Classification Proposal

Guiding Principle: The present physical status and the era when a church building was constructed would determine the kind of architectural care and intervention that it would receive. This will aid the diocese in the formulation of appropriate policies for each status and era classification.
Not all churches in Rome were built in the same era. Not all of them are Ancient, Baroque, Renaissance, Neoclassical, Gothic or Medieval in style. Not all of them follow the same engineering and architectural methods of construction. Not all of them are historical in a definite way. There are some churches in the Eternal City that are ultra-modern in style and not all of them are famous and tourist-worthy to visit.
But all of them are sacred spaces as well as living spaces. Sacred Spaces means they are directed towards God and the experience of the Sacred – as all places of worship of whatever creed or denomination are. Living Spaces mean they are public structures where people congregate; where a community, however small, is identified and is at home; and, are a part of the local landscape.
As a Diocese with many old parishes – some dating back to 400 years – we are in the same boat as Rome in the proliferation of church structures built during different epochs and having different architectural characteristics. The passage of time and the renewal of cultural interest on the subject of “Antiques” gave rise to the spread of tourism and sense of interest about how many old structures and things have survived to our own time for our cultural enrichment and sense of mission to preserve and care for.
Not everybody knows about the Ermita of San Antonio Abad in Paete or the Porteria Chapel in Majayjay. More famous in the so-called Underground Cemetery in Nagcarlan. Nevertheless, together with the parochial churches in the length and breath of the province, these structures represent the unique Laguna claim to a specific sense of history and unique identity as a faith community and as custodians of cultural monuments and artifacts.
It is the desire of this study to present a sense of direction in order to understand and give appropriate care for the different existing Catholic ecclesiastical structures in the Province of Laguna . They are not only historical structures but also sacred structures as well as living structures.
A Blueprint for the future of Church Structures in Laguna Province
To treat all structures as the same from a generic point of view may simply all matters. But each structure has its sense of uniqueness and particular need for care and enrichment as a cultural relic. Culture per se is not relegated to the past but is equally dynamic since it represents the living story of a place and its people. There can be no civilization without culture and no culture is possible without a cumulative living memory. A wider view of ourselves is seen in the things we create and value.
By wanting to fine tune the approach a specific locality may adopt about its public edifices, a careful study of the same structures is very important.
In the effort to care and maintain for posterity the various ecclesiastical structures in the province of Laguna , the process of data gathering about the actual status and condition of the structures – whether old or new – is in order. Using history, cultural studies and inputs from the sciences of engineering and architecture plus local narratives, oral traditions and information, a blueprint for specific treatment may be developed.
Whether a structure is cared for by national agencies [like the NHI and NCCA], by the Municipio, by the Church or local families or private parties, the sense of participation and care for these local structures may spell the difference between neglect and conservation. As we unravel the specific needs of each place, the cooperation of priests, religious, historians, architects, engineers and cultural workers would create a deeper sense of community that will auger well for our cultural future.
Challenge: To preserve a Character and to identify different notions of beauty in ecclesiastical structures
The task of maintaining and preserving structures from different eras is not solely the work of architects, engineers, historians, the clergy, cultural workers and government agencies. It similarly means the development of a sense of culture, history and the varied forms of beauty expressed in the different forms of architectural structures.
Each structure is characteristic of the era and technology that built it. It is a picture of the sense of indigenous adjustment and adaptability on problems encountered by early builders. With respect to the architectural character of each building style (Ex. Baroque, Neoclassical, Medieval, Romanesque, Gothic, Modern, Cubist, etc.), the challenge is to preserve a particular style in its pure form.
Looking at the ecclesiastical structures existing in the Province of Laguna that is under the care of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Pablo, it is necessary to categorize the structures found in the 80 parishes and related sites into the following groups:
1. Category I: Proposed Heritage Structures
2. Category II: Edifice with cultural remnants that is still open to cultural
intervention, development and preservation
3. Category III: Contemporary Ecclesiastical Structures
In Category I are included 10 structures located in 7 parishes that calls for very precise monitoring, development studies and implementation of diocesan policies. In Category II, 13 structures calls for a clear determination of development strategy and planning so as to preserve still existing cultural relics and architectural styles so that the same may be handed on to posterity in good shape and valued legacy. In Category III, 57 structures are classified – with view to pinpointing their artistic style, sacred character and contemporary needs like ventilation, sanitation and security. The greatest number of the parishes in the Diocese of San Pablo belongs to Category III.
By approaching the treatment of these structures according to common denominators of their styles, artistic and historical significance, local setting and appeal as destinations of spiritual pilgrimages or even just tourist appeal, their classification will help in the determination of policies and architectural intervention appropriate for their care, preservation and maintenance. It would be most important to secure the understanding and sense of mission of both the clergy and the laity of each parish to bring the entire notion of edifices as specimens of cultural heritage and symbols of the sense of the sacred to full acceptance and fruition.
