Sunday, June 12, 2011


FONDNESS BEGETS FONDOS. A grand matriarch stands between two Kapampangan priests, possibly beneficiaries of her philanthropic deeds. This photo postcard was sent by Fr. Nicanor Banzali of Arayat, the priest on the right, sent on 20 October 1918. Author's Collection.

Capellanias or chaplaincies are testaments to the generous spirit of the Filipino faithful. Pioneering Kapampangan founders led the way in setting up perpetual pious trust funds (obras pias) –often generated by incomes from their farm and commercial lands—to support an ordained priest or chaplain (capellan) who said Masses for their intentions, in return. Capellanias can also be offered to a parish, a religious order , or more commonly, to a diocese.

The first capellania founders came from Bacolor. In 1592, Don Diego Guinto donated a capellania to the Augustinian Order, followed by Don Felipe Balagtas and Andres Sungcay. They were even ahead of the Spaniards, who founded theirs in 1601. Not far behind were the first Kapampangan church financiers-- Dñas. Maria Dugua (Guagua), Catalina Bara (Bacolor) and Martha Payoan (Guagua), who started their capellanias in 1605.

The practice of founding capellanias continued through the twentieth century in Pampanga. The documented case of one pious woman from Mabalacat illustrates the extent of her boundless generosity, detachment from material wealth and personal sacrifice to help the Church and its priests. Cecilia Samson came from the prominent Sanson family, early settlers of Dau who owned extensive agricultural lands in the town. A “soltera” (spinster), she was well-known for her ardent devotion to the titular patron of the town, Our Lady of Grace.

On 5 November 1930, Cecilia outlined a donation scheme to the Catholic Church in a written request that designated town cura Fr. Maximino Manuguid as her capellan. Her “Fondos Cecilia Sanson” was jumpstarted with an initial P150 donation, an amount to be given annually, for use in the celebration of the feast of Ntra. Sñra. de Gracia. It was stated that the amount be used to defray expenses for “misa cantada con sermon, triduo or novena, vispera cantada” and “procesionales del pueblo” (town processions).

Further details of her donation were included in a later document, “Escritura de Donacion Intervivos” (Deed of Donation). In this duly notarized writ, Cecilia expressed her wish to donate an image of “La Virgen Ntra. Sñra. de Gracia” and a matching “caro de metal blanco”, a processional carriage of white metal. The amount of Three Thousand Pesos was to be deposited at the Monte de Piedad in Manila under the name “Fondos Cecilia Samson”. In the event of her death, she named the parish priest as her administrator, who would have a say in the disposal of the funds.

In 1932, however, Cecilia found out that her donation of Php 3,000 had not yet been entered in the books of “Obras Pias”, so she decided to revoke her donation in apparent annoyance at the slow action of the Church. She wrote of her intention in a letter to the Archbishop of Manila, Michael O’Doherty, explaining that she needed the amount to help in the construction of a barrio church—most probably for Dau. She must have been placated as in 1934, the “Capellania Parroquial Ntra. Sñra. de Gracia, Fundado por Dña. Cecilia Samson” was doing very well, earning interest while being put to good use.

A 1934 accounting of the expenses incurred during the fiesta of the town patron reported a total spending of PhP 134.34. Twelve pesos went to the decoration of the carro, Php 4.50 to the sacristans, while Php 25.00 was paid to the predicador (paid preacher). Processional candles cost a whopping Php 20.54 while electrical cost was only Php 6.00.

For her magnanimous act, the generous Cecilia enjoyed well-deserved privileges. For instance, Masses were permitted to be officiated at her residence when she fell ill. All petitions for such special requests by the local cura were almost always approved by the Arzobispado. Eventually too, Cecilia would realize her dream to have a church built in Dau with the erection of “Our Lady of Victory” parish in 1953, on a piece of land she, herself, donated. Its first cura who also supervised the construction was Fr. Fernando Franco.

Institutionalized capellanias are rarely heard of these days; many farmlands from where income is derived to fund these chaplaincies have been converted into more lucrative subdivisions and commercial spaces. Old Kapampangan families, steeped in tradition, continue to lend support by way of philanthropic deeds, educational scholarships to seminarians and donations to church projects ( e.g. fiesta activities, renovations) in the hope that, somehow, their material gifts will translate into spiritual rewards.

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