PANAY, Capiz (May 06) – For nearly 300 years, the giant bell of this town’s historic church has rung to mark and celebrate significant occasions and to warn residents of danger.
The Sta. Monica Church, believed to have the biggest church bell in Asia, has drawn tourists awed by its architectural design.
Monsignor Benjamin Advincula, Panay parish priest, says many travelers passing through the town, 7.5 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital of Roxas City, drop by to view the church and its bell.
Built in 1774 under Father Miguel Murguia and rebuilt in 1884 under Fr. Jose Beloso after it was damaged during a typhoon in 1875, the Baroque-inspired church was declared a historical landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1997 and a national cultural treasure in 2004 by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.
Beloso commissioned Don Juan Reina to cast the bell in 1878 from 70 sacks of coins donated by residents. The bell, which measures 5 feet in height and 7 feet in diameter, weighs 10.4 tons or the equivalent of 10 cars.
The “Dakung Lingganay (Big Bell)” is used regularly for Masses and church activities. It can be heard 8 kilometers away, much farther than regular church bells which only reach a kilometer, Advincula says.
The bell is also rung during fiestas and serves a distress alarm during fires and other calamities.
A life-size replica of the bell has been put up beside the church for those having difficulty climbing the 63 steps and six tiers to the belfry.
The bell has a Spanish inscription which reads: “I am God’s voice which I shall echo and praise from one end to the other of the town of Panay, so that the faithful followers of Christ may come to this house of God to receive the heavenly graces.”
The parish reopened the Museo de Santa Monica on Dec. 14, 2008, which serves as a repository of valuable church artifacts from Panay, the first Christian town on Panay Island.
By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
First Posted 21:43:00 04/24/2011