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The building of the Vigan Cathedral (Part V)

The following informations are taken from the report which Bishop Blaquier wrote in late 1799 and submitted to the King early 1800, a report which Bishop Ruiz and Governor Basco failed to submit as promised in the preliminary permission.

(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 the right side of the front door of the Cathedral of Vigan.)

 

Negotiations 1785-1786:

The following informations are taken from the report which Bishop Blaquier wrote in late 1799 and submitted to the King early 1800, a report which Bishop Ruiz and Governor Basco failed to submit as promised in the preliminary permission.

It began probably with the visit of Basco to Vigan early 1785. Bishop Ruiz and his secretary Fr. Juan de la Concepcion were then residing in the spacious convento of the Augustinians in Bantay parish (just as some twenty years earlier Bishop Ustariz also enjoyed the hospitality of the Augustinians). In February 18 he made a copy of the Royal Cedula of 1769, the basic document for the building of the cathedral. At the same time Basco gave orders to the Alcalde of Vigan Don Vicente Verzosa to organize a careful inspection of the actual condition of the existing parish-cathedral church of Vigan.

Bishop Ruiz submitted, perhaps at this time, his own report about the condition of his cathedral. Unfortunately no date was given, as it happened very frequently with ecclesiastical documents.

The next document belonged to Governor Verzosa, dated March 16. Basco probably already left. Verzosa was back for business in Vigan. In this letter he, together with his two companions, (poor Vigan could not yet afford an escribano publico) Don Simon Melgarejo de Leon and Don Joseph Pablo Manlapos, summoned the “maestro carpentero” Pedro de la Cruz in order to inspect the church and to submit a report.

Perhaps that very same day Pedro de la Cruz gave his report. Pedro knew some Spanish, so no interpreter was needed. He could write and sign his report. It said that the church had 150 beams for the roof (quilos) and two rafters (tirantes), all joined together (todos dormientes); it had sixteen posts, all rotten and useless. If nothing were to be done, the church would soon collapse completely.

Alcalde Verzosa submitted this report in April 19 to Basco. We have then again an undated letter of the bishop. He repeated his petition and reminded the Capitan General of his own visit and ocular inspection and asked for a decision in his favor. This petition of the bishop was acted upon in the Real Palacio of Manila on October 19, 1785, with the remark that it be handed over to the fiscal for his opinion.

Six days later in October 25, the Fiscal handed down his opinion. He accepted the documentation about the state of the church as sufficient for a report to the King. His main concern was the financing of this big project. The earlier permission of the Real Cedula of 1769 counted on the spoils of the former bishop. But no money from this source was forthcoming so far. Hence it will be necessary to apply literally the provisions of the law as contained in law 2, title 2, book 1 of the Recopolacion. Hence it was now the duty of the Alcalde to act. He had to appoint two knowledgeable and intelligent men to prepare an estimate of the costs for the building and he had to submit what was to come from the “almoneda publica”, from the side of the bishop, and what could and should be expected from other sources like from the encomenderos of the three provinces of the bishopric. This should be submitted to the official of the Royal Hacienda who would testify whether the encomenderos could give the third part as povided for by law.

Two days later, Basco decreed that the bishop should be informed about this official opinion of the Oydor Fiscal and that the necessary directives be given to the Alcalde of Ilocos.

(To be continued)

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