Who would have thought that indigenous farm materials such as cartwheels (carriage wheels), wood and plows can’t be made into a place of worship? In Manapla, Negros Occidental, there is a chapel commonly called “Chapel of Cartwheels” built in the 1960’s at the middle of Hacienda Rosalia. I found out about this chapel while researching our Bacolod itinerary back in February 2011.
The Adventure of Getting There
To be honest, we had a hard time locating for this chapel but because we are eager to see this wonderful architectural and cultural masterpiece, it is imperative that we view this in person. We first rode a mini bus from Bata Pepsi Plant in Talisay to Manapla at around 9 am, right after we went to the Ruins. The fare for the mini bus costs PHP 30 per person and the travel time is around 1 and a half to 2 hours because of the many stops by the driver to pick up passengers. It should only take you around 45 minutes to an hour if you are riding a private vehicle or if the bus you’ve ridden do not stop most of the time. You’ll pass by the towns of Silay and Victorias before arriving Manapla (route would be Bacolod City – Talisay – Silay – Victorias – Manapla). I would advise you, tell the conductor to drop you off at the Hacienda Rosalia waiting shed (or Gaston waiting shed). If you tell the conductor “Chapel of Cartwheels”, the conductor might bring you to the Roman Catholic Church in Manapla proper. Well, that was what happened to us. We dropped off at the Catholic Church and was surprised that it does not look like cartwheels. And so we made a mistake. Good thing that someone from the office of the church requested their van driver to drop us off at the hacienda and kept on saying “Monsignor’s House”. The driver didn’t even know how to speak Tagalog and I could only understand as much Visayan language as I can then interpreting to my friends.
House of Monsignor at Hacienda Rosalia
Going to the Monsignor’s house was a familiar one. I was saying to myself that it seems that I have seen this place before and then suddenly saw the Gaston Ancestral House which was also Monsignor’s house. I then discovered that THIS WAS THE HOUSE WHERE ORO,PLATA,MATA WAS SHOT! Oro Plata Mata is one of my favorite Pinoy films of all time and probably the best of all time and I could not believe that I am actually standing on it! The fan girl in me suddenly arose but I needed to snap out of it to find the Chapel of Cartwheels. All along, I was wondering where it was located and then voila, it appeared to me unexpectedly.
Viewing The Chapel of Cartwheels in Real Life
Monsignor Gigi Gaston (also the designer of the chapel) now lives in the house but it was originally owned by Negros Occidental sugar baron Yves Leopold Germain Gaston. On a side note, there is also another Gaston Ancestral House in Silay popularly known as Balay Negrense which was owned by the son of Yves. One of the caretakers pointed us to the direction where the Chapel of Cartwheels was and it was located at the back of the house, just a few meters away.
The chapel is shaped like a “salakot”, a hat made of locally available materials used by mostly farmers in the Philippines. When you stand at the middle of the chapel and look at the ceiling, it’s like a beehive full of wires. I believe that the designer of this chapel intended it to shape like a “salakot” because of the tenants or workers living in the hacienda (sugar plantation) are mostly farmers.
Sliding Doors Made of Cartwheels
The chapel could only fit a few people inside, probably around 40 – 50 people. They still have masses in this chapel every Sunday, even weddings are being held here.
By being inside the chapel and looking at the interiors, we can’t feel anything but pure admiration by its uniqueness. I have always been fascinated with old churches and even uniquely designed churches / chapels even though I am not really a church-goer myself. I admire the architecture and the possible relevance of this chapel to the people living there. We didn’t have a tour guide so all we can do is just ponder on the rationale of building this chapel at the middle of the hacienda.
The crucified Jesus Christ was hand carven on a cartwheel which is another unique feature of this chapel. This crucifix is elevated at the center of the chapel right above the stone carved altar. Jesus Christ here was dressed like a typical farmer.
At the left side of the altar is the wooden carving of the Virgin Mary. Notice the Virgin Mary is dressed like the typical “baro’t-saya” (blouse and skirt), typical clothes of peasants. There are also cartwheels embedded used colored bottles to have a stained glass effect.
The Chapel of Cartwheels is one of the must visit chapels / churches in Negros Occidental especially when you are in Manapla. In order for you not to miss this, there is a small sign or marker along the left side of the Osmena Road (the main road if you’re coming from Victorias). Just turn left at the side road going to the hacienda (this is right before arriving at the Manapla town proper). Reminder, the road is rough so be prepared for a bumpy ride. There are few tricycles that go in and out of the hacienda, just be patient in waiting. Tricycle ride going to or from the Chapel of Cartwheels may cost you PHP 7.00 (rate as of Feb 2011). If you try to walk from the main road, it will take you probably an hour or more.