Category I: Proposed Heritage Structures
The Church/parish structures entered into this category represent the core specimens of the varied structures sanctified either by time, veneration, events, local character or a combination of one or more of these qualities. These very significant structures embody not only the artistic and historical significance of the edifice but most equally the spiritual message and state of preservation of said edifices.
The following criteria were employed in the inclusion of a structure into the 1st Category and it is hoped that the character that merited this classification be preserved for the benefit of posterity and the Faith:
  • Maximum level of preservation of its original colonial design that goes back to the 19th Century until the pre-war years. Had there been any contemporary intervention, such interventions could still be corrected or even restored.
  • Representative of a type of architectural style that is worth recording and preserving as specimens of indigenous Laguna artistic style.
  • Connected with an event in Philippine or local Laguna History
  • Continues to bear the imprint of the Franciscan/Dominican parish foundation and their type of evangelization
  • The existence of a traditional local devotion and unique type of public veneration is also a factor for the inclusion of a site into this category.
Proposed Churches to be included in this category:
  1. Ermita of San Antonio Abad, Paete, Laguna
(Structure and Interior)
This seemingly insignificant street side chapel is intimately connected with the local history of the town of Paete . Whether it is a church property or controlled by other entities, its continued use for sacred rites as well as the preservation of its antique altar piece and image of the titular warrant its place as a local manifestation of faith as well as of a social reality. If any old pictures would show an earlier version of the present day stone, wood and tin sheet construction, such photographic evidence could be utilized for the upkeep and restoration of this piece of local history.
San Antonio Abad is locally recognized as the patron of Fire Prevention and control in the locality due to an oral tradition connected with an experience of conflagration during the Spanish colonial era. The structure is still used for masses and funeral wakes.
  1. Immaculate Conception Parish, Los Baños, Laguna
( Church Building Only)
Despite the many architectural interventions applied to this structure during the 20th and 21st century, this church edifice was included in this category for the following reason:
  • Strong public veneration to the image of the Patroness, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception as evidenced by the large concourse of people attending the annual feast.
  • State of preservation of its main high altar and of its two lateral altars.
  • The significant link of the patroness with her original title “Nuestra Señora de Aguas Santa” and the discovery of the therapeutic value of the local hot springs by its former pastor, San Pedro Bautista. San Pedro Bautista – Philippine missionary and martyr in Japan is venerated in one of the lateral altars of the church.
  • Los Baños was the site of the original “Malacañang of the South” because of the presence of the summer villa of the Spanish Governor General in the former Franciscan hospital and original church site in the “Hospital de Aguas Santas”
The Church structure was not damaged during World War II – despite the fire begun by the retreating Japanese forces- that burned the town. Despite the plurality of changes like the following:
  • Breaching of the original walls to expand the church floor area
  • new floorings and ceilings
  • introduction of a canopy into the façade
  • installation of grills in the expanded portions of the church
  • application of gold leaf and marble slabs in the altar
the significance of the entire locality in the annals of history as well as the influx of many
travelers, local and foreign, the preservation and development of this church edifice is of great impact to the effort to understand the connection between faith, missionary activity and health care.
  1. Saint Gregory the Great Parish, Majayjay, Laguna
(Church and Liceo de Majayjay Building)
This fine example of massive “Earthquake Baroque” in the province of Laguna is the queen of all the Hispanic colonial church buildings in the province not only by its massive architectural composition and grand artistic style but also it represent a portion of the “Ruta Franciscano” that stretches from the Bicol Region and up to the walled city of the Intramuros de Manila. It is similarly connected with the enterprise of the Galleon trade where merchandise headed for the colonial capital of Manila are transported over land if a galleon is forced to disembark in the Bicol Coastal area.
Its huge complex of Convento (right now employed as a diocesan school) and Church structures represent the time when the town was employed as the Infirmary of the Franciscans for its aged and sick members. It may be said that the first introduction – though informal and transitory – of Christianity into the Province of Laguna was experienced in this locality when the Augustinians made initial contact with the people as early as 1571.
Despite many mistakes in the initial efforts of maintaining this huge church – stripping of the palitada from the wall, coloring of the retablos, contemporary paintings in the ceilings (already erased), introduction of new floorings in the center aisle and the sancturary, painting of the statues installed in the Church façade, etc. – the remedies waiting to be applied to this monument of fame and history are waiting to be applied.
Incidentally, this Church and convent complex is included in the list of 26 Churches in the entire Philippines marked for preservation and enhancement by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Furthermore, the deep devotion of the people of the place to the preservation of their local heritage site augurs well for the enhancement and continuation of the cultural and spiritual memory of the place and church.
