Once, this Church of St. Gabriel the Archangel (San Gabriel Arcangel) in Santander overlooked the sea.
For some reason, however, the Santander Church’s orientation was changed 180 degrees so it now faces the highway with the sea behind it.
The renovation started in the 1950s and went on well into the 1970s, according to the Cebu Archdiocese Book “Balaanong Bahandi.”
If you go around back, you can still see the coral stone base of the old bell tower.
The church belfry was an integral part of Boljoon parish priest Julian Bermejo’s extensive network of watchtowers. Its bells rang to warn settlers of impending pirate raids, added the Balaanong Bahandi.
Its location on the southernmost tip of mainland Cebu means it was on the frontline of the defense system put up by Bermejo in the first half of the1800s, added the book, citing its proximity to Negros, Siquijor, and Mindanao.
Bermejo’s network of watchtowers was so effective that it helped end in the 1850s the constant pillaging of coastal towns by pirate raiders.
Santander was separated from its matriz Oslob into a parish in 1898. Its first parish priest was Fr. Gregorio de Santiago.
Although relatively young compared to other parishes in Cebu, the town’s history as a visita goes back four centuries.
Back when it was still called Tañon or Tañong, it was the last of eight vicarages established under the parish of Sialo (now Valladolid), Carcar in 1599. It became a visita of Boljoon when the latter was made into a parish.
When Oslob became a parish separate from Boljoon, Tañon was placed under its administration as a visita. Its name had been changed to Santander.