The bordertown of Apalit, founded by Augustinians in 1590, is built on swamplands by the banks of the great Pampanga River. Its first rudimentary church was probably started by Fr. Juan Cabello, who served the town on several occasions between 1641-45. A new church was also begun by Fr. Simon de Alarcia of stone and brick, which was never completed.
The foundation of the present church was laid by Fr. Antonio Redondo, the town’s parish priest who had it built for P40,000 following the plans of a public works official, Ramon Hermosa. For seven years (1876-1883) and under Guagua foreman Mariano Santos, the “pride of Pampanga, an indelible tribute to Fr. Redondo and the people of Apalit”was built and inaugurated in a series of ceremonies on 28, 29 and 30 June 1883.
The good father actually saved P10,000 as he paid the workers from his personal funds and astutely bought the materials himself. When the masons ran out of sand and bricks, Fr. Redondo would solicit the assistance of the town people by asking the sacristan to ring the bells. This way, he gathered enough volunteers to haul in sand from the river.
The completed church measures 59 meters long and 14 meters wide. Dedicated to the town patron, St. Peter,the church is built along neo-classic lines, with a graceful rounded pediment marking its façade, topped with a huge rose window—in contrast to the simple Doric pilasters and the two rectangular bell towers with pagoda roofs.
Its signature dome rises to about 27 meters and is supported by torales arches, with openings to light the church. Protective grills capped the doorway as well as the 3 circular rose windows on the church front. The church interior was decorated by an Apalit native, a pupil of the Italian painter Alberoni.
The feast of San Pedro or “Apo Iru”, is celebrated with ardour every June 29, including a raucous fluvial procession (“libad”) along Pampanga River. The seated ivory figure of “Apu Iru”—an antique ivory representation of the apostle attired as a Pope—is transferred from its Capalangan shrine to the Church, where it stays during the fiesta days until it is brought out for the annual “limbun”. From there, the beloved Apu is installed on a water pagoda for the traditional river festivities, a unique honor given to their patron who has given much to Apaliteños—a town, a home, a church and a colourful history.