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Rename Del Monte Avenue after FPJ?

/ 04:05 AM October 15, 2020

Surely no one will protest the naming or renaming of a major road after the late movie icon Fernando Poe Jr. or FPJ. But renaming Del Monte Avenue in Quezon City after him is another matter. The San Francisco del Monte area from which the avenue (approximately 3 kilometers) derives its name has in it a historic heritage site that dates back to the early Spanish era, an ancient church and convent named after a canonized Spanish Catholic saint who had founded it, San Pedro Bautista of the Franciscan Order.

Imagine renaming the historic Intramuros after movie icon Rosa Rosal, simply because the classic movie “Anak Dalita” in which she starred was set there and because the Philippine National Red Cross which she once headed is just nearby. She will surely object!

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Del Monte Avenue happens to be the site of FPJ’s movie studio, a reason perhaps for Sen. Lito Lapid to file Senate Bill No. 1822 that seeks the renaming. I drive by the place quite often because I live two barangays away and I do most of my groceries and bank transactions on Del Monte. The banks there stand cheek by jowl, I don’t know why.

The Franciscan Province of San Pedro Bautista in the Philippines wrote an open letter to Senator Lapid to “humbly present our objection,” citing the “great historical value to the name of Del Monte Avenue since it refers to the very origins of Quezon City. This name is derived from its full name San Francisco del Monte, a secluded place founded on Feb. 17, 1590 by Fray Pedro Bautista, a Franciscan missionary. The place has been referred to as San Fransisco del Monte to honor Saint Francis. Del Monte was added to its name because it sits on a hilly area and to distinguish it from San Francisco de Manila, then the Franciscan Church in Intramuros.”

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Down the hill is a meandering river whose banks must have been romantic sites in those times. The bridge over it on Del Monte is named after the martyred Sen. Ninoy Aquino.

The San Pedro Bautista Church (a minor basilica) and convent hold precious museum artifacts and structures for the historically and culturally inclined and especially for those drawn to the Franciscan charism. In 2010, I walked around the indoor courtyard to take photos and see for myself what lie therein, among them, a 1936 marker that says:

“The site was donated to the Franciscans on February 17, 1590 by Governor Santiago de Vera in the name of King Philip II. Chapels were built of thatch and bamboo in 1590, of wood in 1593 and of volcanic tuff in 1599. The last was badly damaged in the Chinese uprising of 1639. Present church was built from 1696 to 1699, through the generosity of Tomas de Endaya. To this site retired for prayer and recollection several Franciscans who (later) suffered martyrdom in Japan in the XVII century and others who led missionary expeditions to Japan, China and Cambodia. The Escuela Serafica or probation school for Filipino applicants to the Franciscan Order was opened here July 16, 1931.” The marker bears the official government seal of the Historical Research and Markers Committee.

The letter to Lapid signed by Fr. Cielo R. Almazan OFM, minister provincial, adds that “San Pedro Bautista’s valuable achievements spanning five centuries were not only religious and historical but also cultural in the line of music, public health, and architecture. He instructed the friars to study our language. He initiated the singing of liturgical music in Filipino, established choirs of Filipinos, produced native musical instruments. He discovered the medicinal values of native plants and hot springs in Los Baños. He built the first stone churches outside Manila. He defended the natives from the abuses of our Spanish colonizers.” And, I presume, from the Spanish frailes demonized in Rizal’s novels.

FPJ should indeed be honored with a street named after him, the letter says, so why not, say, West Avenue where Del Monte ends. FPJ’s family had lived on the so-often-mispronounced Roosevelt Avenue (named after former US president FDR) which is perpendicular to Del Monte.

Citing the heritage law, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has expressed reservations about renaming Del Monte after FPJ. But the bill has been approved by the Senate’s public works committee.

Leave well enough alone, the saying goes.

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TAGS: FPJ Avenue, Human Face, Lito Lapid, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, San Francisco Del Monte Avenue
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