Sunday, August 15, 2010

*211. UNA NUEVA IGLESIA: The 1886 Inauguration of Angeles Church

KITA-KITS KATA PISAMBAN. The church of Angeles, dedicated to our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, is one of the most enduring symbols of the city which started as a town carved out from San Fernando. ca. 1930s.

In the historic district of Angeles stands the Sto. Rosario Church with its distinctive two towers—which many residents see as more than a landmark, but also a witness to Culiat’s pueblo past as well as the unfolding present. The original church had been constructed of simple nipa and bamboo, as most pioneer churches were made of. It was replaced by Fray Guillermo Masnou in 1855, the long-serving Augustinian priest who left quite a mark on the church and its history, imprints that are still apparent in the city even to this day.

The present stone-and-brick structure, however , is attributed to F. Ramon Sarrionandia, who, in 1860, commissioned a Manila architect, Antonio de la Camara, to design the church. On-and-off construction lasted for over 20 years, with F. Juan Merino finally completing the major portions of the church in 1886, opening it partially to the public.

An Augustinian publication, Revista Augustiniana (Vol. 12) , published an account of the 1886 inauguration:

“We received from the Philippines, a letter stating that on 14 April 1886, the Very Rev. Juan Merino OSA solemnly blessed and opened for public worship, a portion of the newly constructed church at Angeles, Pampanga, which will soon be one of the roomiest churches in the country. Those who assisted in the ceremony were Frs. Antonio Redondo (then San Fernando curate), Urbano Bedoya, and Galo de la Calle* (*died of cholera in Lubao)—All Augustinians. Frs. Gregorio Bueno** (**killed in 1898 at the height of the Philippine Revolution; his death started the legendary curse of Mabalacat) and Mariano Morales—both Augustinian Recollects—were also at hand.

The event was attended by all the residents of the town, who were filled with joyful satisfaction to see a solemn celebration in this new church for the first time. The construction of the new edifice was made possible through the patronage of eight prominent families of this town, together with the zealous efforts and sacrifices of Fr. Merino.
Not to be outdone also is the generosity of the faithful who did everything possible to contribute with donations, labor and anything to help their beloved parish priest.

For now, only the portion of the principal nave with its choir is opened to the public, in which they have placed the altar, confessionals and other church vessels, thus giving it an impression of a real church. The rest of the structure is at the finishing stage with all its necessary materials at hand.
The dedicated structure successfully melded together beauty and safety which is necessary in these Islands exposed to the danger of earthquakes, thus affording it strength by the solid construction of its walls, the proportions of all its parts, its well-chosen materials, and the framework and roofing—all made from the more reputable factories of Europe.

Fr. Merino must have been gratified by the fruits of his labors’ the satisfied residents of Angeles can now have their divine workshop with pomp and splendor inside the church. All are equally satisfied for having prepared a dwelling fro the Lord, so that He may live among his mortals, putting in mind that the Lord of Lords never fails to repay not even a glass of water given in His name.”

The church was completed in 1892 by Fr. Pedro Ibeas—“a magnificent church, a perennial monument to the religious dedication of the town people of Angeles”. A few more renovations were undertaken by Fr. Rufino Santos the next year, and all the finishing touches were done in 1897, shortly before the departure of the Spanish Augustinians.

(I am indebted to Fray Lord Musni for this article, which originally appeared in "Singsing", the official publication of the Center for Kapampangan Studies, and modified for this blog.)

No comments: