Moalboal was established as a parish in 1852 under the patronage of San Juan Nepomuceno. What you see here today is the façade of the old stone church that was built starting in 1852 and completed in 1890. The façade features bas reliefs of the tree of life on both sides of the main door. Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has requested that this façade be preserved.
Like other similar Augustinian structures built in the late 18th century in the archipelago, this church of Argao is an edifice of impressive dimensions.
This structure set in stone – called the San Miguel Arcangel Church – is 72 meters long, 16 meters wide, and 10 meters high.
With its vaulted wooden ceiling that covers a simple nave and a transept that gives it a cruciform shape, it is typical of other Spanish colonial churches in the Philippines.
Paul Gerschwiler, in his historical outline of Argao, described the construction as massive, with its “12 strong supporting buttresses reinforcing the walls and enhancing stability.”
The completion of this present-day church can be traced back to 1788, said the book Balaanong Bahandi, citing Archdiocesan records.
Although another historian, Pedro Galende, attributed the current structure to Fr. Mateo Perez, who served as parish priest for 33 straight years from 1803 to 1806, the date “1738” engraved above the arch of the church’s side door indicates it may have been completed during Fr. Francisco Espina’s time from 1782 to 1798, the book added.
Argao was one of eight vicarages established in 1599 and, while it became a town or mission pueblo as early as 1608, it was only set up as a parish over a hundred years later or in 1733, said the Balaanong Bahandi, adding the reason for this oversight was never adequately explained.
Originally, the San Miguel Arcangel Church had the typical Spanish clay tiles for its roof but this collapsed during the typhoon of November 25-26, 1876, wrote Gerschwiler, citing Argao native Msgr. Pablo Alcarez as saying the tiles were replaced with galvanized iron in 1924 due to fear of earthquakes.
The church facade is a horizontal rectangle topped by a triangular pediment and divided into nine panels, a style that can be found only in five of over 160 documented Augustinian churches and all of them built along the southeastern coast of Cebu, according to Gerschwiler.
What distinguishes the San Miguel Arcangel Church, he added, is the high artistic quality and symbolism of its masonry, although Augustinian records had failed to identify many of the master carver-artists behind the structure’s artistic ornamentation.
He noted that an example of such one-of-a-kind feature is the four pairs of half columns that run up to the pediment and divide the facade into three panels.
“On the first level the paired columns stand on rectangular pedestals. The two outer pedestals depict lions sitting on their hind legs, holding a ball in each of their paws; a very typical Chinese motif,” wrote Gerschwiler in his historical outline.
The two pedestals flanking the main door each depict a bird, with its head down and wings spread out protectively, nursing three of its young that cling to their mother’s breast, he added in his description.
Rich and elaborate ornamentation can be seen in the way the double cornices that horizontally divide the facade create an entablature when it intersects with Corinthian capitals richly decorated with floral motifs; atlante-angel carvings carry the paired half-columns running up to the pediment; a stylized peacock sits atop an orb; sequence of carvings of angels, fruits of the ivy, and a little snake run down the columns.
“In a cascade of motifs, the artist carved his message…(he) thought this particular message to be so important and essential that he repeated it with slight variations on all half-columns of the first level, no less than eight times,” Gerschwiler said.
Four of the nine panels in the front face are particularly prominent, including the central panel of the pediment where St. Michael the Archangel, armed with spear and shield, and flanked by two angels – one carrying his standard as light bearer and the other holding the Tuba Christi of the Last Judgement – is depicted.
Its massive front and side doors made of vertically joined hardwood planks are integrated with smaller semicircular doors and decorated evenly with bronze rosettes embedded on the wood.
The church, according to the Balaanong Bahandi, has been the recipient of Baroque and semi-Rococo embellishments like its wooden pulpit and its pipe organ in the choir loft reportedly brought in from Mexico.
A wooden retablo of majestic proportions dominates the altar section but this has unfortunately been unnecessarily gilded, including even the centuries-old life-size estofado statues of saints enthroned in its niches, added the book.
