Although I have always been vocal on my objections about the celebration of Christmas, it does not stop me from recognizing it as an integral part of the tradition of Filipinos. Its celebration makes a stranger realize how Christianity, brought to the country by Spanish conquistadores almost five hundred years ago, have molded the lives of our countrymen.
Because I am no celebrant and because we do not usually go out of town during this so-called Christmas vacation, I decided to prowl the city proper.
Dragging along a very reluctant sister, we went to the cathedral to see the activities there. A makeshift stage and extra seats were already placed right outside the church ground (the patio). It was already 8 o'clock in the evening but there were still many people. I even heard from the newcomers that there were no more seats available inside the church.
Meanwhile, people outside were doing their respective ‘businesses’ such as caroling. I do not give to kids who beg (to discourage them from doing it) so I treated instead the two kids who went to 'serenade' us with their Christmas songs with a photo op. I promised not to erase it so I put it up here.
The ‘traditional’ food for the season were also present. Lining the outside fences of the church were small stalls selling pop corns, bibingka, puto bumbong, among others. Puto bumbong is not a stranger to us family but for reasons I could not understand I have confused it with bibingka. But both are delicious delicacies.
* caroling children at the church patio; I promised not to erase this photo so I put it here
The San Pablo Cathedral Construction History
This blog entry is ideal for two reasons: 1) it is the Christmas season (for those who believe in and celebrate it) and 2) I obtained a short note on the construction of the church. I found this note on the makeshift library for the children in Gawad Kalinga Brgy. San Lucas II, San Pablo City a year ago. As I surveyed the note (with a byline of RER), the information is more or less widely known already.
Prior to the coming of the Spaniards, there was this ‘kingdom’ of the Tagalog called Sampalok, comprised of portions of Lipa, Tanauan, Sto. Tomas, Alaminos, and Rizal (not the province, but the town here in Laguna). This ‘kingdom’ was ruled by Gats and Datus, the most famous of which was Gat Paguil.
Spaniards came to the place in 1571 led by Capitan Juan de Salcedo, who was related to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The ‘kingdom’ was finally 'subdued' by Don Gabriel de Montoya who was accompanied by Father Alvarado and Father Diego de Espinar. But the parish in Sampalok was finally organized by Father Andres Cabrera. A chapel was built in 1586, later installing Saint Paul the Hermit as the patron saint. The earliest church had a thatched roof and the labor and materials for the construction (as was always the case during those times) were provided by the natives.
Meanwhile the town of San Pablo was organized in 1647. Formerly under the Augustinians, church administration was transferred to the Franciscans in 1694 who held it until 1912 when it was finally placed in the hands of the secular priests.
* bibingka, puto bumbong, etc. stalls; on the background is the arc of Liceo de San Pablo
The year 1662 saw the rise of the church with the help of Gobernadorcillo Bartolome Fundan. The modern church construction started in 1680 during the term of Father Juan Labao and was finished in 1721 under the term of Father Francisco Juan de Elorreaga, both of whom were architects from Biscay, Spain. Destroyed several times for varied reasons (natural causes and by outlaws, etc.) it was repaired and reinstalled many times. In 1796, the brick and stone walls were completed. Between 1801 and 1813 the tower was built while the cruzade in 1912.
Also in 1912, the Seminario Menor de San Francisco was put up, with a three-story building provided for it just adjacent to the church. It was placed under the Paulist fathers but it was later transferred to Lipa. Before World War II, the premises of the seminary were donated to the Jesuits for conversion to a school under Bishop Alfredo Verzosa of the Diocese of Lipa (which included San Pablo).