In the middle of the affluent Sta. Clara subdivision in Bacolod City sits the Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel, an unassuming structure more likely to be mistaken for someone’s house than a house of worship. The land that the chapel is built on was donated by Antonio Gaston of Silay, the founder of the Barangay Sang Virgen organization.

The 30-year old chapel stands in stark contrast to the Spanish era churches in the region, in terms of architectural style and materials used. Instead of a cruciform layout, a simple square structure with sloping roofs was built, reminiscent of a traditional bahay na bato. It can be opened on three sides, only closed off by capiz shell sliding doors that give visitors a preview of the indigenous material the chapel has come to be known for.

BluPrint Architecture Visita Iglesia Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel
Surrounded by open space with no other structures nearby, the Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel’s location is idyllic and serene, ideal for a house of worship.

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Locals have taken to calling it the “seashell church,” because of its generous use of polished capiz and mother-of-pearl shells collected from the shores of Negros. The Stations of the Cross, the altar, the statues of saints and the 9 x 21-foot mural behind the altar are made from shell mosaics that number in the hundred thousands, designed by a local named Leticia Sia-Ledesma. The use of wood for the trusses and sliding doors combines with the shells to give the Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel a distinct local flavor, making it a unique piece of architecture in the country.

BluPrint Architecture Visita Iglesia Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel
The mural on the altar is a localized depiction of Madonna and Child, with a dark-skinned Mary and the child Jesus being whisked away by a cloud. The shells used for the mosaic are all in their natural colors.
BluPrint Architecture Visita Iglesia Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel
The statues of saints are also clad in shells, like this statue of St. Lorenzo Ruiz in a corner of the chapel.

The Virgen Sang Barangay Chapel

Address: Sta. Clara subdivision, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental

Parish established: 1983

Designed/built by: Architect Norman Campos and Leticia Sia-Ledesma

Defining features: Uses over a hundred thousand polished shells for its interior decoration

In Numbers

95,000 – Approximate number of shells used for the mural mosaic

100 – Hours it took for the men to polish all the shells

60 – Number of men it took to polish the shells

This first appeared in BluPrint Volume 1 2015. Edits were made for BluPrint online.

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