This church is built on an area that traces its founding back to the Spanish conquest over 400 years ago, to the time of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
The San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish Church served what was then the town of San Nicolas, also known as Cebu el Viejo or old Cebu, which was a settlement purely for Cebuano natives.
A separate but adjacent settlement up north was Villa San Miguel, the city set aside for the Spaniards, while farther away was Parian, where the Chinese populace resided and traded.
The very first San Nicolas church was built between 1787 and 1804 under the supervision of Fray Ambrosio Otero but this was destroyed by aerial bombing during World War II.
It was described as closely resembling the Sto. Niño church based on old photos of the structure and used to have a clay tile roof until the 1930s when this was replaced with galvanized iron sheets.
A statue of Fray Andres de Urdaneta resting on base with a tablet that proclaimed him as an “honorary parish priest” used to decorate the church patio.
Professor Julian Jumalon recalled that during his childhood days in the 1920s, the church, convent, and residential stone houses brought an air of solemnity and respectability to the neighborhood.
Since the structure was destroyed in the bombing runs conducted by the United States Americal Division on March 25, 1945, a makeshift chapel was built after the war to serve as temporary church.
The building of the present-day church, done through the efforts of the Knights of Columbus, happened during the time of Fr. Venerando Reynes who served as parish priest from 1942 to 1965.
His successor, Msgr. Manuel Salvador, added the left and right wings and replaced the wooden doors with iron grills.
Church benefactors donated the tile mosaic rendering done by local artist Fidel Araneta of the 12 apostles and Mary receiving the tongues of fire, which that now serves as backdrop of the main altar, and the stained glass renditions of the Stations of the Cross manufactured by a German firm.
The town of San Nicolas during the Spanish colonial era was much bigger than the current barangay and had its own Ayuntamiento or town council across its church. Its merger with Cebu City happened on April 18, 1901 through Act No. 10 of the Second Philippine Commission.
It was here that the Leon Kilat-led battle of Tres de April, credited for sparking the 1898 Revolution in Cebu, happened.
The founding of San Nicolas as a parish happened way back on May 16, 1584 with the establishment of a convent by the Augustinians with Fray Alonso Serrano as the first prior.
Dubbed the most prolific parish in Cebu, San Nicolas served as mother parish of the following parishes:
Sta. Catalina de Alexandria in Carcar, 1617
Nuestra Señora Virgen de la Regla in Lapu-Lapu City, 1711
San Francisco de Asis in Naga, 1829
Sta. Teresa de Avila in Talisay City, 1836
Sto. Tomas de Villanueva in El Pardo, Cebu City, 1933
Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu in Guadalupe, Cebu City, 1933
Our Lady or Lourdes in Punta Princesa, Cebu City, 1957
Sto. Niño in Pasil, Cebu City, 1970
Holy Cross Parish in Basak, Cebu City, 1976
Source: Balaanong Bahandi
Tile mosaic of 12 apostles and Mary is used as altar backdrop and serves as modern retablo
Stained glass renditions of Stations of the Cross can be found inside the church
Church interior is modern but still has old decorative corbels that probably date back to its early years
This towering structure, known as the church of the miraculous Señor Santo Niño de Cebu, blends Baroque, Muslim, and Romanesque architectural influences.
Cebu’s oldest church, given the honorific title “Basilica Minore” in 1965, retains some of the original stone texture and natural color it had in its 1730 construction.
Located right in the heart of downtown Cebu City, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño started out as a church of light materials established back in the mid-1500s, probably by Fr. Diego de Herrera, said Balaanong Bahandi, a book on the Sacred Treasures of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
When this early structure was destroyed by fire in 1566, another one was built to replace it in 1571. Ten years after that, the foundation of the first stone building, which took 27 years to finish only to be reduced to ashes on May 8, 1628, was laid.
Balaanong Bahandi credits the present coral stone church to the efforts of Fray Jose Bosqued in 1730, although its construction had to be stopped for lack of materials and was completed only in 1739 during the term of Fray Juan de Albarran.
