IT’S a church that a lot of people get to visit when the town of Lucban in Quezon Province celebrates its annual Pahiyas Festival on May 15. The annual crowd-drawer takes place in the vicinity of Lucban Church, which is also known as the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish Church, and the main activities are a 6:00 a.m. Mass at the church to signal the start of the colorful festival and a 7:00 p.m. procession that leaves the church with images of San Isidro Labrador and Santa Maria de la Cabeza being carried along a designated route around town.
But Lucban Church, which stands along La Purisima Concepcion St. in the Poblacion area, is more than just the venue where the Pahiyas Festival starts. A Roman Catholic parish church that is under the Diocese of Lucena, it goes way back to the 1500s. Two Franciscan priests—Fr. Juan Portocarrero de Plasencia and Fr. Diego de Oropesa de San Jose—who are also known as the Apostles of Laguna and Tayabas, established the visita of Lucban in 1578. In 1595, it was elevated to parish level under Fr. Miguel de Talavera when the construction of the first church began. It was made of wood and was dedicated to Saint Louis of Toulouse or San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
When this first church was ruined in 1629, a second church was constructed on its present site between 1630 and 1640, with the convent being completed in 1650. It was made of stone, masonry and nipa. However, fire greatly damaged the structure in 1733, and so Fr. Pascual Martinez had a third church, which is the present one, built and it was completed in 1738. The convent was likewise rebuilt, being completed in 1743. The church followed the Baroque style of architecture. It had a three-story façade, with the second level featuring semi-circular windows outlined by Corinthian columns and niches where statues of saints could be found. Its three-story bell tower is octagonal in shape although it stands on a square base.
During World War 2, specifically in April of 1945, when American soldiers liberated Lucban, a bomb partially damaged the church, but it was immediately reconstructed. The church has managed to maintain its good state through the years, although Typhoon Glenda destroyed the roof over the altar in July 2014.