The Church of Seashells: The Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel
A mixture of native materials and the tasteful usage of shells as accent imbue the Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel with a distinct local flavor
April 8, 2020
Written by Miguel R. Llona
Photographed by John Daryl Ocampo
In the middle of the affluent Sta. Clara subdivision in Bacolod City sits the Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel, an unassuming structure more likely to be mistaken for someone’s house than a house of worship. The land that the chapel is built on was donated by Antonio Gaston of Silay, the founder of the Barangay Sang Virgen organization.
The 30-year old chapel stands in stark contrast to the Spanish era churches in the region, in terms of architectural style and materials used. Instead of a cruciform layout, a simple square structure with sloping roofs was built, reminiscent of a traditional bahay na bato. It can be opened on three sides, only closed off by capiz shell sliding doors that give visitors a preview of the indigenous material the chapel has come to be known for.
Locals have taken to calling it the “seashell church,” because of its generous use of polished capiz and mother-of-pearl shells collected from the shores of Negros. The Stations of the Cross, the altar, the statues of saints and the 9 x 21-foot mural behind the altar are made from shell mosaics that number in the hundred thousands, designed by a local named Leticia Sia-Ledesma. The use of wood for the trusses and sliding doors combines with the shells to give the Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel a distinct local flavor, making it a unique piece of architecture in the country.
The Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel
Address: Sta. Clara subdivision, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
Parish established: 1983
Designed/built by: Architect Norman Campos and Leticia Sia-Ledesma
Defining features: Uses over a hundred thousand polished shells for its interior decoration
95,000 – Approximate number of shells used for the mural mosaic
100 – Hours it took for the men to polish all the shells
60 – Number of men it took to polish the shells
This first appeared in BluPrint Volume 1 2015. Edits were made for BluPrint online.
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