SAN PEDRO CATHEDRAL: The Beacon of Davao’s Catholic Faith

On June 29, 1848, Spanish conquistador Don Jose Oyanguren conquered Davao and defeated the local Moro people led by Datu Mama Bago. That day was the feast day of the St. Peter the Apostle. And consequently, Oyanguren declared St. Peter as the Patron Saint of Davao.

When these Spanish colonizers settled in the area, among the first structures they constructed was San Pedro Church and it was modestly built in Nipa and Bamboo. The young church was put under the care of the Augustinian Recollects, the missionaries Oyanguren brought with him when he came to Davao. Before it became a parish, it was then called Yglesia Mision de Bergara dela Nueva Guipuzcoa. Nueva Vergara was the old name of Davao and Nueva Guipuzcoa was for the undivided Province of Davao, both were given by Oyanguren named after his hometown and province in Spain.

San Pedro Cathedral Davao City 45When the Augustinian Recollects left the missionary works in the area, the care of the Church was given to the Jesuits. When the Jesuits took over, it was the period when the population in Davao rapidly increased. The influx of settlers coming from Luzon and the Visayas added to the population. Sensing the growth of the churchgoers, the Jesuits initiated the construction of a bigger Church. It took five years to complete.

San Pedro Cathedral Davao City 46From the Jesuits, the administration of the San Pedro Church was handed over to the PME Fathers who arrived in Davao from Canada in 1938. It was during PME’s time when San Pedro Parish of Davao was elevated from a Parish to Prelature Nullius to Diocese and finally into an Archdiocese. The PME Fathers also initiated the construction of a much bigger church to cater the growing number of Catholic faithful in the city. The PME missionaries were headed by Fr. Clovis Thibault who later became the Bishop and finally Archbishop of Davao.

San Pedro Square in the olden days. Photo Courtesy: Davao of the Past

San Pedro Square in the olden days. Photo Courtesy: Davao of the Past.

During the time of PME, the church was again reconstructed and was rebuilt in wood in the mid 1900’s. It was Architect Ramon Basa, the first professional architect to work in Davao who designed the new Church. He was the same architect who designed some of the most important buildings and structures in the City that until now exist.

Old San Pedro Church Davao City (3)

During the time of PME, the church was again reconstructed and was rebuilt in wood in the mid 1900’s. It was Architect Ramon Basa who designed the church. Photo courtesy: Davao of the Past.

Said to have been built in Neo-Gothic style, the design of the church reflected of those few old churches built in some parts of Mindanao. Like the most of the old towns in the Philippines, the church is situated within the area where the government buildings are located. This is the basic scene one can notice if traveling around the country and see that churches, plazas and municipal buildings are contained in one area.

The Old San Pedro Church designed by Architect Ramon Basa. Photo COurtesy: Davao of the Past

The Old San Pedro Church designed by Architect Ramon Basa. Photo Courtesy: Davao of the Past.

Inside the old San Pedro Church taken in the early 60's. Photo courtesy: Davao of the Past

Inside the old San Pedro Church taken in the early 60’s. Photo Courtesy: Davao of the Past.

Adjacent to the church was then Immaculate Conception College building (now University of Immaculate Conception) built by RVM Sisters. This is the oldest private school established in 1906. It was then called St. Peter Parochial School. When the Parish of Davao was granted a Prelature Nullius status, Bishop Thibault initiated the transfer of Immaculate Conception College to Father Selga Street in Bankerohan as its new site while St. Peter Auditorium in San Pedro Street was converted in the Parish Office.

This used to be St. Peter Auditorium of University of Immaculate Conception now converted into San Pedro Parish Office. Like the church, it is also a built heritage.

By 1964, San Pedro Church went another reconstruction. From wood, it was finally remodeled in concrete by Architect Manuel Chiew. The rebuilding of the church also signified a symbolic design that is reflective of the convergence different people living in Davao – whether Christians or Muslims. The roofline of the church was designed to look like the prow of a vinta, a Mindanao boat, gliding on water, carrying a cross at its helm. The vinta representing Muslim Mindanao and the cross representing Christianity – united in spite if their difference – points toward the glory of the Supreme Being. 2 years after the reconstruction of the church, Davao became a full-pledged Diocese and finally in 1970 it was elevated into an Archdiocese.

By 1964, San Pedro Church went another reconstruction. From wood, it was finally remodeled in concrete by Architect Manuel Chiew.

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The present church today is 62 years old since it was reconstructed in 1964, making it a built heritage. While most of cathedrals in the Philippines have the grand look of ancient times, the San Pedro Cathedral looks uniquely different that it stands out from other Cathedrals in the country.

