Dionisio Alo, the town leader, stood seething with anger as authorities tore down the magnificent San Juan Bautista Parish Church in Parian in the late 1870s.
“His heart bled with every stone that was removed and all he could do was bite his lips causing them to also bleed,” said Ang Sugbo sa Karaang Panahon/ Cebu of the Past: An Annotated Translation of the 1935 History of Cebu by Fe Susan Go.
The destruction of what had been described in various historical sources as the most magnificent church in Cebu was the end of centuries of struggle between the local mestizo community and the Spanish friars who wanted control over the structure.
The Parian church, according to Go’s translation, “has never been surpassed by any other church that has been built in Cebu, such as the Cathedral, the Seminary and San Nicolas.” It was built in 1602.
“The Augustinian friars (who were based in their nearby parish that is now known as the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral) 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,” the thesis said.
It is a fantastic story worthy of cinema, and until lately, suppressed from memory because it centers on church jealousy and rivalry within its ranks.
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.” The fire station remains to this day, a paltry ghost of an opulent past.