Why are Bulacan churches being renovated?
This being the Holy Week, maybe it is timely to look at the mysterious simultaneous renovation of a number of churches in Bulacan that don’t need renovation. The churches of Angat, Hagonoy and Santa Maria are all being renovated at the same time. Why? Is it just coincidence, or is there a common denominator? Maybe there are other churches being renovated that have not yet come to public attention? If there is something going on in your church, ask questions and inform the bishop.
Mercifully, Bulacan Bishop Jose F. Olivero has ordered a halt to the renovation of the Angat and Hagonoy churches and an investigation of the one being done at the Santa Maria church. Heritage conservationists had protested against the renovation projects.
Strangely, the parish priests who have started the renovations changed their stories when protests started pouring in.
In Angat, the original plan of the parish priest was to replace all the floor tiles of the church, said to be half-a-century old, with new tiles with another design. But when the heritage advocates of the province protested, the priest said only the tiles on the aisle and sides would be replaced. When residents still protested, the priest backtracked again and said only the aisle tiles would be changed, and, still later, that only the damaged tiles would be replaced.
Historian Jaime Salvador Corpuz, former president of the Bulacan Heritage Conservation Society, said there was really no need to replace the tiles. A photograph of the church floor which appeared in the Inquirer seems to show the tiles in good condition.
Architect Andrew de Guzman, a resident of Bulacan and a member of the national committee on the visual arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said he had always been opposed to the idea of removing the old tiles of churches, ostensibly for “renovation.”
“Replacing the old baldosa of the church, just like what happened in Pulilan in 2013 and Plaridel in the 1990s, is like erasing the footprints of our grandparents,” he said.
De Guzman lamented that despite the Permanent Commission on the Cultural Heritage of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, there are still priests who are not conscious of the importance of cultural heritage as a capital to “unite and strengthen the identity of the people.”
The conservation of heritage churches can also be “an instrument to the strengthening of the faith,” he added.
The question is: Why do parish priests want to engage in renovation when it costs a lot of money? Some observers surmised that with renovation, the priests can ask for donations from parishioners. The modus operandi, according to one observer, is for a prominent family to provide the initial cost of renovation. But then that family is authorized to solicit donations and contributions, and the solicited collections are usually much more than what the prominent family donated.
Another observer recounted the renovation of the Manila Cathedral. I don’t know how true his story is, but he said the priests were puzzled why only the earth under the altar was being excavated for quite some time. It turned out that the workers were hunting for treasure, said to be buried under the altar. Of course there was none.
The storyteller said it is easy for whoever masterminded the treasure hunt to believe that there was buried treasure under the cathedral because nearby Fort Santiago was ordered excavated by no less than a high-ranking Malacañang official in search of the legendary Yamashita treasure. Nothing was found, of course.
Many decades after the war, gullible fortune hunters are still digging for the fabled Yamashita treasure. Many corners of the Philippines have been dug up, even the most unlikely places, yet nothing has turned up so far. But a considerable amount of treasure must have been spent for the hunt.
I personally witnessed how an old abandoned church in the Bosoboso valley of Antipolo was dug up in the search for the supposed Yamashita treasure. A huge acacia tree growing beside the church was even cut down in the belief that the treasure was in the trunk of the tree. Poor tree, its life was snuffed out because of man’s greed for loot.
Incidentally, historian Jaime Corpuz said that when the present parish priest of Angat, Fr. Angelito Santiago, was assigned to the Barasoain Church in Malolos, he had the old trees in the premises cut down. I wonder why.
As for the Hagonoy church, Bishop Oliveros rejected the plan to build a covered court in the church patio.
The renovation of the Santa Maria church, on the other hand, was being done without the permission of the diocese when it came to the attention of the bishop. A certain resident of Bulacan is supposed to be behind it. One reason advanced was to give the priest an excuse to throw out the huge old statues of saints donated by families and used during processions and replace them with new ones owned by influential families.
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