We have just begun our series of church visits that day, Sta. Maria Church, to it’s locals, at Maria, Squijor was our second stop. It was near lunch so we actually had to make a quick visit. At first glance of the church’ facade, I thought the Church of the Divine Providence would be one of those old churches that I would visit that would make no impression on me, but it’s walls shelters what it is that makes it one of a kind on this island, of the country.

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The church from the outside is small, and the bricks of probably limestone shows molds on crevices, and water drop stains. The front is bare except for the painted columns of it’s portico upon its entry that did not look like it belonged at where it is right now (or is it just me?), and the painted images of the Sacred Heart, and a prayer upon it’s doors.

SIQUIJOR | The Sta. Maria Church & Black Maria

The interior was as plain as the exterior, but it was wide, and long for a small looking facade of the church. The limestone brick walls was finished neatly, and or no jagged, and rough surface compared to the outside.
Surprisingly, the church is well lit inside, as sunlight came through the bare windows and humbly framed doors bathing the walls making them look lighter, and making the clean lines of the interior pop out. Molds, and mildew have formed at certain parts of the wall with age, and cool temperature inside. I don’t know why it gives me the impression of a certain charm — bare of ornaments, elaborate fixtures, carvings, or what other old churches boasts of.

What the exterior, and interior lacks in grandness, the saint’s encasement at the alter compensates. At the end of the aisle massively stands in domineering bold earth brown, and warm gold color that encases the saints.

But what made me walk up to further inspect was not the details of this woodwork but of the statue that stood beside it. On it’s encasement of glass, bearing the same color combination on it’s frame as the massive one is the statue of Saint Rita of Cascia. Sta. Rita de Cascia wanted to become a nun but in obedience to her parents, she was married to her abusive husband. In her hopes to convert her husband from his abusive behavior, her marriage lasted 18 years until he died in the hands of feuding family members. That became the root of revenge for their sons who also died in that manner, even when Sta. Rita de Cascia had earnestly prayed that her sons be spared of the same fate.

Losing her husband and 2 sons in a year, she later joined the Augustinian community of religious sisters. She is represented as a statue of ivory white face, and lone facial features. Clothed in black, making all the other features stood out, the locals have given her the name of the Black Maria.

Clasps in her hands is a Crucifixion at the right hand, and a skull on the left. She is known to be the patroness of abused, and mourning women.
To locals, however, stories are told that the Black Maria wanders off after sunset, and is back before sunrise as evidence by mud, and grass found on her feet, and dress the day after. With her piercing stare, and the downturn lips, I had checked to see if she went out that night though. Phew! Clean dress, and feet!

Sta. Maria Church & the Black Maria is something to check out when you’re visiting Siquijor. Best to go with some locals, or with a local guide, so you can hear stories only told with the tongue. Though do not mess your visit by scaring yourself with those stories. It is through those conversations you get to know how the community was, and how it has come to be what it is now. Siquijor Island is known for witchcraft, mysteries, and legends told from generations to the next. On evenings when the electricity goes off, entertain yourself by asking your local host/s why the island is known for that. *Spooky spooky*

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