  1. Saint James the Great Parish, Paete, Laguna
(Church and Liceo de Paete Buildings)
The Church and convent structure in the wood carving capital town of Paete , represent the blending of the Hispanic missionary architecture with the local sense of beauty and craftsmanship. From its façade to its 5 artistic altars and the plurality of cultural and spiritual artifacts, the idea of arts as interpreted by the people of a place attains high expression.
Similarly, the plurality of popular religious rites in the town like the Salibanda in January, the town Fiesta in July and the pageantry of Holy Week warrants the cultural and spiritual enrichment of the town and to compliment the festivals by the preservation of the colonial baroque structures that witnessed the genesis of these cultic local observances. Despite the changes applied in the structures – scrapping of palitada overlay over exterior and interior walls, new ceiling and floor finishing, application of synthetic gold leaf on the altars, installation of synthetic stained glass windows – the prospect of recovering and high-lighting the unique character of this church remains high and optimistic and promising.
The wooden convento, employed at present as a diocesan school, is in need of preservation according to trends employed in other similar situations. An example is the co-existence between the Don Bosco Technical College and the old edifice in its campus that use to house the San Carlos Seminary and the previous Augustinian Asilo de Mandaluyong (locus where the secret of the existence of the Katipunan was initially divulged) – where the old edifice was preserved in its heritage form.
  1. Saint John the Baptist Parish Church , Longos Kalayaan, Laguna
(Church, Sacristy-Convent edifice, ruined premises of old rectory)
The isolation and poverty of this insignificant church was contributory to the preservation of its old church. Down graded from the status of a municipal poblacion to that of a mere barrio of the town of Kalayaan , Laguna, this locale was founded by San Pedro Bautista during the 1500s. Having a saint-founder and the intact structures of its church and sacristy building plus its proximity to other sites like Paete, Pakil and Pangil, the prospect of Longos as a cultural site appears inviting and worth pondering.
Aside from the ruins of its former convent, the need presence of its main stone retablo plus some bas reliefs and images are noteworthy and calls for preservation.
Among the areas of improvements that can be undertaken are:
  • A need to restore the palitada in the exterior and interior walls.
  • Increase the height of the walls whose height was reduced due to the removal of some 4 levels of adobe blocks from the top after a 1995 strong storm so that the crown of the high altar may be restored.
  • Old windows made of colored glasses or capiz shells can be installed.
  • The original Vigan floor tiles can be restored.
  • The restoration of its baptistery at the base of its concrete old belfry.
  • The installation of a replica of its former pulpit.
  • Develop a new anchorage for the roof blown off by Typhoon “Milenyo” in 2006.
  • The fence surrounding the perimeters of the church property can be re-designed.
  • A long term project can be the re-construction of its old rectory building for parish use, formation activity or as a local museum.
  1. Saint Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Magdalena , Laguna
(Church and Convent Complex)
The rustic quality of this small poblacion and its small parish church and convent situated on top of a small hill is not only a favorite place for movie production shooting schedules but also gives much promise for development of a cultural site.
Despite the dilapidated state of its church and rectory, very few contemporary interventions heralded the survival of many of its unique cultural properties. Among these are:
  • The church floor and ceiling plus the tombstones along the interior walls
  • The concrete and very simple main altar
  • The unique Arco Toral
  • The original pulpit
  • The trompe’l oile paintings in the baptistery
  • The carvings in the external adobe walls
  • The annex hall being used as a Sanctuary of Saints
  • The façade gallery of the Rectory
  • The stair way of the rectory where national hero Emilio Jacinto was involved in a shoot out during the revolution. A memorial is located in the same place.
  • The main hall of the rectory with its hardwood floors.
Considering these noteworthy and surviving specimens of past artistic and architectural characteristics, the invitation and the thrust to give adequate care and development for this site is recognizably worthy and urgent. Most urgent intervention for preservation and maintenance includes:
  • Need for repairs for the sagging roof of the church
  • Restoration of palitada finish where this had been washed off already
  • The cracks in the rear walls of the sacristy walls
  • The loosening adobe blocks in the walls of the main rectory entrance
  • And, the prevention of concreting the floor of the upper story of the Rectory as a replacement for deteriorating wooden floor boards.
  1. Saint Peter Alcantara Parish, Pakil, Laguna
(Church and Convent Complex)
. By the twist of fate and the dedication of its inhabitants, the church and convent complex of Pakil was maintained as a very glorious expression of its baroque past. The dynamic joy of the Turumba festival continues to complement the touch of local culture made manifest in the décor and appeal of its edifices.
