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The building of the Vigan Cathedral (Part VII)

NEGOTIATIONS FROM 1795 TO 1805 AND NO HELP

Negotiations in Spain 1795-1797:

When the letter of Bishop Ruiz arrived in Spain, bureaucratic officialdom began its work — a thing which the good bishop feared and tried to avoid by just simply asking for some help.

(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 FROM 1795 TO 1805 AND NO HELP

Negotiations in Spain 1795-1797:

When the letter of Bishop Ruiz arrived in Spain, bureaucratic officialdom began its work — a thing which the good bishop feared and tried to avoid by just simply asking for some help.

Spain 1795:

On April 19, 1795 the letter and the petition of the bishop were forwarded to the Council of the Indies by order of the king who was residing at this time in Aranjuez.

The Council dealt with it on April 22, 1795 and handed it on to the “Contaduria”, to the Department of Finances and to the Fiscal for their opinion. After this, nothing happened for more than a year. We do not know the reasons for this long delay. Was it perhaps due to the difficult situation in Europe after the French Revolution and the wars that followed it?

Spain 1796:

It was only on October 1796 that we have a memorandum from the Contaduria, from the “Señor Contador General del Departamento Setentrional”. He enumerates the three parts of the petition of the bishop, namely, his report about the building of the cathedral on the basis of the permission given by Basco, his petition for help and his request that no houses be built close to the cathedral. Point one and two are criticized (defecto de instruccion con que se presentan). True, Basco gave the permission, but he never submitted the promised full documentation as he should have done. But under the given circumstances and considering the advanced state of the building in 1794 the Contador suggests that the present Governor General of Manila in cooperation with the other officials and in consultation with the bishop prepares a complete documentation and submits this as a new petition. This documentation should contain the present state of the cathedral building, the sources of income, materials at hand, and the sum necessary for its completion. The third point of Bishop Ruiz is acknowledged as being reasonable and sound policy.

On November 19, 1796 we have the opinion of the Fiscal. He agrees with the exposition of the Contador and says that the Governor of Manila should be informed.

The case was once more discussed in the “sala primera” of the Council with the following persons present: Romero, Machado, Pizarro, Escovedo, Porosdulcer, Fondevila, Salcedo, Otore.

Spain 1797:

This led finally to the Royal Cedula of April 29, 1797, directed to the Governor General in Manila. It was almost three years after Bishop Ruiz made his petition. He already died in the meantime. Vigan was presently without a bishop. Eustaquio Benson was provisor sede vacante. The Cedula contains the reprimand for Governor Basco (de que ofrecio dar cuenta y no lo verifico) and repeats the opinion expressed by the Contador.

Reaction in the Philippines, 1798-1800:

Manila 1798:

The Royal Cedula reached Manila in June 1798. On June 14, “el M.Y.S. Don Rafael Maria de Aguilar Cavallero del Orden Militar de Alcantara Brigadier de los Reales exercitos, Gentilhombre de Camara de S.M. con entrada Governador y Capitan General de estas Yalas, y Presidente de la Real Audiencia de ellas”, kissed the Real Cedula, put it upon his head as a letter of the King, his Natural Lord whom God should protect, and ordered that it be sent to the Fiscal. Signed: Aguilar and in his presence: Mariano Rosa de Rivera.

The Fiscal declared on June 25 that it was necessary to look first for the “expediente” which gave the permission to build the Vigan cathedral. The Governor gave the order the following day to look for it in the archives.

On July 5 (the text speaks of June 5, but this is a mistake) the Fiscal stated that he had no knowledge about the actual state of the cathedral of Vigan. Therefore, the Alcalde of Ilocos should be asked to report exactly how things were. He should do this with the help of intelligent and knowledgeable persons.

Five days later on July 10, (the text speaks again of June) Aguilar sent word to the Alcalde of Vigan to do this and then to include in his report the elusive expediente of Basco of January 26, 1786.

(To be continued)