Monday, July 16, 2007

40. Pampanga’s Churches: SAN AGUSTIN, Lubao

UPON THIS ROCK. The baroque-style retablo mayor of San Agustin Church all lit up and bedecked with flowers for the town fiesta. Dated 5 May 1963.

Last 24 June 2002, the neo-classic San Agustin Church of Lubao came to national attention when it was used as a venue for the fairytale wedding of First Son, Mikey Macapagal-Arroyo and Angela Montenegro. It was a fitting choice as the historic church was also where Mikey’s grandfather and most well-known Lubeño, the late President Diosdado Macapagal was baptized. The church was spruced up with a new coat of cream colored paint, temporary airconditioning, extended altar flooring and even restrooms.

Lubao is one of Pampanga’s most ancient towns; located at the left bank of the Lubao (or Pasac) River, it was accepted as a visita of Tondo by the Augustinians on 3 May 1572. Three years later, Fr. Provincial Alfonso Alvarado was delegated to take care of the convento of San Agustin. Fr. Juan Gallegos was assigned as a resident priest. He must have constructed a church of light materials in sitio Sapang Pari, the landing place of Augustinian missionaries who sailed to Pampanga via Manila Bay.

Another source points to Fr. Francisco Coronel as the founder of the town in its present site, but he worked in the area for just a year and never returned to Lubao after being assigned to Bacolor. Subsequent construction were undertaken by Fr. Jeronimo de Venaque (1335) and Fr. Francisco Figueroa (1638). Damaged by an earthquake in 1645, the church continued its operations rent-free. The Augustinian Chapter of 1729 appropriated 500 pesos for the erection of a convent, with Fr. Vicente Ibarra as the prior. The convent was used by transfer students of arts and theology from the Estudio de Manila due to the British Invasion of 1762.

Lubao was to become a strategic missionary center. At one point, Betis and Sasmuan were annexed as visitas of the town. With the establishment of a grammar school and a printing press there, the town culture likewise flourished.

Early descriptions of the San Agustin Church, made of fine bricks and with large proportions, showed it to be “one of the most sumptuous in the islands”. An 1829 document reveals that the church “is constructed with masonry stone and bricks, very massive and big in size”. Some repair work were done under Fr. Antonio Bravo in 1893 and the interior murals depicting the life of San Agustin were most likely commissioned by Fr. Antonio Moradillo in 1893. The nave was originally painted by Italian artists, Dibella and Alberoni. Filipino revolutionaries occupied the buildings in 1898, which suffered more damages at the height of World War 2.

San Agustin Church is a remarkable example of 17th century Philippine architecture, characterized by classic lines and a solid stance. A triangular pediment and Ionic columns dominate the façade of the church. Inside, the retablo mayor, carved with florid baroque design, is flanked by doubled pilasters on the 1st level and single columns on the 2nd level. Carved ornamentation is kept at a minimum, creating a sense of quiet and simplicity, typical of Neo-classic renderings. The main niche features a wooden likeness of San Agustin, with a staff and a small church in hand, symbolic of his being a doctor of the Church. The only thing that mars the beauty of the altar is the modern blue neon lighting that has been installed to frame the central niche, an anachronistic feature for the centuries-old building. Nevertheless, the San Agustin Church is a rare monument to God around which the deep devotion of many generations of Kapampangans continue to revolve.
(22 March 2003)


sarahmallaribucu said...

my name is sarah mallari bucu,born and raised in Lubao.i was just wondering where you got the picture of the "ding cayanacan king calealdo"(sorry but am not god when writing in kapampangan)i was just asking because i come from the musically gifted family of the Mallaris where the Lumanogs came from as well. In fact, my father, Diosdado Mallari played in the zarzuela with Rogelio dela Rosa as his grandfather, Jaime as his uncle and President Diosdado Macapagal as his father.He also told me that his first wife,(forgot the name if it was Purita)also starred there.Dad was a childhood friend of Joselito dela Rosa, the boy who fell off from the San Agustin's bellfry where he used to go with him before. The young Joselito wanted him to go up the bellfry because Rogelio was there for a is kind of sad because all my kids went to Lubao Central Elem School, where the Macapagal Arroyos vote during elections. And on that Main Room where programs were usually held are pictures about the Kapampangans and its culture.The Zarzuela was mentioned but my Dad's name is not there. kind of sad though, considering he also is part of the main cast.Ladislao Lumanog, also a famed musician who also is a family friend who plays the saxopohone was mentioned but not my Dad who is famous for playing his trumpet.I hope there is a way to correct that error.I also would like to share some stories about Lubao.Your blog is great.My daughter who loves history was the one who visited it first.And hope there will be more blogs to come.

alex r. castro said...

Hi, I got it from a dealer who specializes in old photos. The story of your father must be written, as he is a leading zarzuelista of his time. These oral histories that you know should be written down so that the next generation of Kapampangans will not forget them as they are not only part of our story but are also inspiring. Thanks for visiting.