The parishes of Opon and San Nicolas helped by contributing materials, and the people of Talisay and Pitalo provided molave wood floated down the seacoast using boats from Carcar and Argao. Coral stone blocks for the Basilica’s walls were quarried from Panay and Capiz.
On January 16, 1740, the image was enthroned in the newly completed Augustinian church which is built on the same spot where it was found by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and his men in 1565.
The Spaniards, led by Legazpi and Augustinian priest Andres de Urdaneta, called the image miraculous because it survived the fire that gutted that house where it was kept.
When the image was found, it was burnt so badly it was hardly recognizable and its survival was considered as nothing short of a miracle.
It is widely believed that the Santo Niño image is the same one given by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521, that same year when she, her husband Datu Humabon, and several of their followers where baptized into the Roman Catholic faith.
The church underwent renovation in 1789 and again after a hundred years, this time initiated by Fray Mateo Diez, to add windows to the facade.
In 1964, added the Cebu Archdiocese’s book Balaanong Bahandi, the Basilica was renovated in preparation for the 400th anniversary of the Christianization of the Philippines.
Today, the church draws devotees, churchgoers, tourists, pilgrims, and candle and other vendors.
As the church could not accommodate the growing number of people who come to hear mass in the Basilica, a pilgrim center was built within the church compound and priests officiate mass in the open-air, theater-like structure.
Candle vendors here are different in any other churches; in the basilica, they dance their prayers in that two-step-forward, one-step-backward rhythm called the “Sinug”.
This same rhythm is believed to have inspired the Sinulog dance, performed on Cebu City’s streets by various groups in the Sinulog Grand Parade held every third Sunday of January. The parade is one of the highlights of the weeklong celebration of the feast every third Sunday of January. One other highlight is the Saturday religious procession of the images of the Santo Niño and Cebu patron saint Lady of Guadalupe.
The Santo Niño image’s reputation as miraculous is buoyed by reports of basilica helpers that it sometimes goes out of its glass case to take long walks at night. They point to grass stains on the hem of its dress as evidence.
The stories are dismissed as superstition but they strengthened beliefs of devotees that the Santo Niño de Cebu, “Cebu’s holy child,” watches over Cebu.
Bas relief of Child Jesus standing victorious over sin is at second level of facade
Retablo is made up of a pantheon of Augustinian images in estofado sculpture, with top central image being a bas relief of the transverberation (piercing of the heart) of San Agustin
Carved at base of retablo is the Augustinian symbol
Choir loft screen is intricately carved and a German-made pipe organ installed in 1965 can be found at choir loft
Hardwood staircase with newel posts topped by fu dogs lead to monastery
Designed by a Spanish engineer-architect, the church of Pardo is probably the only one of its kind in Cebu that is of Byzantine influence.
Domingo de Escondrillas was commissioned to design the church by Fray Manuel Ybeas, who was parish priest from 1873 to 1893.
He chose a Byzantine style for the structure because he wanted it distinct from other churches, explained Fr. Pedro Galende in his book Philippine Church Facades, as cited in Balaanong Bahandi.
Whereas other Cebu churches built during the Spanish period are wider than they are tall, the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church rises from the ground up, an imposing fortress.
The structure’s belfry is located in the middle of its facade, unlike many other churches in Cebu, and is flanked by two cylindrical towers that are not as high.
Atop the belfry is a balustered balcony that offers breathtaking views of Cebu.
The Pardo church’s Byzantine influences can be seen in the domed roofs of the two towers and semi-circular headed windows and doors.
Church entrance is through an arched portico and emblazoned in low-relief above it is the symbol of the order of San Agustin, as it is described in the written record of the Cebu Archdiocese’s sacred treasures.
Finely-cut coral stones cover church walls of thick coral rubble mixed with lime mortar, and horizontal lines divide the facade into several horizontal segments, the book added.
The interiors of the church have been modernized but there are some elements retained from the original construction, according to the Balaanong Bahandi, adding it has five altar retablo, with each containing an image of a particular devotion.
An image of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva is enshrined in the main retablo, which has a ciborium or canopy, set amid four panels decorated with religious images.
