Friday, April 10, 2015

A Note on San Pablo Cathedral Renovation

The coming of the Easter Sunday was, as expected, a very festive one. The church ground in San Pablo looked more like a fiesta than a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. But after all people or the Filipinos at least have their own ways of commemorating this religion-related event. (I’ll exclude discussing and observing the Easter egg hunting for as I see it as something detached from our culture.)

* a view of the San Pablo Cathedral; note this seeming addition to its top portion

* a small resolution-photo of the San Pablo Cathedral taken by the Ayala Museum Research Team way back in 1971; from the files of Retrato: The Photo Archive of the Filipinas Heritage Library

What caught my attention on that Easter Sunday morning was the top portion of the San Pablo Cathedral. We were just crossing Rizal Avenue (the main street in the city proper) when that seeming addition to the façade made me stop, as in literally. Why have I not noticed that before!? I asked myself. Upon closer examination, it indeed looked like a later attachment to the top of the church façade. Cement, most likely, but I am not that sure. When I imagined it removed, the church façade looked simpler (but not less grand as far as I see it) and shorter. That made wonder if the bell has any additions to it as well.

* my very novice rendering of the San Pablo cathedral façade without that topmost decoration

So I tried to look for old photos of the cathedral that might show its old look. The one I got was from the online files in Retrato: The Photo Archive of the Filipinas Heritage Library. This site (see it here) allows you to have a preview of the photo and even ordering a copy for yourself. The photo dates back to 1971 taken Ayala Museum Research Team and this addition was already there.
* the church façade in Liliw

Without that part the façade looked more like the church in Liliw (see photo above). But upon consulting my notes, Liliw was under the ecclesiastical administration of Nagcarlan until 1605. Prior to that period, the church in Nagcarlan was already built under the supervision of Reverend Tomas de Miranda, a Franciscan. It might have been possible that the Franciscans took over the construction of the church in Liliw. But the historical marker does not say that. The Liliw and San Pablo church facades look very much alike. The problem is the Augustinians first took over this seven-lake town many, many years ago.

The connection could possibly be found on the pages of the city’s written local history, as passed on to us by Juan B. Hernandez, a San Pableño historian.

In the year 1794, a Franciscan by the name of Father Andres Cabrera took over the administration of the local church. He was followed by another Franciscan in 1839 by the name of Father Peligrin Prosper. (But note there another priest who came between them, Father Tomas Torres. But his stay in San Pablo is a totally different story.) And Father Prosper will probably be remembered for the refurbishment of the town church.

To quote a part concerning the façade:

“He [Father Peligrin Prosper] started with the façade and the campanile that they might serve as a showpiece for the parishioners to delight over with. Among other things, he caused the addition of such classicizing elements as pedimental décor atop every window which was flanked by two histories columns. Then he caused the insertion of the sculptured image of an Augustinian missionary at one side of the portal, and that of a Franciscan at the other side. Father Prosper also caused the addition of a balustrade atop the bell tower, then had it surmounted with an elegant-looking steeple topped by a tall spire to convey the impression of soaring towards the heaven.”*

Now that is very description. Notice his tandem of the Franciscan and the Augustinian images. No mention though of that addition to the top. But still, it would be interesting to know exactly when it was added and why.

As the renovation of the cathedral façade continues, it would be good (at least for those historically inclined) to know more about its past and where it would be headed after all the makeovers.

* Reference: Hernandez, Juan B. “San Pablo de los Montes: Preshistoric Times to the End of Spanish Rule.: Quezon City: National Printing Company Inc., 1980.

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