Northern Samar is one of the Philippines’ 10 poorest provinces. About 65 percent of its entire population live in the rural areas. Pambujan is a rural fourth-class municipality in this province with a population of 32,000. Lacking a proper hospital, in 2009, the Diocese of Catarman, Northern Samar, appealed to the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica’s Priory for assistance in building a mission hospital.
Inside the hospital courtyard is a small chapel for the worship and prayers of patients and sisters. The Chapel is formed by folding planes that come together as if folded in prayer. As praying hands or a kneeling figure, this abstract form creates a hopeful seeking mood appropriate to the setting. A form that is in fact inspired by the roofs of nearby houses, the Chapel is a familiar space to the locals made intriguing by an unfamiliar scale.
The Chapel Roof becomes the walls. Roof and wall are one, and the whole structure is in fact one continuous mass. The wall planes are made of treated abaca fibers called ‘”almacan” wrapped around a lightweight steel structure. The structure itself is a sculptural skeleton of relatively soaring proportions. It rises at the center and tapers to its four corners reaching out to the edges of the courtyard. The entry portal as well as the back of the altar are bordered by a pair of stained glass windows, creating a mirrored imagery between entry and ascension.
As a vital part of every church in this religiously devout Catholic country, the chapel serves as the heart of the entire compound and it is around this prostrate form that the daily activities of the hospital goes on. And as one goes through the hospital or even as one arrives, one will always see the sleek wooden cross at the pinnacle held up high by the praying hands of the chapel.