The construction of a 2nd Floor Chapel to house the original picture of the Turumba Virgin is both a gift and a possible problem. It is a gift because the sacred image is now venerated publicly. However, having an old wooden floor, the weight of arriving devotees may weaken the same wooden planks and its supporting wooden beams whose weakening may portend a tragedy in the near future.
Equally, there is a need to remedy the paint in the framed “relleve” and the pulpit in the church as well as determine the true colors of the “retablos”. Similarly, the new painting in the ceiling of the old sacristy room had to be determined either as enhancing or depreciating the cultural value of the structure. Complementarily, there is a need for research about Marcelo Adonay, noted church musician who was a son of Pakil, Laguna.
  1. Santa Rosa de Lima Parish Church , Santa Rosa City
( Church Building Only)
Despite the newly painted walls, new lateral altar, concrete choir loft, new belfry and shining granite slab flooring, there are still a lot of old things to be unearthed and restored in this only surviving colonial Phil Hispanic Church in the entire 1st and 2nd Civil district in the province of Laguna. Among the still existing artifacts are:
  • The original doors, bells, statues and the wall structures are intact.
  • The main wooden retablo is unaltered while the side retablos missing 2 niches and attic structure can still be restored.
  • Two tin plate paintings are found on the ceiling of the Choir loft.
  • The tomb stones of old parishioners and the 1st ordained priest from Santa Rosa , Don Domingo Añonuevo, are still intact.
  • The sacristy room can be restored.
  • Beneath the granite floor, the old stone tiles are still intact.
  • Beneath the contemporary paint are still exists traces of earlier trompe’l oile.
  • The wooden posts that support the roof are still there
  • The original design of the ceiling is still maintained although without the original 1927 paintings of saints which adorn them until the 1960’s.
As urbanization and fast migration of new inhabitants into the newly constituted city, the need to anchor the past and perpetuate a memory becomes imperative if the town is to maintain an identity. As one of the few remaining remnants of the Dominican Hacienda de Santa Rosa de la Laguna, the need to preserve this portion of social and cultural memory is important to develop a sense of belongingness and roots for the indigenous families of this former hacienda town.
Together with the Cuartel de Santo Domingo, the much altered old municipal building with its chapel-like annex and the sprinkling of old colonial houses, the need to exercise caution in the loss of these artifacts is truly urgent and worthy of all effort and sympathy. The Church structure would truly need much protection.
  1. Underground Cemetery , Nagcarlan, Laguna (Whole Complex)
Although this structure is already under the care of appropriate government agencies, it is most important to develop a process of owning on the part of the local inhabitants so that the same structures may truly be integrated into the local psyche and hierarchy of values.
Such process of owning may include the following activities:
  • Develop spiritual activities centered on the cemetery complex like annual masses for the souls of the priests buried there.
  • Encourage public awareness on the kind of palitada applied on the structures to protect the stones from weathering and erosion.
  • Seasonal exhibits of local artifacts in the chapel crypt area
  • All Soul’s Day and Holy Saturday spiritual activities
  • Concerts on summer evenings using local brass bands and classical talents
  • Integration of visits to the parish church and cemetery into the regular curriculum of local elementary and secondary schools.
  • Encourage other localities to undertake Lakbay-Aral trips to Nagcarlan.
  1. Virgin of the Porteria Chapel, Majayjay, Laguna
(Chapel Structure and Interior)
Equally not so well-known like the Ermita of San Antonio Abad in Paete, Laguna, this chapel structure in Majayjay is well-preserved and is still utilized as a place for funeral wakes and place for other spiritual activities. The title of Nuestra Señora de Porteria is actually a Franciscan title for the image of the Immaculate Conception whose theology the Order fostered. Similarly, the same image is often found in the receiving rooms – “Porteria” in Spanish – of Franciscan friaries worldwide. Equally present in the terminus of the town proper main access bridge is a grotto to the same titular.
Majayjay, being part and parcel of the historic “Ruta Franciscano”, is equally a junction point for the over-land merchandise expedition from the Bicol Region (if a galleon is forced to dock there) to the Laguna de Bai and onwards to the Pasig River and the Colonial walled City of Intramuros . An oral tradition mentions that this chapel is equally a lodging place for the expedition as well as a store house for valuable products shipped in from Mexico .
This structure is endowed with an intact façade, floor of red tiles and main altar with image of the titular. As far as it is known, its palitada overlay had never been scrapped or replaced. The civil and church structures represent that era when Majayjay was a prosperous town and was the biggest town in the province in terms of population and tax revenues. At its height of prosperity, it had a population of 12,000 inhabitants as mentioned in the travel journal of Frenchman Jean Mallat.