Pardo or El Pardo started out as a visita of San Nicolas that was separated into an independent parish on April 10, 1866, Felipe Redondo wrote in a book published in 1886.
Its first parish priest was Fray Meliton Talegon.
Galende, another church writer, said Pardo was once a town formed by the merger of Bulacao, Inayawan, and Basak through a decree of the Governor General on March 10, 1863. It is now a barangay of Cebu City officially known as Poblacion Pardo.
According to Balaanong Bahandi, a bell with the inscription “SE HIZO ESTA CAMP. EL AÑO 1810, Siendo Mntro de Este Pueblo d. S. Nicolas Fr. Manuel Cordero” shows Pardo’s link with its mother parish.
The church is located on the national highway in Pardo.
Byzantine influences can be seen in the domed roofs of the two towers and semi-circular headed windows and doors
Belfry is integrated in the middle of the facade and is flanked by two cylindrical towers with domed roofs
Semi-circular arches on the visible bottom part of the belfry are covered with paired columns and different-sized oculae
Before you now stands a strong and regal church, with its squat form and thick walls and trefoil-shaped pediment decorated with carvings of phoenixes, leaves and flowers, clamshell medallion, and images of two saints.
The Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, as it is called, is a fitting ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
It didn’t always look this way, though.
For years, it was in various states of disrepair, historian Resil B. Mojares wrote in his book “Casa Gorordo in Cebu, Urban Residence in a Philippine Province.”
The church was established as the seat of the Bishop when Cebu became one of the suffragan dioceses of or dioceses overseen by the Archdiocese of Manila on August 14, 1595 and, like others built during the period, started out as a structure of wood and nipa, according to the “Balaanong Bahandi, a book on the Sacred Treasures of the Archdiocese of Cebu.”
Church in ruins
In 1665, when Fray Juan Lopez took over, and up to 1741, there was still no decent church, only a tabique barn covered with palm leaves, said Mojares, adding that one was substantially finished in 1786 but by 1829 it was in ruins.
A renovation in 1865 was not completed and plans to build another by Bishop Martin Garcia Alcocer, Cebu’s last Spanish bishop, were overtaken by the 1898 revolution.
According to the Balaanong Bahandi, a stone church was successfully completed during the latter part of first Cebuano Bishop Juan Bautista Gorordo’s term from 1862 to 1934.
This structure was renovated by Gorordo’s successor, Archbishop Gabriel Reyes, and consecrated in 1940 but it was destroyed by American bombings during World War II and all that remained of it was the facade.
It was not clear what year he saw the Cathedral but Felipe Redondo, in a book published in 1886, described the church as having thick and strong walls made of mamposteria (rubblework) of three yards in thickness with a cross vault measuring 75.91 meters.
He said the roofing was made of clay tiles and there was a spacious sacristy where paintings of the Bishops of the Diocese were kept, a wide ante-sacristy with a room on the upper portion for religious vessels, and a 28 meters-high, three-level belfry made of mamposteria and decorated with a clock.
When Cebu Archbishop emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal was appointed parish priest of the Cathedral in 1981, it was already the current structure minus the two side extensions.
“When I came, the structure was narrow. It was just the middle part of the current church and could only accommodate 200,” he explained.
The cardinal recalled asking the National Historical Commission in 1990 for permission to expand the church and being told he could go to prison if he would touch any part of the structure.
Cardinal Vidal said they were preparing to celebrate Cebu’s 400th anniversary as a diocese in 1995 and he didn’t have any choice but to renovate the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.
“On its side near the belfry, the structure had a little side extension for baptistry services. There was nothing on the other side. It had no symmetry,” he explained, adding he had the architecture of the original structure followed in the construction of the sides.
Aside from the new exterior paint, other changes he introduced include the construction of another level as a meeting place of the clergy, addition of a pipe organ from Holland costing only P3 million, and improvement of the plaza in front of the church.
“After finishing the renovation, nobody could tell me that I didn’t do anything here to meet the growing needs of the diocese,” Cardinal Vidal pointed out.
