Facts About the Biggest Bell in Asia

Facts about the biggest bell in Asia; where it can be found, how big and heavy it is, and what it's made of.

Last Wednesday, my family and I had the opportunity to see the biggest bell in Asia. It is located in Pan-ay, a town in Capiz, just 12 kilometers away from the beautiful town of Roxas. Pan-ay is part of the 3rd leg of our journey by automobile around Panay Island in Western Visayas, the Philippines.

While facing Sta. Monica church, a big cement replica of the bell can be found at the right side. We initially thought it was the real bell but a guide approached us asking if we'd like to see dakong lingganay (local name for "big bell"). We affirmed our intention and he ushered us to the right entrance to the old church, once made mainly of coral stones. We waited briefly for some tourists who were ahead of us by a few minutes to get down the narrow stairway.

The Church That Houses the Bell

The tower which houses the functional bell can be accessed through a 63-step iron stairway inside the tower of Sta. Monica church, located at the heart of the town. It used to be made of wood but through time, the wooden stairs became treacherous as termites weakened it.

Upon reaching the dome, a visitor will get to see not only a single bell but actually a collection of nine different bell sizes. The biggest bell at the center of the dome was built out of 70 sacks of coins donated by the townspeople 132 years ago. The lower denomination coins at that time were made of either copper or bronze so the bell would probably be made of both metals. Upon completion in 1878, the bell weighed a whooping 10.4 tons! Two or three people can get inside the two-meter diameter bell for picture taking (just make sure there's no earthquake as you might get trapped inside). In order to suspend the bell, large iron chains and bars hold it in place, replacing the original wooden framework. 

suspension

The large bell is suspended by rusty iron bars and chains securely wrapped around a cement beam supporting the original wooden frame.

How the Bell was Made and Bell Inscriptions

Inscribed on the bell in relief are the following Spanish words "SE FUNDIO ESTA CAMPANA EN ESTE PUEBLO POR D. J. REYNA PARA LA GLORIA DE DIOS Y DE LA VIRGEN DE CONSOLACION SIENDO CURA PARROCO DEL MISMO EL P. F. JOSE BELOSO." Near the rim are the words "PANAY 21 DE DICIEMBRE DE 1878 F. JOSE BELOSO." These inscriptions noted the day the bell was finally completed under the parish priest Fr. Jose Beloso. The bell was created through the town's metal caster and smith at that time, Don Juan Reyna who incidentally was also the town's dentist. At the other side is written "SOY LA VOZ DE DIOS QUE LLEVARE Y ENSALZARE DESDE EL PRINCIPIO HASTA EL VIR DE ESTE PUEBLO DE PANAY PARA QUE LOS FIELES DE JESUCRISTO VENGAN A ESTA CASA." Translated in English, this means “I am God’s voice which shall echo praise from one end of the town of Pan-ay to the other, so that Christ’s faithful followers may enter this house of God to receive heavenly graces.”

 bell other side

The large bell with inscriptions written on it.

Bell Functions

The bell not only functions as a reminder to worship but also as a warning for towns people to take shelter in it during those times that the town was under pirate attack. According to the guide, the bell can be heard at within a radius of 8 kilometers. The church is also remarkably large and strong to weather pirate attacks.

Sta Monica church thick walls

The large and strong Baroque church and its thick walls.

Tourists from other parts of the country or abroad can visit the place by first taking a flight from their point of origin to Roxas City airport. From there, it will take only about 15 minutes to reach Pan-ay. Be sure to bring your camera and a measuring scale if you want to be precise about measurements.

Reference

Sario, R. B., 2008. Pan-ay Bell – The Biggest Church Bell in Asia. Retrieved on May 30, 2010 at http://capiznon.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/pan-ay-bell-the-biggest-church-bell-in-asia/.

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