Aside from its proximity from the huge and grand parish Church and Rectory, the series of intact bridges linking the various areas of the town proper are also remnants of the Spanish colonial era.
The cool climate of the town nestling on the slopes of Mount Banahaw made it into a favored place for recuperation for Laguna inhabitants sick with tuberculosis during the American Era.
Category II: Edifice with cultural remnants that is still open to cultural
intervention, development and preservation
Included in this category are most of the quadricentennial and tricentennial parishes of the diocese whose places of worship and rectories have been altered to an extreme yet whose remaining cultural relics, strategic location and historical significance invites a renewal and enrichment in the realm of liturgy and the arts.
Most of these churches are in the principal towns of the province, has a deep sense of uniqueness and retains a poetic appeal for those that know it.
The following criteria were adopted for inclusion of a church in this category as part of a realization that despite their already altered architectural state, the existing level of cultural remnant and significance of the place calls for a cultural renaissance:
  • Major parts of the Façade and original walls are still standing.
  • The locality has a deep sense of historical past and connectedness to social history
  • Unique location and frequented by travelers from outside the province
  • Associated with a specific event or aspect of Philippine or local history
  • Uniqueness of cultic message and advocation of the titular
Proposed Churches to be included in this category:
  1. Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist Parish, Liliw, Laguna
(Church Interiors, Façade and Main/Lateral Altars)
Despite the absence of its original retablo and lateral altars, the scraping of the palitada from the interior walls, the introduction of synthetic glass decorations, the façade and the newly opened museum presents a moral option to restore the interiors to complement the said developments.
As the place where the Franciscans first introduced Christianity in the Banahaw Region of the province; where the missionary Juan de Plasencia met his death; where Emilio Jacinto similarly died; where a miraculous image of St. Bonaventure reputedly shed tears of blood; and where the first Tagalog Christian, Juan Masolong was originally from – these are but some of the considerations on why the Church of the beheading of St. John the Baptist is being considered as a potential site for cultural renewal.
  1. Nativity of Our Lady Parish, Pangil, Laguna
(Church Interiors and Façade)
The unique advocacy of the Virgen de LaO and the Santo Niño de LaO plus the grand retablo celebrating the birth of the Mother of God are but some of the reasons for the development of the site as a spiritual and cultural site. The state of the original sacristy – despite its present looks – gives much hope for a restoration to its original composition. Its very simple façade and belfry – as most early churches have – is to be maintained as part of the variety of architectural specimens existing in the province.
Furthermore, the kind of rich retablo sold earlier to the Madrigal Family could be replicated to provide contrast to this very simple yet truly memorable church. Finally, if the oral tradition of the visit of the Prince Carlos of Spain would be substantiated historically, the town would inevitably enter the center stage of Philippine History as the place where the one and only future King of Spain stayed in the far flung colony.
  1. Our Lady of Candelaria Parish, Mabitac, Laguna
(Church Interior, Façade and Patio-Stairs premises)
Its appeal as “the city on top of a hill” that is reached by a 120+ steps staircase plus the unique advocacy of its titular, Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, gives much appeal to improve the already much stream-lined interiors of the church.
A portion of its original retablo – wood carvings of the Apostles Peter and Paul amidst floral background – is attached to an altar piece displayed in San Agustin Museum in Intramuros. Damaged by the strong earthquake of 1934, the original belfry is still standing. A valued possession of the parish is a unique bust image of San Blas who is commemorated every February 3 with the blessing of the throat.
These remnants embody a lively sense of the art of embellishment in this otherwise obscure town. The pride of the local citizenry in this marginalized out of way town could be harnessed with the development of a memorable church complex. By a gradual development plan and approach, this obscure church structure could serve as a reminder of the lethargic life in a Philippine local village during the epoch of Spanish rule. The effort may be pyrrhic and insignificant; but, one may take away prosperity and fame from a community but not its sense of honor and pride in its past and its reminders.
  1. Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church , Pagsanjan, Laguna
(Church Interiors, Lateral Hall and Convent Building
The town of Pagsanjan , former provincial capital of Laguna during the greater part of the Spanish Epoch, is not only today a destination for local and foreign tourists but equally a town in need of much evangelization and conversion from its many social ills. A memorable church complex can be a part of that effort to re-evangelize the town.
The earlier grand Spanish-era Church was gutted by fire and destroyed together with the antique image from Mexico of its patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe. After some representation from the Mexican government and the ecclesiastical authorities of the Guadalupe Basilica, a gift of a new image arrived in the town in 1948.
This image, plus the grand proportion of its church-convent complex, and the numerous antique images held by local illustrious families that survived the war years are the focal centers of attraction in the still numerous church commemorations that dot every month of the liturgical year.