The Cathedral, under the leadership of newly appointed parish priest Msgr. Roberto Alesna, underwent another renovation in 2009 in preparation for the opening salvo marking the Diamond Jubilee of Cebu as an Archdiocese.
Improvement involved the redevelopment of the perimeter sidewalk of the plaza, restoration of 19th century fence, creation of new courtyard, and putting in of a 21-bell digital carillon that incorporated three old ones. A big clock was installed at the belfry.
Changes to the main church structure included the installation of a new wooden retablo made of Philippine mahogany and a fresh coat of interior paint to match it and two other wooden retablos flanking the main one, replacement of new chandeliers and lamps, new wooden canopy above the cathedra or the seat of the Archbishop, refurnishing of pews, repair of pipe organ, putting in of three air-conditioned confessional boxes and new stained glass windows, upgrading and rewiring of electrical lines, and all-steel retrofitting of wooden trusses infested with termites.
Titular names of the Cathedral since its establishment in 1595
Guardian Angels (Angeles Custodios)
Patron of the City the glorious martyr San Vidal
Source: Felipe Redondo, 1886
Cathedral is of Baroque-Rococo style. Its pediment shape is trefoil and decorated with carved reliefs of:
Phoenixes (Chinese influences)
Images of San Pedro and San Pablo
Clamshell medallion of the Most Holy Name of Jesus
Two fu dogs (a Chinese symbol) guard the Cathedral’s main doors
Source: Balaanong Bahandi
Main Cathedral retablo
Initials “JHS” of the Most Holy Name of Jesus is at topmost part or retablo
Center niche features old crucifix that once hang in the ceiling of transept in 1960s with the tabernacle at the bottom
Right niche enshrines statue of San Pedro Calungsod
Left niche carries statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz
Right and left retablos: Retablo at epistle side
At center is the image of Inmaculada Concepcion, at the top is San Jose, to the left is San Antonio de Padua, and right is San Antonio de Padua
Retablo at gospel side or “martyrs’ retablo”
At center is bas relief depicting martyrdom of San Vidal, top is image of his wife Sta. Valeria, to the right and left are statues of San Vidal’s sins San Protacio and San Gervacio
In the beginning, Cebu’s archbishop did not have a permanent home.
The idea to build this Archbishop’s Residence on D. Jakosalem St. in Cebu City started with Cebu’s first Filipino archbishop, Gabriel M. Reyes.
On April 28, 1936 or two years after Reyes took over the leadership of the Cebu Diocese from Fr. Juan Gorordo, the first Cebuano bishop, it was elevated into an Archdiocese.
Reyes had to make do with spartan lodgings made of wood behind the Sacred Heart Church, recalls Monsignor Achilles Dakay. Bishop Gorordo had lived at the house across the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, in the very spot where the Patria de Cebu is now located, but it was destroyed during the Second World War.
“He said the archbishop deserves a better place, a better car. At that time, there were only three with nice cars. He had a different view of things but he was also a very humble man,” adds Dakay, who for years was the Cebu church’s spokesman.
Dakay, the longest resident of what is popularly known as the Archbishop’s Palace in Cebu, said it was Cardinal Julio Rosales, however, who first lived here in 1950. While Cebuanos refer to this place as Archbishop’s Palace, Dakay said its official name is Archbishop’s Residence.
In the beginning, there was only this one structure, says Dakay, and it has hosted a pope, Philippine presidents, and other world leaders.
On March 16, 1957, President Ramon Magsaysay stopped by to pray in the chapel about eight hours before he died when his plane crashed at Mt. Manunggal in Cebu.
Pope John Paul II, meanwhile, slept in one of the rooms of the Archbishop’s Residence when he visited Cebu on February 19 and 20, 1981 and it has become a shrine in his honor.
Worthy of note is the white sofa the Pope used during his stay that is still at the Archbishop’s Residence today. Dakay says this sofa was given by the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) to Cardinal Rosales in 1980 specifically for the Pope’s use.
The Archbishop’s Residence is a two-level structure which has five rooms on the second floor and three below. It has also its own chapel.
