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The building of the Vigan Cathedral (Part II)

Documentation of Don Pedro Iriarte, Alcalde of Ilocos:

In the process of preparing his letter, the bishop sent his “Secretario de Camera y Gobierno”, Fr. Juan Roeda, OP, to the governor to procure the necessary testimonies from the civil government. The governor quickly acceded to the request. Since Ilocos had no “escribano publico y real” he employed two men as his witnesses (testigos accompañados y jurados).

(This article was published in 1985 from the The Ilocos Review, newsletter of the Immaculate Concepcion School of Theology, Vigan, Ilocos Sur. This was the basis of a resolution  by Vigan City Councilor Ever Molina requesting the National Historical Institute to rectify the error in the historical marker in front of the front door of the Cathedral of Vigan.)

 

Documentation of Don Pedro Iriarte, Alcalde of Ilocos:

In the process of preparing his letter, the bishop sent his “Secretario de Camera y Gobierno”, Fr. Juan Roeda, OP, to the governor to procure the necessary testimonies from the civil government. The governor quickly acceded to the request. Since Ilocos had no “escribano publico y real” he employed two men as his witnesses (testigos accompañados y jurados).

The letter of the governor “Capitan Don Pedro de Iriarte, Alcalde Mayor y Capitan Aguerra por su Majestad de esta provincia de Ilocos su termino y jurisdicion que actuo como Juez Receptor” confirmed the statements of the bishop. He declared that there was no residence for the bishop and that no house in Vigan would fit the purpose. The bishop was staying in the house of the parish priest which was half ruined and was not worthy of him. The letter written on June 20 was signed by his three witnesses Don Eusebio Sespedes, Don Eusebio Lasaca and Don Francisco Moreno and countersigned by Don Olimpo Gallardo and Don Baltazar Ramos de Alcantara.

If it was easy for the governor to testify for the non-existence of a “palacio”, the second request, a certified documentation for the need of a new Cathedral, proved to be more complicated.

On June 17 Fr. Roeda requested in the name of the bishop that “God-fearing people experienced in architecture” should inspect the old church and report on the following points: the condition of the foundation (ciemientos), of the walls, of the ceiling (“obras muertes”), on the size of the church with regard to the growing population, (6) and whether a repair of the old church was advisable or whether a completely new building was called for; they should also testify that there was no building for the bishop in whole of Vigan.

That same day the governor issued a command to the gobernadorcillos of the Indios and Chinese (ambos gremios) to look for intelligent people experienced in architecture for an ocular inspection of the church.

The following day the gobernadorcillos declared that they could not find anyone in their jurisdication, except for an Indio who had some experience as a mason (“con mediana inteligencia en obra de cal y canto”). This failure to produce someone for the ocular inspection was followed by a summons of the governor to all the resident Spaniards, whether coming from Spain or America to inspect the Church together with one principal from among the Indios (perhaps the one just mentioned who had some experience in masonry). The following persons were called: Don Juan Joseph de Iriarte from Tolosa in Vizcaya (Spain), Don Francisco Moreno from San Lucas de Marramea in Andalucia (Spain) and Don Francisco Sespedes from Mexico and Don Domingo de los Santos, head of a barangay in Vigan. They were ready to do the work, although none of them was an architect by profession. But at least they could compare the church of Vigan with the cathedral they saw in Spain and Mexico.

The result of their inspection is contained in an expediente of June 20, made in four copies, three for the bishop, and one for the alcalde. They declared that the whole building was a work of poor architecture. The place of the church was not good, since it was situated in a low-lying sitio which was exposed to flooding during the rainy season, so much so that water reached the main altar and the sacristy. The building was close to a winding river whose waters eroded the soil close to the foundation of the church during the rainy season. A medium earthquake occurring within a few years could topple the whole building. The church was neither long nor wide enough for the increasing population with the result that during high feasts many people could or did not attend Mass or that people were so packed together in the church, which certainly was not conducive to piety. The walls were weak, although the material seemed to be durable. The cemetery was destroyed and had only a half ruined enclosure. The tower for the bells consisted of four poles supporting other beams on top of which the bells were fastened. The beams supporting the roof (palamenta) of the church were half eaten by worms, so that there was danger of the whole roof falling down. The church built for a pueblo which never dreamt of becoming a city and an episcopal seat was simply too small for a cathedral, neither did it look decent. No repair work could remedy anything and besides it would be more expensive.

Copies of the expediente were made in the office of the Alcalde on June 22 and witnesses for this were Don Ascanio de la Cruz, Don Antonio Henriquez and Don Pablo del Castillo.

(To be continued)

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