9 heritage churches celebrate 450 years

Nine parish churches across the country celebrated 450 years of existence and Christianization of their respective towns on Tuesday, May 3.

According to the Augustinian Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines based in Manila, the parishes were erected at the decision of the Second Provincial Chapter on May 3, 1572, when priors were elected for the respective Augustinian convents.

The parishes are the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Sto. Niño) of Tondo, Manila; St. Augustine of Lubao and St. James the Apostle of Guagua in Pampnga; St. John the Baptist of Calumpit, Bulacan; Immaculate Conception of Pasig; St. Martin of Tours of Taal, Batangas; St. Augustine of Bay, Laguna; Immaculate Conception of Oton (Ogtong), Iloilo; and St. Monica of Panay, Capiz.

In Tondo, Manila, the Archdiocesan Shrine of Sto. Niño de Tondo commemorated the anniversary with activities from April 29 to May 3.

The original image of Santo Niño de Tondo was welcomed on May 2 at San Agustin Church in Intramuros as a commemoration of its original house with the Augustinians.

On May 3, an unveiling of commemorative markers was led by Tondo Shrine Rector Fr. Estelito Villegas and Holy Name of Jesus Augustinian Prior Provincial Dante Badoy.

The markers recognize Tondo as the first mission church of the Augustinians in Luzon and the first parish church erected by the Order based on its records.

The celebration was capped with a Mass led by Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila at 6 p.m. followed by a procession of the original image of Santo Niño de Tondo.

In Central Luzon, the parishes of Lubao and Betis in Guagua, Pampanga, and in Calumpit, Bulacan, also celebrated their 450th anniversaries as these parishes were co-erected as visitas of Tondo.

According to the Facebook page, Lubao–450 Years of Christianity, St. Augustine Parish in Lubao held its anniversary festivities from April 26 to May 5.

Last April 30, it launched “Simboriu,” a zarzuela about the seed of Christianity in the town.

The the highlight of the celebrations was the unveiling of the historical marker at the first site in Sta. Catalina Chapel and a Mass be led by Archbishop Florentino Lavarias of San Fernando.

In Bulacan’s Diocesan Shrine and Parish of St. John the Baptist in Calumpit, the festivities were marked with a Mass on May 3 led by Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Malolos.

Also in attendance were Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez of Kalookan and the Malolos clergy.

The Mass was joined by the parish communities in the Vicariate of St. James the Apostle, where the parish belonged to, the Shrine’s Parish Pastoral Council, and St. John the Baptist Catholic School.

The parishes are among the most notable in the country due to their historic role as pioneer parishes.

Tondo is remembered as the mother parish of many of the parishes in Manila and nearby provinces, while the parishes of Lubao and Calumpit are the first parishes in Pampanga and Bulacan, respectively.

In Pasig, meanwhile, the Immaculate Conception church was declared a cathedral and is mother parish to many churches in the Southern Tagalog, including Taal’s minor basilica, the largest church in the Philippines and in Asia.

In Panay, St. Monica Parish has the largest church bell in the country, while Oton is considered the first parish dedicated to the Immaculate Conception in the country.

Due to their well-preserved structure, heritage and artworks, Betis and Panay are declared National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The Augustinians were the first friar missionaries in the Philippines and to evangelize the local inhabitants during the time of the first Spanish Governor-General Miguel Lopez de Legaspi in 1565.