A Dominican saint’s home in Pangasinan

Early Philippine churches were built of native materials such as bamboo, wood and nipa before they were constructed using sturdier materials such as stone, bricks and hardwood. However, the tradition of building houses of worship using native materials prevail to this day, particularly chapels in far-flung areas, where these materials are readily available, or in places where using these are the owner’s preference.

Some examples are the Chapel of the Cartwheels (wood and cartwheels) of the Gaston family in Manapla, Negros Occidental, and the quaint chapel of wooden planks located in the highland barangay of Lunotan in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental. Another interesting example is the one located in the barangay of Lilimasan in San Carlos City, Pangasinan.

After attending the solemn religious declaration of the Church of Santo Domingo in the city as a Minor Basilica, this writer and artist Ed Lantin visited the said village on a Volkwagen buggy driven by their local host Sidney Soriano for the purpose of touring the said edifice.

The barangay’s chapel, dedicated to Saint Francis Gil de Frederich, sits on a property donated by Soriano’s father, the nonagenarian Inocencio, a retired United States Navy personnel.

What makes this structure unique is the use of buri (Corypha utan) lumber and bark, an unusual construction material. It is possibly the only one of its kind in Pangasinan or possibly even in the country that generously once utilized buri in construction.

Properly treated, the buri materials were used in the chapel’s walls, beams, pews (with mahogany wood), backdrop of the main altar image that is a Crucified Christ, priest’s chair, base of the tabernacle and lighting fixtures. The lectern and candelabra are of madre de cacao (Gliricidia sepium) while the altar table is of mahogany.

ALTAR Centerpiece
Priest’s Chair

The chapel has a tropical feel with wide arched windows and walls and pews made from slats of buri lumber to allow air to circulate.

Pews made of buri and wood.
Wide windows of the chepel

The idea of building it came from the older Soriano with the younger Soriano, a former priest, assisting in its construction, design and layout.

Across it is the concrete convent where the chaplain resides.


An older austere chapel, dedicated to Saint Camillus, existed in the same area from 2010 to 2014 when a new chapel of buri was built.

In 2021, the small chapel was extended to accommodate more people with the extended part identifiable due to the difference in tile patterns on the floor.

Its facade features seven sculptural images of the archangels with the pediment topped by a wooden cross made from yakal that used to be part of a post of an old house in the city.

The following year, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas changed the patron of the chapel from Saint Camillus to Saint Francis Gil de Frederich, making it a chaplaincy under the said Dominican saint.

Fr. Frederich, OP

This move is all but fitting since Frederich served as an assistant parish priest of then Binalatongan, the old name of San Carlos, from 1731 to 1733.

Frederich was born in Tortosa, Spain, in 1702; arrived in the Philippines as a priest in 1730; and was assigned in the Dominican missions in Pangasinan.  He was then assigned to Tonkin in Vietnam where he was arrested and jailed for a long period of time due to the then persecution of Christians in that country. In 1745, he was beheaded in Thang Long in Hanoi and died a martyr.

In 1906, he was beatified by Pope Pius X (now saint) and canonized by Pope John Paul II (also now a saint) in 1988.

Statue of Saint Francis Gil de Frederich.