Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 5): The Mysterious Church of Lilo-an

Legend says that in a place called Silot, there is whirlpool created by the flow of the water in and out of the bay. Lilo is the Cebuano word for whirlpool thus the town which surrounds Silot Bay is now called as Lilo-an, which means a place where there’s a lilo.

I thought that that legend is all there is. There is nothing mysterious about a bay with a whirlpool. I even mused that the Bagacay Point Lighthouse was erected by the Spaniards to warn galleons of the whirlpool in the area.

However, everything turned bizarre when I researched about the old church in Lilo-an. The legend of the whirlpool, it turned out, has a deeper mystery and the old church is at the center of it.

San Fernando Rey Parish Church in Lilo-an, Cebu

The church of Lilo-an was built in 1847, which is two years after the establishment of the town as a new parish.

Lilo-an Church is unique because it was built not facing the sea. All of the churches in Cebu built during the Spanish Era are facing the sea like the churches in Danao City, the Cebu Cathedral, and the Minor Basilica of Santo Niño.

Door of Lilo-an Church in Cebu

Many speculated that the church was built not facing the sea to avoid the heat of the sun during morning masses. Another speculation was that the church was built towards the direction of Spain, which is the home of the town’s patron saint.

Piratical attacks by Moros is a common narrative in the early history of old towns in the Visayas. These Moro pirates raided Christian settlements, looted and destroyed churches, and enslaved their victims. The piracy was so severe that it lasted all throughout the Spanish Era. It was estimated that pirates enslaved around 500 people every year.

It is not surprising then why the people of Lilo-an chose San Fernando Rey as their town’s patron saint and intercessor.

Ferdinand III of Castilia
San Fernando Rey (painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo).

San Fernando Rey, officially known as Ferdinand III, is the king of Castilia from 1230 to 1252. He initiated the Reconquista, which is a military and diplomatic campaign against the Islamic caliphate in Southern Spain. His Reconquista was so successful that he liberated the whole of Spain from Muslim invaders.

Inside Lilo-an Church (Lilo-an, Cebu)

The church’s interior is quite simple. It is not as grand as the Minor Basilica of Santo Niño. Its ceiling is bare. The walls are bare. Even the altar is almost bare save for the tabernacle, the holy table, and the lone image of San Fernando Rey.

Altar of Lilo-an Church (Lilo-an, Cebu)

Don’t let the simplicity of the altar fool you because, according to a legend, the altar wall is hiding a secret entrance to an underground cave. It is believed that the secret cave runs under the foundation of the church and has an opening to the channel connecting Silot Bay and the sea. They say that if you will feel that the ground is hollow if your jump in the area behind the church.

Bell tower of Lilo-an Church in Cebu

If I just knew about this secret during my last visit to Lilo-an then I will make sure to jump like a fool behind Lilo-an Church. I might even try to locate the said mysterious cave entrance.

ImmortalUndead and Swerver of Liloan Trippers investigated the mystery of Lilo-an Church but they got inconclusive information. They even interviewed the parish priest but they failed to get an authoritative answer.

Legend also said that the underground cave is inhabited by a mysterious creature. Some said that the cave is inhabited by a kugtong. Others say it’s a giant squid. A few says it’s a mermaid. I say it’s the Loch Ness Monster.

Kugtong is a lapu-lapu that grew to a size of a car. Apparently, this fish is not mysterious since some fishermen of Antique caught one last year.

Silot Bay in Lilo-an, Cebu
Channel of Silot Bay where the lilo is said to occur.

Whatever it is, people blame the mysterious creature for the drowning of many people in Silot Bay. They say that this creature creates the lilo whenever it opens its mouth to suck in its victims.

If the legend is true then Lilo-an Church’s mysterious creature is older than the town itself!


Read more about my latest adventure in Cebu:

Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 17): A Great View of Cebu City from Tops Busay
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 16): A Taste of Mandarin in Cebu City
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 15): Taboan the Pasalubong Center of Cebu City
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 14) – My Accidental Visit to Mt. Carmel Church
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 13): Another Visit to the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 12): Why Cebuanos Call Mama Mary as Birhen sa Regla?
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 11): Sto. Niño Basilica - Mother and Head of All Churches of the Philippine Islands
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 10): A Visit to the Fake(?) Magellan’s Cross
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 9): The Story of Rajah Humabon - King of Cebu
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 8): Calle Colon, the Oldest Street in the Philippines
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 7): The Worst Cebu Hotel
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 6): The Colorful Lighthouse of Lilo-an
Laag-Laag sa Cebu (Part 4): Bagacay Point Lighthouse


Leave a comment with Facebook or regular comment box below.


  1. I really like the simplicity of its interior but the story about that mysterious creature is way more intriguing ... thanks for sharing Ish (sorry ngayon lang ulit ako nakabisita :( )

    1. Yeah. Sana nga at nakita ko yung monster para maging viral yung post ko. :-P

  2. One look inside the church and it takes my breath away. Beautiful!!! Love portrait too.

  3. I love reading historical stories like this. And the architecture of the buildings before are just so admirable. Standing the test of time. Yeah, the interior looks simple compared to other churches but it's okay. I think the important thing is that people come to nourish their faith.

    Buti na lang nd pa tayo around during their time. Imagine being a slave in your own country.


Comments are very much welcome. However, I reserve the right to delete comments that contains spam.

Also drop by my other blog: Ahab Reviews and Tips - my tips and reviews blog.