’s face is devoid of decorations.
The structure’s interior as well is characterized by utter simplicity. The indoor design is plain and uncomplicated and it is this that lends this church a prayerful atmosphere.
From being a visita of Barili, Samboan became an independent parish early on in 1784. However, the construction of a more permanent church – out of coral stones and the best of hardwood – happened only in 1842 under the stewardship of Fr. Romualdo Avila.
Fr. Redondo, who visited and documented Catholic churches in a book published in 1886, wrote that the edifice in Samboan has tile roofing and lime mortar floors. Attached to the right side of the church, he added, is a bell tower also made of mamposteria or coral stone slabs.
The structure underwent reconstruction in 1915 under Fr. Ubalde Enriquez, but there is no record of the extent of work done and the alterations that were implemented.
Visible on a portion of the interior wall are the holes that mark what was once the beams of a pulpit but has now disappeared, according to the book Balaanong Bahandi.
It added that the retablo appears to be recently painted but the woodwork is clearly of colonial origin.
According to the book, the church flooring of black and white machuca tiles done in chevron and harlequin patterns dates back to the 1930s. Still intact too is the choir loft supported by massive pillars of coral stone and lime mortar.
Since the Samboan Church was built on a plateau about 65 meters above sea level, a stairway made of flat stones and lime was built on the side of the hill in 1878 to make it easier for town parishioners coming from the coastal area to go to mass.
Called Jacob’s Ladder or Escala de Jacob, the staircase of 147 steps is still the easiest way to get to the town center from the lowlands.