The present church photographed in the 10's. Photo courtesy: Davao of the Past

The present church photographed in the 70’s. Photo courtesy: Davao of the Past.

In the right wing of the present church, the old altar (retablo) that was originally designed by Architect Basa was preserved. Those who grew up going to San Pedro Church in the olden days find the altar as great reminder of what Davao City and the Catholic faith have evolved in many years – not only as structure but Church of Christ as a whole.

This is the original altar of the old San Pedro Church. The altar now can be found at the right wing of the present church. Photo courtesy: Davao of the Past

This is the original altar of the old San Pedro Church before it was remodeled in 1964. The altar (retablo) now can be found at the right wing of the present church. Photo courtesy: Davao of the Past.

In the right wing of the present church, the old altar (retablo) that was originally designed by Architect Basa was preserved.

Unlike other churches in the Philippines that survived natural calamities like strong earthquakes and destructive typhoons, San Pedro Church never suffered devastation from any natural disaster. Instead, it has survived two bombings back in the years when Davao City piteously struggled for peace and order. The first incident was in 1981 which killed 17 people, and in 1993 with 7 deaths.

While most of cathedrals in the Philippines have the grand look of ancient times, San Pedro Cathedral looks uniquely different that it stands out from other Cathedrals in the country.

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SAN PEDRO CATHEDRAL: The Beacon of Davao’s Catholic Faith

Today, San Pedro Cathedral is an important historical landmark that stands tall, sturdy and proud silently witnessing how Davao City and its people has grown to become what it is now – peaceful, orderly and progressive but most of all grateful to its undying faith.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH

There are many reasons that make Davao Oriental one of the most interesting provinces to visit in Mindanao. Aside from its famous beaches, majestic waterfalls, verdant mountains and pristine natural wonder, another addition to these fascinating reasons to why discover this province is the San Salvador Del Mundo Church, one of the oldest known stone churches in Mindanao.CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (20)

San Salvador Del Mundo Church is located in the town of Caraga in the eastern coast of Davao Oriental. The town is considered as one of the oldest towns in the province and had once served as mission station of Spanish Missionaries in propagating Christianity in this side of Mindanao. San Salvador Del Mundo Church is the great remnant of that past glory.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (19)I have visited the whole 11 municipalities of the province and have marveled some of its churches but visiting Caraga’s old church was my first. But even back then, I already learned the great significance of Caraga’s San Salvador Del Mundo Church as cradle of Christianity in this eastern part of the Philippines. And so getting there meant getting close to a piece of history in our province.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (7)CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (9)Too far from what I thought, San Salvador Del Mundo Church is a simple old structure built on the promontory that overlooks a spectacular view of the great Pacific Ocean. The façade of church along its sides is mainly made of rubble – irregular pieces of rocks – but the upper portion is built with hardwood. The aged door in the opening bears insignias that symbolize of the Holy Name of Jesus. According to research, San Salvador Del Mundo Church was built in 1884 by the Jesuit Missionaries (Society of Jesus) and played a significant role in spreading Christianity in the eastern side of Mindanao.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (11)Withstanding the tests of time, the church has undergone series of renovations but has generally retained its original structure. I was stunned to see two centuries-old giant seashells still used as stoup (basin for holy water) for churchgoers. I also noticed an old marble baptismal font kept on the side of the main door. I learned this was used during the Spanish time. Some of interesting pieces that can be found inside the church are remnants of 19th century Spanish regime – which now considered antiquities of importance.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (41) CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (43) CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (45)The most stunning feature I dearly admired inside San Salvador Del Mundo Church is the church’s altar. The influence of Spanish colonial altar is still there, something that all modern churches in Davao Oriental do not have. It is similar to those baroque churches in Visayas and Luzon.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCHLast year, in time for the Caraga’s Parochial Fiesta, the San Salvador Del Mundo Church was declared a National Historic Site, a distinction given by no less than the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The declaration was made 128 years after it was built in 1884 – something that every Carageños should be proud of, including me who hails from the same province.

CARAGA’S SAN SALVADOR DEL MUNDO PARISH CHURCH (25)Today, San Salvador Del Mundo Church has withstood the tests of time and even survived the strongest typhoon to have hit Mindanao. With God’s divine grace, it remains to be a great remnant of a glorious past and a beacon of Catholic faith in this side of the country.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Caraga, Davao Oriental is approximately 5 hours land travel from Davao City and 3 hours away from Mati City, the capital of the province. There are buses and passenger vans that regularly travel to the town plying the Davao-Tagum-Mati road. San Salvador Del Mundo Church on the other hand is located in the heart of the town’s Poblacion. Everybody knows the place.

