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Isleidyll | all galleries >> Historic Panay Island, Philippines > San Joaquin Church; bas relief, Battle of Tetuan
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San Joaquin Church; bas relief, Battle of Tetuan

San Joaquin Church; bas relief, Battle of Tetuan

At the very time of the construction of the San Joaquin Church in 1859-60, the Spanish were involved in a colonial war in North Africa to protect Spanish territories in Morocco. The decisive battle was waged at Tetuan (or Tétouan), Morocco and resulted in a decisive Spanish victory when Tetuan fell on February 6, 1861.

Subsequently Spanish general Leopoldo O'Donnell returned with his forces to Spain; they camped at spot north of Madrid while a triumphal entry into the capital was arranged. The camp, which acquired permanent structures as well as shops over time, became the Madrid neighborhood known as Tetuán de las Victorias. O’Donnell acquired the noble title of "First Duke of Tetuán."

For the Spanish, this was a heady victory in the centuries-old and bitter struggles between Catholic Spain over their Moorish adversaries. For the Muslims of North Africa it must have been another bitter humiliation, one that combined with all the rest, may still be an open wound.

It's amazing that news of the victory came to the friars building the new church in remote San Joaquin, Iloilo in the Philippines and that the friars instructed the stone carvers to celebrate the victory with bas relief carving of Tetuan battle scenes on the church facade. As others have pointed out the facial features of the Spanish and Moroccan combatants have a Chinese appearance. This should not be a surprise. Studies have shown that most of the stone masons working in the Visayas were Chinese. The San Joaquin carvings provide some fascinating physical substantiation of this.

Bear in mind that at the time the Moro slavers were still a real threat to the inhabitants of coastal Iloilo communities. It's no wonder that the victory at Tetuan resonated so strongly in the Philippines. Is it possible that the Tetuan bas relief was really done after the church was completed?


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strings 24-Jul-2010 03:44
haha! i still remember it right! it is indeed the battle of tetouan...
dyscalculia 14-Dec-2009 17:45
its nice to know that S.J's church bas relief is a memorial of Fr. Santaren to his father who was a member of the Battle of Tetuan calvary... may i ask for the reference? it would truly help my on-going research...ty
erlyna gelvezon mago 24-Oct-2009 19:54
Thank you so much for sharing with us all these beautiful and awesome photos of Iloilo and it's orroundings.It makes us feel close to home after decades of being away.It's a shame but I feel how little I've known and seen of my homeland and promise to explore the next time I come.
erlyn alunan 18-Dec-2008 04:13
It is said that Fray Tomas Santaren, commissioned chinese and mexican artisans to do the bas relief of the church. The battle of tetuan is a memorial to his father who happens to be a member of the spanish cavalry, who took part in that war.
yas 16-Sep-2008 07:47
i am big fan of road trips to san joaquin... roads to san joaquin are very scenic with rugged cliffs over deep blue ocean..just picturesque...nice to see someone appreciate san joaquin as much as i do..