May is a month of festivities and merriment but most importantly, the month of May has been declared as the National Heritage month, under Proclamation No. 439 in 2003.
The Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc., (FHFI) together with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has been tasked to promote and strengthen the awareness of cultural heritage sites, structures and landscapes.
Heritage is the preservation and conservation brought about by the various customs and traditions handed down by the age-old generations. It is a legacy.
An important structure that has become a tangible proof of the country’s heritage is the church. All throughout the country—Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao—churches have been the pillars, strength that have revealed the past that ought to be preserved.
Churches abound all over
One of those churches stands tall in the heart of Daraga, Albay, the Nuestra Senora Porteria. Completed in 1773 by the Franciscan missionaries, the church was built on top of a hill at Sta. Maria, Barangay San Roque. The façade of the church has four spiral columns that represent the four evangelists from the book of the New Testament with the engravings of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. To date, the church still has the baroque architecture based on the original design. During its renovation in 1973, mixture of lime was used, believed that it will through time display its original form and style. Nuestra Senora dela Porteria declared the western façade, the belfry and the baptistery a National Cultural Treasure in 2007.
From Daraga, to Tobacco, Albay—about forty-six kilometers and a little over an hour via land travel—one finds the church of San Juan Bautista Parish. The church has been declared a National Historical Landmark in 1993 and a National Cultural Treasure in 2012. Similarly, the Franciscan missionaries constructed both churches. The church was built in honor of Saint John the Baptist and the craftsmanship was done by Filipino masons. As there was no cement during those times, the use of lime, egg albumin and molasses were used as binder and hardener. It was acclaimed as “one of the most stately religious structures in the province of Albay.”
Lastly, in Tanay, approximately 41 kilometers from Makati stood the church of San Ildefonso de Toledo Parish, commonly known as Tanay Church.
The story goes that there were three Chinese soldiers who discovered the image of the La Purisima Concepcion hidden in the jungle, where the two Chinese soldiers threw their spears but turned around, hitting and killing them and made the one remaining Chinese soldier terrified. The remaining Chinese soldier who witnessed the incident committed suicide by hanging himself by a tree. To date, the place is known as known as “Binitinan” or place of hanging.
There has been the much-talked Stations of the Cross, the first twelve having been done by Malayans, based on the look and style and the last two were distinctly designed by Caucasians. The more controversial has been the seventh station, where Caiaphas, the high priest, depicts wearing sunglasses. With all the glitch, San Ildefonso de Toledo Parish remains to house “one of the most beautiful Stations of the Cross in Asia”. In 2001, the church was declared a National Cultural Treasure.
Filipino Heritage Festival Inc., together with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, CBCP – Permanent Committee on the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Department of Tourism, and Security Bank Corporation holds its annual Heritage Pilgrimage to Churches declared as National Cultural Treasures – HP Tours in Bicol region (Albay and Sorsogon) on May 13 to 15 and in Tanay, Rizal and Quezon on June 3 to 4. Aside from visits to the Colonial Churches, the HP tour includes visit of ancestral homes, the city/town’s heritage sites, traditional crafts and taste of local cuisine.
For inquiries, call Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. (FHFI) and look for Tonie Bautista at 330-2215 and 0916-4788163.