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The building of the Vigan Cathedral (Part IX)

For all the work, the expenses incurred reached so far thirty thousand pesos. There are no more contributions except what the town could do (although Vigan is also a parish, the parishioners hardly pay for funerals because of their poverty). But they haul sand, water, gravel and all kinds of stones and wood. This was their contribution. They also haul and donate lime and wood, but not everything.

(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.)

For all the work, the expenses incurred reached so far thirty thousand pesos. There are no more contributions except what the town could do (although Vigan is also a parish, the parishioners hardly pay for funerals because of their poverty). But they haul sand, water, gravel and all kinds of stones and wood. This was their contribution. They also haul and donate lime and wood, but not everything.

The money came from the income of the parish, the money of the octaves, and fiestas and from one or the other funeral. All this amounts more or less to 500 pesos a year. To this can be added the 400 pesos which the King gives yearly for expenses of the cathedral. But this is not yet handed over for the years 1798 and 1799 as I am told. The King gives 128 pesos for six quintales of wax, a quintal of wax costs at times as little as 25 pesos, but sometimes the price is as high as sixty to ninety, if ever it is available at all. This money is also meant for hundred gantas oil, 12 gantas for one peso, if it is cheap or a ganta for two reales? This is our total income. We must also take into account the support of the sacristans and servers, the expenses for wax, wine and wheat, ornaments and the other things necessary for the church, expenses which are not small. We have still the alms coming from the faithful, but this is little. Since the beginning of the construction of the church on January 1, 1790 (Bishop Ruiz speaks of January 31) alms amount to not more than a hundred pesos. Our Indios and the few mestizos are not rich. They do enough by contributing their labor and their boats for transportation. This was done by Don Justo Angco, Don Alexandro de Leon, Don Juan Mariano, Don Marcelo Pichay, Don Vicente Anastacio, and Don Melecio Galardo even offered his two boats. Another benefactor of this kind was a Spaniard from Manila. He gave all the nails needed for the roof of the church. It was no small donation since it would have cost many pesos. He did this out of respect and consideration towards my predecessor. The clerk (Factor) of the tobacco company, Don Melchor de Lama (?) gave in a similar way 55 pesos, and a Don Juan Benito de Echevarria from the same company gave 25 pesos. You yourself, gave since you started your office as Alcalde that portion of stone seats (??) and more than 1,000 cavans of lime with other precious donations and the vestment for Our Lady who will reward you (?).

The truly great benefactors of this church were my illustrious predecessor and the parish priests of Vigan, the deceased Don Manuel Basa and the present Parish Priest, Dr. Don Eustaquio Benson. My predecessor did not only economize, but lived at times in destitution and misery. All his money went for the building of the church and for the ornaments of his cathedral. Nothing was used for other purposes. He efficaciously persevered and put all his talents into this work. He was always working there and this caused eventually his final sickness which resulted from the vapors issuing from the lime. He finally died impoverished and with debts. He had not enough money to order masses to be said for him! But God who is a good remunerator shall reward him with abundance as He has promised. Also Fr. Don Basa died so to say, with nothing, after having served not less than fourteen years in this “fat” parish. The present parish priest has contributed his efficiency and concern together with some alms on the occasion of the translation of the Blessed Sacrament. He could not give as much as he wanted, since Vigan is his first parish. He stayed only for a short time in Lapog. Vigan itself has become much smaller after San Vicente and Santa Catalina were separated from its mother parish in 1795. Don Vicente Vallejos contributed also with his zeal, alms and work when he, as the Sacristan Mayor of the cathedral, was acting priest after the death of Señor Basa.

At present there is no material at hand, nor do we have money and funds, except perhaps some 200 pesos in the deposit of the church which we founded during our visita pastoral. (In a brief note at the end of this report Blaquier corrects himself: an exact accounting of the funds of the church showed that it did not only possess 300 pesos, but was indebted to the amount of 22 pesos, two reales and one grano!) There are the 800 pesos for the years 1798 and 1799, as mentioned above which the King gives yearly to cathedrals. We ourselves find ourselves with only one third of our salary, which is not enough to cover our own expenses and our alms to the man, poor people at our doors who every day increase in numbers. We have to cut down our own expenses to be able to help them, not to mention the debts we have contracted, in traveling, in repairing the palace and the other works which are necessary for safety’s sake.

The cathedral had, as stated in the letter of May 26, 1794, an unfinished front side, no roof, no tower with other things still missing. The parish priest, Don Basa declared that all the funds were exhausted. But since it was necessary to finish the roof in so far as much depended on it, our predecessor gave on June 25, 1795 from Imus the order to find money and burdened the church with a loan of 3000 pesos which is up to now not yet paid back. This money was used for the facade, the roof and the tower. Nothing could be paid back, because whatever alms and money came in from the acting and actual parish priests, were used for the work since only the main altar and the central nave are a little bit decent for the celebration of the holy mass. Likewise my predecessor, after ordering in a letter dated April 14, 1794 the separation of the parishes of San Vicente and Santa Catalina from their mother parish Vigan, also decreed that these parishes should receive a sisterly help when they started to build their own churches since they had contributed during all his incumbency as bishop to the funds of the church of Vigan. I know that it was his will that each of these new parishes should receive for their church 1,000 to 1,500 pesos. If we consider this, then the account of Vigan is actually in the red with 6,000 pesos!

(To be continued)