Oton is a first-class municipality located in the province of Iloilo, Philippines. This municipality is politically subdivided into 37 barangays and for all entirety, is a place teeming with history especially in one of the churches found here—the Parish of the Immaculate Conception.
Being one of Iloilo’s contemporary churches in design, the Parish of the Immaculate Conception gives a brief look on Oton’s ability to conquer and persevere against challenges. Built and founded by Fr. Fernando Llorente and Fr. Joaquin Diaz, this church harbors striking arches and sharp angles in its structure and design. Its pleasant baby blue walls complement and give emphasis to the unique cross at the center of the church which depicts Christ’s three images: Christ the King, the risen Christ, and the crucified Christ. The beautiful stained glass windows along the walls add an air of sophistication and radiance to the church’s overall appearance.
On top of the church is an image of the Immaculate Conception, which is believed to be miraculous. A local story tells about the image moving right on the direction of an incoming wave that had the possibility to devastate the entire town of Oton.
This church was built by Augustinian Friars who of which first arrived in Oton in 1572 under the guidance of Fr. Martin Rada from Dumangas, where he had formed “the church” in the south of Panay having been assigned there from the town of Pan-ay in Capiz due to his success in evangelizing the locals. It was said that the first church built by Fr. Martin Rada was destroyed in 1614 when the municipality of Oton was attacked by Dutch privateers who laid waste to the church during one of their raids.
In early 1566, Fr. Martin Rada and Fr. Juan de Alva went to the south by the orders of Governor Legaspi as a part of an exploratory group under the leadership of Captain Luis de Haya to search for a reliable food source. The group arrives in the area now presently known as Dumangas, where the Augustinian Friars began to evangelize the local and eventually build a chapel at Ermita, of which the ruins can still be seen until today. The expedition finally found what they were searching for—a reliable food source for the battalion currently situated in Cebu. The expedition left and quickly returned to the north, leaving Fr. Juan de Alva to minister to the natives.
A few months later that year, with Fray Francisco de Orteza in tow, Fr. Juan de Alva went back to Panay, ending up in the municipality of Ogtong (presently known as Oton), where he established the first parish in Western Visayas dedicated to the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in 1572.
This parish was originally made in a unique blend of Greek and Gothic elements. It was built in such as spectacular way that it resembled the Greek cross, wherein all arms of the cross are of equal length. But, unfortunately, this strikingly beautiful church was rendered into a pile of rubble dealt by the destructive force of the Lady CayCay earthquake in January of 1948.
Thus, the people of Oton or Ogtonganons toiled to rebuild the church. The outcome of their hard work is what we now know and see today. The Parish of the Immaculate Conception—the epitome of the Ogtonganons’ bayanihan spirit.
A conspicuous symbol of their pride and a piece of history that we should visit and appreciate.
How to get there
Now you must be curious about how to get there. If you start at Molo Church, San Pedro, you could easily ride an Oton Anhawan or Oton Derecho jeepney and it will pass exactly right through there.
Are you sitting at the edge of your chair in sheer curiosity about the other heritage sites in Iloilo? Immerse yourself here!