They were going to Atimonan Town for the market and I made sure I go along. Even though I’ve been in Atimonan numerous times, I don’t remember ever visiting the town proper. Barangay Buhangin is just an easy 10-15minutes drive. If coming from the zig-zag or the new diversion road, it’s just left before heading to the main road to Bicol. We got into the narrow roads of the town and headed straight to the market to find a place to park. While the relatives do the shopping, we went to the Parish Church, the center of the town.
There are several versions on how this seaside town got its name. First it was said that the name came from a now extinct Atimon tree that used to grow abundantly in the area. Second is from the word Atin Muna, which for the townsfolk signify unity to ward-off invading enemies at the time of pirates and marauders. The most popular is that it came from Simeona Mangaba, the eldest sister of the first town caption who the townsfolk call Ate Monang. She also founded the town on February 4, 1608.
Whichever version is true on how the name came to be, Atimonan, now, is a small yet bustling and clean town full of friendly people. And at the center of it all is their Parish Church which was originally built in 1640. A fire during an invasion burned it down and had to be rebuilt by 1642. Another fire devastated half the church later. During the second world war, bombs also leveled the the town to the ground which included the church. The town only started renovation again in 1979.
The church and the plaza in front of it actually looks very nice. It’s like a small piece of Europe in that part of Atimonan town. The only ATM in town is from PNB which is inside the church wall grounds. I spoke to one of the watchers on the nearby eatery there, Melchor, who is also active in the church renovation. He said that the plaza is new and the church is still ongoing renovations. Sadly the only part that survived the fires and the bombing is the side of the church.
Despite most of the church structure is new, I find the church interiors and altar real lovely. I bet a lot of people would hold their marriage vows here. Melchor also opened up the mini-museum for us. It’s just a small room with a collection of religious relics. Also surprising are the numerous photos they have gathered showing how the church looked before it was damaged. Turns out that the bell tower reaches up to twice the height of the church. Now it only raises above the roof covered by a steel dome. Melchor did assure they have plans on fixing up the belfry again.
And just across the street facing the church is another interesting structure which they call the Iskong Bantay Watchtower. The Spaniards built this to keep watch of pirates coming from Lamon Bay its just a small watchtower now eclipsed by the nearby houses. It used to have a steel roof on top but the recent storm blew them away. But what surprised me was that this watchtower used to be owned by the Ricaforts which are our close relatives in Quezon. They had to sell it to the bank when they needed money.
There are actually some other interesting spots in town as well like the old Catholic Church Cemetery and a few riverside parks. Atimonan has always been that town that people pass by when heading down south to Bicol, but if you stop here for a while, there’s a lot to discover as I did.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.