Msgr. Dakay, who remembers interesting anecdotes about the visit, reveals that the Pope blessed the second structure at the Archbishop’s Residence known as “Mi Retiro” that was supposed to have been the retirement house of Cardinal Rosales.
Dakay has lived at the Archbishop’s Residence since 1984, when Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal took him in from ALU where he was chaplain, and continues to reside here.
Location: 234 D. Jakosalem St., Cebu City (PO Box 52)
Tel: press to call (032) 2540951, 2533382
Fax: (032) 2554458
His Holiness Pope John Paul stayed at Archbishop’s Residence when he visited Cebu on February 19 and 20, 1981.
Sculptor Ismael A. Gulane created monument to commemorate Pope’s visit and it was unveiled then Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and His Excellency Bruno Torpigliani, the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines on September 17, 1981.
Cardinal Vidal took over as Archbishop of Cebu when Rosales died of cancer on June 2, 1983. Before that or in 1981, he was appointed parish priest of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.
Dakay narrates that within the compound is a plaque containing the names of the engineers who built the Archbishop’s Residence.
It also hosts a statue of Pope John Paul that was ordered made after his 1981 visit by Msgr. Virgilio Yap. Other structures within the Residence grounds include the Centennial House and Spiritual Pastoral Formation Year or SPFY seminary.
Since the devotion to her started in Africa, this church’s patron – the Patroness of the Rule of St. Augustine – has been depicted as dark-skinned.
Lucy Urgello Miller, in “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Images of the Colonial Era,” wrote that this church’s first parish priest way back in 1735 brought with him an original painting of the Nuestra Señora Virgen de Regla from Africa.
The priest – Augustinian friar Francis Avalle – used this painting to teach people about her and as basis for the religious icon of the Patroness of the Rule that he commissioned also in 1735.
Both objects are housed at a special room at the back of the church where devotees line up to kiss or touch the Virgen as part of a “panaad” or devotion. Devotees usually come in throngs during the Lapu-Lapu City fiesta on November 21 or days leading up to or after this date.
Fr. Stephen Cuyos, who was assistant priest at the parish in the early 21st century, wrote in his blog stephencuyos.com that the devotion to the Patroness of the Rule originated with St. Augustine who hand-carved the first image of the Virgen de Regla.
He said he learned during his research into the parish’s patron that she got the name Virgen de Regla, which means Lady of the Rule, because St. Augustine dedicated to her the reglas or rules he created for members of his order to follow. Professor Jobers Bersales, an archaeologist and writer, said that although many people refer to the patroness as Virgen de la Regla, the correct name is actually Virgen de Regla.
Miller described this church, built between 1735 and 1744, as having a pathway of coral blocks that led to the sea during the early days. The structure is near Muelle Osmeña, a Spanish structure that now serves as docking area for passenger ferries plying the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Cebu.
Originally built from coral blocks, Miller added, this church was damaged but not badly during World War II and repairs brought it back to its original condition. It would have been among the oldest churches in the country if Dutch priests assigned there in 1960 had not decided to tear it down and build a new one in its place. They spared the nearby convent built in 1885 that is connected to the church to an arched gateway.
She also said that the Dutch priests sold off the church’s coral blocks and later its altar to the University of San Carlos museum.
Fr. Cuyos said Opon started out as a visita of San Nicolas and was elevated to parish status in the 1730’s.
The chapel you are standing in front of is but a faint reminder of an opulent past.
The San Juan Bautista chapel stands on the ruins of the San Juan Bautista Parish Church, which historians described as the most opulent in Cebu in its time.
The church “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas,” according to Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon: An Annotated Translation of the 1935 History of Cebu by Fe Susan Go. It was built in 1602.
“The church was made of stone blocks, plastered together in a mixture of lime and the sap of the lawat tree. The roofs were made of tiles, and the lumber used was molave, balayong and naga. The paraphernalia used in the mass was made purely of gold, the pews were carved by a sculptor of the Parian, the altars were covered with stone slabs with money and gold inlaid, and the church bells were big and loud. The tolling of these bells was so loud that it could be heard as far as Hilotungan ang the town of Talisay,” Go said in her translation, which was submitted as thesis to the University of San Carlos.