The acquisition of additional space formerly occupied by the Cursillo House made possible the effort to restore and rehabilitate an adjoining antique hall connected to the main body of the Church as a future sanctuary for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
With many pictures showing the interiors of the pre-war church edifice, the hope for the building of their replicas is bright and such could complement the still observed feasts that where reminiscent of the grandeur when the town was the head locality of the entire Province of La Laguna .
  1. Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Luisiana, Laguna
(Church Interior and Façade)
This quiet little town in the backdoor border with Quezon Province is a daughter town of Majayjay , Laguna. Although the old retablo is gone, there are still many old images in the church. The unique composition of the stone images of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary together with Saint Francis and Dominic presides over the façade of the church. Despite the many inappropriate additions to this church – like a wishing well and grotto like altar inside the church and the canopy in front of the façade, the possibility of recovering the symmetry and sense of ageless beauty can still be recovered and enhanced so that spiritual ambiance and civic pride can be restored.
The original church convent is still standing but it is being used as a school building of the Liceo de Luisiana. The town is renowned for its good lambanog, vinegar, Broas bisquits, woven Banig and Bayong from the native Pandan leaves, longganisang Lucban and Pansit Habhab. Its cool climate makes it an enjoyable place to visit. Many of the priests in the Diocese of San Pablo are from this town.
  1. San Pablo Cathedral, San Pablo City
(Church Interior, Façade and Liceo de San Pablo Main Building )
As the main Church of the Diocese of San Pablo and despite the numerous architectural and interior design changes that followed its destruction during the 2nd World War, the Cathedral desires to recover its sense of proportion and dignity. Its brick walls and its belfry are still intact. Part of the post war interventions included the introduction of a canopy in front of the façade [that covered the coat of Arms of the Spanish Monarchy]; and the construction of a circular dome over the roof; and the opening of numerous doors in the side walls of the church nave. Care must be given, however, to the kind of restoration and sense of beauty that will govern the principles of this very important house of worship in the Diocese. The sense of glitter and ephemeral impact has to give way to quiet dignity and understated elegance like the Cathedrals in Vigan, Manila and Lipa. During the Spanish era, this same church was described as “one of the most beautiful churches in the islands”.
The main building of the Liceo de San Pablo has the potential of being developed as a diocesan museum. Previously employed as the original convent of Augustinian and Franciscan Curates; as a minor seminary during the pre-war years; as the campus of the renowned Jesuit School Ateneo de San Pablo ; as the initial site of the St. Peter’s College Seminary and finally, at present, as part of the campus of the diocesan Liceo de San Pablo – these layers of historical identity and memory would be an appropriate setting for a diocesan Museum and exhibit hall.
  1. St. Augustine of Hippo Parish Church , Bay, Laguna
( Church Building , Belfry and interior Walls)
A former capital town and earliest commercial hub of the Spanish province of La Laguna. , the town prospered throughout the Spanish Colonial era because it was the terminal port of the public ferry service that travels the Lake of Bay – the lake got its name from this town – enters the Pasig River and connects the Laguna shoreline settlements with the colonial capital city of the Intramuros de Manila.
During the early 20th century, the town gradually declined in prosperity and social importance because of the introduction of concrete roads and the consequent decline of the lake ferry service due to the more preferred land transportation. The many adobe store houses (Camarin or Camalig] were destroyed during the bombings and fires during the 2nd World War.
The earlier church edifice and town proper was formerly located near the lake [in the present day Barangay San Antonio of Bay]. The town proper and church was transferred during the 1800’s to the present site due to frequent flooding brought about by the siltification and widening of the lake area. The former old parish rectory is now much altered under contemporary lines and is occupied at present by the Liceo de Bay.
  1. St. Anthony of Padua Diocesan Shrine, Pila, Laguna
(Church Interior, Patio and Liceo de Pila Main Building)
Together with Lumban, the town of Pila is the first formally constituted towns (1578) in the province of Laguna during the Spanish era. Previously located near the lake, in the barangay of Pagalangan of neighboring town of Victoria , Laguna, the poblacion was transferred in the present location during the latter half of the 1800’s due to frequent flooding. The presence of many centennial houses in the locality adds a distinctive appeal to the church neighborhood of this town that pride itself as the “Bayang Pinagpala”. Many pictures show the original main retablo and a surviving lateral retablo that was removed during the sanctuary renovation of 1939. The painted wall and stone altar in the original baptistery – presently employed as an Adoration chapel – can still be recovered and its ambiance restored.
Its old convent building – presently used by the Liceo de Pila – has a wide imposing façade facing the church patio.