MANDAYA AND DAGMAY WEAVING AT KADAYAWAN 2012

For someone like me who was born and raised in one of the far flung towns of Davao Oriental, seeing the showcase of what my province has to offer featured in the metropolis is such great delight. There is a sense of pride and honor whenever I see them adored and admired by flocks of spectator. Just like today in this season of Kadayawan sa Dabaw 2012, true members of Mandaya Tribe from the town of Caraga, one of the 11 municipalities of Davao Oriental, is featured by the Apo View Hotel as one of the highlights of the Kadayawan Fiesta at the Apo View 2012.

The proud tribe of Mandaya is one of Mindanao’s surviving minority tribes in the Philippines. Most of them live in the mountainous areas above the coastal town of Davao Oriental particularly in Boston, Bagangga, Caraga and Manay including my hometown of Cateel. The Mandayas are exemplary known to be artistic and creative.

I can still vividly recall back on those days growing up in Cateel how amazed I become every time I see members of Mandaya Tribe fully dressed up in their colorful and intricately woven dresses. Every year, Mandayas would come down from the mountains to the town’s Poblacion to take part of the town’s parochial fiesta. They would showcase their ritual dances, chant their songs and display a colorful culture truly one of its kind. It was always a mesmerizing sight for me and I grow up loving my tribe’s culture.

The Colorful Accents

The Intricately Hand Woven Dress

The Earrings Attached to the Headdress

Aside from the colorful costumes, unique dances and exuberant chants, the Mandaya are known for their creative skill in weaving cloth they called Dagmay. Passed on from generations to generations, they have woven cloth from fibers of native abaca tree which is abundant in the region for many years. The finest grade of hemp extracted from abaca stalks is stripped pounded, combed then prepared for dyeing. They used mud, root and other organic materials as dyes making the woven fabric colorful and bright.

The Weaving of Dagmay Fabric

The Tie-Dyed Abaca Fiber

The Loom

The Design

The Mandaya Weaver

Dagmay is distinguished from other tribal weaving by the intricate figures and patterns said to depict the folklores and beliefs of the Mandaya tribe. This art is handed down from one generation to the other. There is no patterns copy. Each design is an expression of individual weaver, thus, making it most intricate, unique and skillfully mastered. Today’s dagmay weavers are proud product of their ancestors’ masterful skills.

The Weaver, The Loom, The Fiber = DAGMAY

In this Kadayawan Festival week, the Apo View Hotel pays tribute to our tribe’s cultural and historical heritage through the Mandaya’s participation in the weeklong celebration of Kadayawan Fiesta at the Apo View 2012. Two Mandayan women, Minda Amorayon and Dina Mangilawod are housed at the hotel to showcase the intricate Weaving of Dagmay Fabric at the main lobby. Dressed in full Mandayan attire, Minda and Dina are proud to show a pure Mandayan tradition that has been passed on from generations to generations. Seeing them at the lobby flocked by amazed crowd, I can’t help but take pride of my province’s true treasure – the Mandaya people.

By Products

You can still catch my Mandaya sisters at the Apo View Hotel for the Weaving of Dagmay Fabric until August 19, 2012. Kadayawan Fiesta at the Apo View 2012 runs from August 6 to 19, 2012.

HAPPY KADAYAWAN EVERYONE!

BOLJOON: The Heritage Frontier of Cebu Province

Continuing my South Cebu journey, our next destination after Oslob is the Municipality of Boljoon, one of the oldest towns in the southern part of Cebu Province.

Boljoon is about 20-minute bus ride from the town center of Oslob passing the scenic coastal roads of South Cebu. Unlike Oslob, this quaint coastal town is bordered by cliff and luxuriant hills with an imposing view of Bohol Strait in its eastern side. The tall mountain ranges dotting on the side with lushes of natural forests made the town more picturesque and serenely quaintest.

As we got to the town, we dropped off the nearby Municipal Hall just situated along the highway. Like most Municipal Halls of South Cebu, it is situated along the coasts of the town. The moment I stepped out of the bus, I was carried away by the beautiful scene that swathed me at an instant. The serene Bohol Strait, the verdant hills, the striking coastal road and the old rugged structures blended together creating an irresistible charming scene that left us dumbfounded.

Being one of the oldest towns in southern Cebu, Boljoon’s history is rich and diverse dating back pre-Spanish occupation in the Philippines. Before the Spanish occupation in 16th century, Boljoon is already an established settlement of the early inhabitants of Cebu. They already had a complete community system long before foreign invaders arrived in the Island. 