“The Augustinian friars upon seeing the magnificence of the church of the Parian, got envious, and employed every shrewd means they could think of to take over the Parian church,” Go said.
Fr. Rafael Vasquez, a Parianon, however, fought back and kept the friars at bay.
Go said in one of her footnotes that Augustinian Fr. Santos Gomez Marañon filed a petition “to have the Parian parish supressed and incorporated into the Cathedral.”
Go said, “Many reasons for this request were given, but it definitely had the earmarks of a direct challenge against the dominance of the Chinese mestizo community of Parian and their elaborate church, which far outshone the cathedral.”
Through the years, however, the rivalry with Spanish friars continued with succeeding priests and capitans of the Parian gremio.
During the time of Don Pedro Rubi as Parian captain, the bishop ordered that masses be held at the church only on Sundays.
During the time of Don Maximo Borromeo as captain, the bishop “removed the right of the Visayas priests to officiate mass in the Parian Church.”
“In retaliation the residents of the Parian decided to make use of the school across from the church and converted it into a chapel where the parish priest of Parian could officiate the mass.”
In 1875, Dionisio Alo, known as Capitan Isyo, became capitan of the Parian gremio. With the San Juan Bautista fiesta in June approaching, Capitan Isyo called for a meeting to discuss preparations. The fiesta was a big affair in the area with most Parian residents spending “as much as three thousand pesos” for the celebration.
Capitan Isyo also wanted to discuss who would replace their parish priest, the Ilonggo Fr. Anselmo “Pari Imoy” Albanceña, who died in December 1874. The replacement would be celebrating the fiesta mass.
Fr. Tomas de la Concepcion, the parish priest of the cathedral, told the group “to request the bishop to appoint a white priest.” De la Concepcion said there was no Filipino priest capable of being named to the post.
Capitan Isyo, however, strongly disagreed and shouted at a cabeza de barangay who agreed with the suggestion.
“At that instance, a quarrel broke out between the two. While Capitan Isyo used his prerogatives as head of the mestizo gremio, Padre Tomas also made use of his power as representative of the Bishop in order to force Capitan Isyo to yield and accept (a) white priest as their parish and spiritual guide.”
The heated and bitter exchange ended with the two deciding not to hold a mass for the fiesta or even holding any celebrations.
Followers of Capitan Isyo feared he would be excommunicated and tried to change his mind but the nationalist community leader just told them, “I would prefer that the church be destroyed rather than have a friar in it.”
Fr. Tomas kept a grudge against Parian and “boasted to his priestly friends, especially the friars, that he was obsessed with the complete destruction of the Parian church.”
When Fr. Tomas reported the incident to the bishop, including Capitan Isyo’s declaration that he would rather have the church destroyed than have a white priest in it, the bishop felt insulted.
On June 24, 1875, the bishop forbade the parish priest from saying mass in the Parian church. The community’s fiesta celebration was also overseen by the Cathedral parish priest. Capitan Isyo could not do anything and his enemies made sure he would keep his post so that they could exact their revenge. They told residents that the capitan was to blame for what happened in Parian.
The bishop then ordered a Spanish engineer to check the durability of the Parian church. The engineer later informed the governor that the materials used to build the church were weak and the structure, including the stone wall that surrounded it, should be torn down.
Date of destruction
The governor of Cebu then ordered the destruction of the church. He also ordered the bishop to take possession of everything inside the church, including its statues and bells.
While Ang Sugbo Sa Karaang Panahon listed the destruction of the church as having occurred in 1875-1876, Go said “the actual destruction of the church seems to have taken place in late 1878 or 1879.
According to information printed on a photograph found at the Cebuano Studies Center in the University of San Carlos, “the convent of the church was spared and was used later during the American regime as a public library and a fire station.”
This article is part of a project on tourism and heritage supported by Smart Communications, Inc., the country’s telecommunications leader.