  1. St. Bartolomew Parish, Nagcarlan, Laguna
(Church Interiors and Old Convent Building )
Made famous by the telenovela “Kampanerang Kuba”, this old church and its adjoining convent is equally well attended particularly during its annual fiesta and the appended celebration in honor of San Diego de Alcala. Aside from its old images, bas relief, pulpit and intact church walls, belfry and façade, its neighboring convent – formerly used as an RVM managed school is a joy to see as its original floor plan is kept intact despite contemporary change in use and the installation of modern fixtures.
  1. St. John the Baptist Parish Parish, Calamba City
(Church Interiors and Patio)
Destroyed during the 2nd World War, its sanctuary and cruciform arms as later post-war additions, this seemingly modern church by present standards occupies the dignity as the place of baptism of the National Hero of the Philippines , Jose Rizal. While the baptistery is maintained by the National Historical Institute, the stark monotony of the church structure is a contrast to the silent honor of being the town of the premier patriot of the nation. This church could be the Laguna counterpart of the Barasoain of Bulacan.
  1. St. Polycarp Parish, Cabuyao, Laguna
(Church interiors and patio stone fence)
The original site of the town proper of Cabuyao was in the present-day barrio of Marinig. It was moved to the present location in the 1800’s due to frequent flooding brought about by the enlargement of the lake.
The old fixtures and retablos of the church remained intact until the mid 1970’s when a general renovation brought about the dismantling of the old devotional relics and art forms. Similarly, the former parish rectory was turned over to the Cursillo Movement that gradually upgraded the old building into its contemporary form today.
It was in the patio of this parish church that some of the bloodiest encounters during the Sakdal Uprising occurred between the insurrectionists and the constabulary. Among the surviving artifacts are the wooden banisters of the former communion rail that are now used as stair banisters in the upgraded convent residence.
  1. St. Sebastian Parish, Lumban, Laguna
(Church Interiors, Altars and Rectory Complex)
Despite the much altered condition of this parish church and convent building, the Church of Lumban maintains the dignity connected with its significant position in Philippine Church History. Aside from the church edifice and Rectory complex, there are also some old ermitas still used for liturgy. Among its claim to fame are:
  • It is the place where the first tabernacle outside Manila was installed in 1600.
  • It is the first stone church built in the province and in the region.
  • It is the site of the first Eucharistic Procession in the entire Archipelago.
  • It is the first center of Evangelization by the Franciscans in the Tagalog Region.
  • It hosted the first musical academy for choir boys and church musicians.
By gradual study and program of priorities, the possibility of affirming this cradle of Christianity and roots of civil society in Laguna. Pila and Lumban are the two oldest towns in the province. The place is equally famous for its production of embroidered and hand painted native cloth as well as its native white cheese.
  1. Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish, Cavinti, Laguna
(Church and Convent Complex)
Born of a great spirit of bayanihan and a strong sense of perpetuating the good condition of its parish church and old rectory building, the same spirit was instrumental in the gradual change in the interiors of their church. With the elimination of the Retablos and the addition of new forms of lighting fixtures, the status of the church structure gradually evolved into a contemporary sterile structure.
By gradually monitoring and focusing on the future plans on church structure intervention, there is a good hope that the characteristics of colonial baroque embellishments could be restored and appreciated. Changes can include the restoration of altars and statues, the re-application of the correct palitada mixture and the formulation of a viable master plan for the rational utilization of the church lot.
Category III: Contemporary Ecclesiastical Structures
All the other parishes in the Diocese of San Pablo not mentioned in the previous 2 categories are included in this group. They represent a different kind of edifice type, contemporary engineering/architectural standards and the new mentality in the liturgical norms fostered under the era of Vatican II. All other parishes that would still be created in the future would equally enter into this category – unless certain considerations would warrant a unique classification.
The overwhelming majority of the parish church structures in the Diocese of San Pablo belong to this category. The fundamental criterion for the inclusion of a church structure into this category is that it was built after the 2nd World War (1945) or has been rebuilt along contemporary lines although, in some places, preceded by older structures.
If ever there is something to be monitored in this type of edifices, such monitoring would be appropriate in the following matters:
· The compatibility between structure and interior design and furnishing.
· The identification of the art form appropriate for the specific structure.
· The esthetic character of the structure that is geared towards the encounter with the Sacred.
· Their faithful compliance with existing Liturgical norms in Church architecture.
· The balanced approportionment of the floor area for maximum utility.
· The development of an appropriate long-term and implementable master plan for the entire parcel of land.
It is most desirable that the employment of qualified and professional persons be availed of so that the resulting structures are truly become culturally appreciated, spiritually uplifting and publicly significant.
In the improvement of the existing structures care must be given to the actual needs of the community, the limitation of the size of the land and the environmental considerations like sanitation, ventilation and ecological balance.