Five years back, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of San Carlos-Cebu in collaboration with the National Museum initiated series of excavations known as Boljoon Archaeological Project to gather archaeological finds to support the accuracy of the pre-Spanish history of the province.

The project was a huge success. All archeological finds unearthed during the excavation including those skeletons, artifacts, antique jars and plates prove that even before the Spaniards came and claimed to have brought civilization to our land, our country already had a thriving community system and cultural heritage that is distinctly Filipino. Boljoon is a perfect example.

All the archeological finds excavated in Boljoon are now housed in Boljoon Musuem including a golden necklace and a golden earring dating back 15th century said to be worn by the most important person of this ancient community.

When the Spaniards conquered Cebu, Boljoon flourished as one of the most important towns of the South. According to the history, the town was created in 1598 and a year later, the Parish of Boljoon was established. Although there were disputes of when the parish was officially established, the present parish church however was first constructed in 1783. It was fully completed with a church convent in 1841.

Boljoon Church or the Patrocinio De Maria Church is veritable showcase of old and intricate carvings and bass relief. It is also pseudo-baroque rococo with beautifully decorated interior. It has a main nave and transcript and has twenty-eight pillars, two meters thick and made of mortar and lime, which support the walls as thick as the pillars.

Today, the Boljoon Church is the oldest remaining original stone church in the whole Province of Cebu that is relatively well preserved. It was declared as National Historical Landmark in 1999 by the National Historical Institute and a year after that the National Museum declared it as a National Cultural Treasure.

Aside from the Patrocinio De Maria Church, there are other heritage sites and structures that are well preserved in Boljoon until today.

Boljoon Church Archaeological Site

Boljoon Municipal Hall

Patrocinio De Maria Church Belfry & Rizal Monument

Escuela Catolica

HAVING GONE TO BOLJOON, I’ve learned things that made me proud of my race as a Filipino. The ancient finds prove that we have cultural heritage that is distinctly – lahing Pinoy! Seeing all these, I came to believe that indeed Boljoon  is the heritage frontier of Cebu Province!

TRAVELING TO BOLJOON: The Municpality of Boljoon can be reached in two hours from Cebu City. Buses that travel to the Southern part of Cebu province are all stationed at Cebu South Bus Terminal.

THE PICTURESQUE BANTAY CHURCH AND BELL TOWER

Adjacent to the Heritage City of Vigan is yet another charming town of Ilocos Sur called Bantay. Just like Vigan, it is also a place to behold as it boasts ancestral houses and some historical sites. The most famous landmark of the town is the Bantay Church and Bell Tower.

Bantay Church and Bell Tower is about 15 minutes Kalesa ride from the Calle Crisologo ofVigan City. To be honest, I was amazed to know that the town of Bantay is just minutes away from the city proper of Vigan. In fact it is a walking distance from the heritage city. I never knew there are towns like these two so closest to each other. And being adjacent, Bantay is also part of the Vigan Heritage Tour where it highlights the visit to Bantay Church and Bell Tower. 

Bantay Church is also known as the St. Augustine Parish Church. Built by Augustinian Friars in 1590, it is considered as one of the oldest churches in the Province of Ilocos Sur. Bantay Church is a baroque-gothic style church. It has a separate belfry situated on top of a small hill few meters away from the church.

The picturesque Bantay Bell Tower overlooks the stunning view of the mountains in nearby province of Abra and the vast South China Sea (now West Philippine Sea). During World Wars I and II, the belfry was used as a watchtower for invading enemy forces. Clearly, this manifests how Bantay Church and Bell Tower became monumental witnesses to different significant and historical events during those days.

Today, Bantay Church and Bell Tower is a great reminder of the rich history not just of Bantay as a town but the Philippines as a nation. It is a true remainder of our past that tells us we could withstand our future. Bantay Church and Bell Tower truly is a must visit piece of our history in this part of Ilocandia.

TRAVEL SERIES: Byaheng Ilocos Sur, Lakbay Ilocos Norte

  1. PAGUDPUD: The Charming Tropical Paradise of the North
  2. The Humongous Windmills of Bangui
  3. KAPURPURAWAN ROCKS: The Prized Gem of Burgos, Ilocos Norte
  4. Sunset at the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte
  5. Visiting Malacañang of the North
  6. Beholding the Grandeur of Paoay Church
  7. The Heritage City of Vigan
  8. The Picturesque bantay Church and Bell Tower