As part of its 24th anniversary celebration, the Wong Chu King Foundation (WCKF) is formally turning over the newly renovated Diocesan Shrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the largest church in Cavite, to its parish in Naic town.
The foundation, a non-government organization supporting apostolic work, strengthened the church’s outer wall structure with limestone and built a new garden and fountain, said Alexander Wongchuking, WCKF executive director.
“We cannot allow this historic church to go into disrepair because it not only strengthened the Filipino faith but also stands as a mute witness to the martyrdom of the defenders of Philippine freedom and nationhood,” he added, recalling the church’s role in the fight for Philippine independence from Spanish, American and Japanese conquerors.
The project was started in June 2013 and completed in February. The symbolic turnover of the neo-Gothic style church will be held on March 30, the foundation’s 24th anniversary.
On a personal level, Wong–chuking said the church has always been near to the hearts of the Wongchuking family and all WCKF board officers and members since Nelia Dy Wong–chuking, WCKF president and chair of the board, was born in Naic and traces her roots to the town and its church.
“Our project aims to maintain the original structure, essence and sanctity of the church,” said James Navarette, WCKF general manager.
“At first, the foundation focused on repairing the church’s roof and ceiling.
But when Mrs. Wongchuking heard of the plan of Fr. Virgilio Saenz-Mendoza, the parish priest, and the people of Naic to refurbish the outer walls of the church, she offered to help,” Navarette explained.
WCKF repaired the church roof and ceiling from August to December 2012. In the same year, the foundation, which also supports educational programs and projects, funded the renovation of the social hall and three classrooms of Naic Elementary School.
Initially named the Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception, the diocesan shrine first took the shape of a simple low-roofed stone structure. Its construction began in 1835 after Naic separated from Maragondon as a free parish, and was completed in 1839. But its reconstruction as a church and convent complex in neo-Gothic form began only in 1872 and was completed in 1892.
On November 17, 1996, Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal consecrated the church as the parish celebrated the bicentennial of its formation. On December 8, 1996, Bishop Manuel Sobreviñas declared it as a diocesan shrine, with all the privileges and indulgences attached to it.
The church served as a backdrop and mute witness to turbulent episodes in Philippine history. In May 1897, Spanish colonial soldiers used it as their headquarters when they recaptured Naic from Filipino revolutionary forces.
In 1899, during the Filipino-American war, US soldiers used it as their barracks. From 1942 to 1945, Japanese soldiers used its belfry as a watchtower. Consequently, the American bombardment from Corregidor damaged the main altar but the image of the Immaculate Conception was saved.