There may be significant cases that will indicate the classification of certain churches under this category. Examples include:
· Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Siniloan, Laguna
Although the parish is more than 400 years old, the damage done by the earthquake of 1934 to the original structure plus the growth of the town population during the decades of the 1990’s and 2000 necessitated the construction of a new six aisle church in the same lot as the older former church.
Of necessary monitoring is the preservation of a united motif of design that was introduced into the new structure. Succeeding parish priests in this church should be guided to maintain the sense of continuity in the leit motif of the church interiors.
· Santa Maria Parish, Santa Maria , Laguna
Just like the Church of Siniloan , the Spanish Era Church of Santa Maria de Caboan was devastated by the earthquake of 1934. The present edifice is the fruit of the effort of people to provide for an alternative house of worship for the town’s faithful.
The present church edifice is considered a contemporary structure because of the irretrievable extent of change in its material fabric. Examples of radical interventions include: enlarged windows, new sanctuary area and use of marble slabs.
· San Antonio de Padua Parish, San Antonio , Kalayaan
For a long period of time, the church edifice of this former independent town was in ruins after its destruction during the Revolution and the loss of its political independence when it reverted as a dependent barrio of the then town of Longos , Laguna.
Upon its re-creation as a separate parish during the 1990’s, the former parish priests assigned to the locale started building a new structure over the few intact walls of the ruins and, thus, the resulting product edifice could safely be considered as contemporary and without any actual connection to the structures that antedated it.
· San Pedro Apostol Parish, San Pedro, Laguna
This former hacienda of the Colegio de San Jose – formerly controlled by the Jesuits and then the Dominicans – gave rise to a church whose rundown façade made of galvanized iron sheets endured until the 1960’s. The present day façade dates back to that era and the enlarged extension completed in the year 2000 completed the obliteration of the earlier structure that existed during the Spanish colonial epoch.
Despite the survival of relics belonging to the earlier times, like the original small image of the patron saint and the Santa Cruz de Tunasan, the classification of this church edifice is considered contemporary due to the change in the structural character of the present building.
· San Miguel Arkanghel Parish, Rizal, Laguna
The fundamental character of the previous church building that was irretrievably altered during the last renovation was its façade that shows a quasi-Chinese pediment. Although erected as a parish during the American Era, this unique façade disappeared with the widening of the church structure to its present proportion.
The edifice is thus classified under the contemporary genre due to the reality of the non- survival of its original character brought by the need to accommodate the growing number of mass-attending faithful.
Final Arguments
History and culture can serve as a reminder of how the Filipino lived and loved. Each church edifice is a window not just to the past but to the culture that created them. Each layer of cultural and social memory indicates the pathways that we went through in the process of evolution of becoming a nation.
Christianity is a religion of Remembrance because we look back to the event of salvation won by Jesus Christ in a unique age and time. It similarly looks back to the interplay of each unique culture with the message of the Christian faith.
In our age of Globalization we see fast foods, common usage of denims and white T-shirt, cubist buildings and the familiar corporate logos. Everything seems to be directed to the attainment of global uniformity.
Each nation has to preserve a sense of uniqueness in the face of this generalized globalization. Our buildings can either be monuments of conformism or be monuments of our national uniqueness. The status of church edifices as expressions – not only of the faith but also of the culture of each believing nation – is a challenge to safeguard the national identity in terms of memories lived, remembered, valued and preserved. Will all our churches look the same? Will the past be ignored and neglected due to the economics of globalization? Will chandeliers from Taiwan be considered as equals to the real crystals of yesteryears? The answer is ours to make.
Even in a modern country like the United States – filled with malls, skyscrapers, McDonalds and Disney Land , variety still exist so that its population will be reminded of the roots of the American Spirit. They have their Virginia mansions, neoclassical buildings in Washington DC , Iolani Palace in Honolulu and the Franciscan Mission Churches in California . These varieties speak of national character nourished by different civilizations and mode of values. This mixture produced the American Dream.
The series of old churches – belonging to Categories I and II – to be found in the parishes from Luisiana to Pangil represent a heritage route that is worthy of developing into a pilgrimage, Bisita Iglesia and tourist itinerary trail very similar to the California Mission Trail in the United States.
A pilgrimage route is not only religious reality. It is also a symbolic travel of the pilgrimage of the Filipino Nation from its infancy to its present status. All nations travel the road of History. How do we travel our own road? Do we value the land marks that act as chapters to our continuing story as a people? Or do we dismantle landmarks because we do not want to remember?
How do we go about in the treatment of our buildings? It is a picture of how we wish to treat ourselves.
3rd of June 2007
Solemnity of the Most Blessed Trinity
By: Fr. Gabriel Ma. Delfino
Licentiate in Church History
Member, Joint Commission
On Church Construction and Cultural Heritage

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