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The building of the Vigan Cathedral (Part X)

What is still missing is the second tower as indicated in the plan with its clock as an ornament for the church and for the capital city of Vigan, a thing certainly appropriate for your Royal Majesty. The sacristy is lacking together with an appropriate corridor. The present one is so close to the main altar and serves only for vesting for the mass and is so small that we cannot store the things that belong to the church. We have them presently stored in a bodega of the palacio of the bishop. We need a sacristy where the priests can rest a little bit from their works, and where the sacristans can live. The plan for this new sacristy is indicated in the plan.

(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.)

What is still missing is the second tower as indicated in the plan with its clock as an ornament for the church and for the capital city of Vigan, a thing certainly appropriate for your Royal Majesty. The sacristy is lacking together with an appropriate corridor. The present one is so close to the main altar and serves only for vesting for the mass and is so small that we cannot store the things that belong to the church. We have them presently stored in a bodega of the palacio of the bishop. We need a sacristy where the priests can rest a little bit from their works, and where the sacristans can live. The plan for this new sacristy is indicated in the plan.

All the altar pieces are still missing, except for the main altar, which has an image of Our Lady and another one of Jesus the Nazarene, an image which is much venerated here in Vigan. The pulpit is missing together with the two ambos; one for the singing of the epistle, the other for the gospel. In the side naves the roof and the platforms (tarimas) are missing. The poor bricks mentioned earlier which had been used out of necessity, should be replaced and made equal to those in the main chapel and in the center of the main nave. We have neither an organ yet for the services, nor curtains for the main chapel which would be very appropriate. There is no choir loft, and iron grills should be placed in the windows, especially also in the room south of the major chapel where the treasures and the money box of this church is kept. The balconies of the rooms situated at the side from the main chapel should be renovated, because they are lacking. Without them the presbytery would be very dark. It would not be bad, but rather very convenient, if the two windows there would be of glass and have iron grills.

There is no cemetery nor a stone courtyard. As of now the church does not have any protective fence neither in front nor from any other side. There is finally a need to clean up, repair and tear down the ruins of the old church to make out of it a decent cemetery.

For all this there is no other source of income. If Your Majesty would only give the sum of 30,000 pesos I do not doubt that with such a donation and the other income together with what we and the parish priest can give, we shall be able to finish and put into reality a cathedral worthy of its Patron, the good and magnanimous King. We hope to receive this from Your Royal Benignity; then we can finish everything and pay off our debts.

Regarding the houses (near the cathedral), I myself am the best witness. A fire destroyed, in November 1797, so many houses in this capital. If the parish priest and the people had not been so vigilant and helpful, we would have lost in one night the cathedral and the palacio, buildings which have consumed so much money and effort. Fortunately, the wind did not blow so much eastwardly; for if it did, I doubt whether we could have saved these buildings. Through this fire the place became free of houses up to a distance of hundred and more brazas. But now we observe that south of the cathedral, new houses are being built. Following up the former petition and the decision of the King we ask you (Governor) with great urgency not to permit that houses be built in this place and that houses already built must not remain there. This should be clearly announced.

This is our exposition as demanded by His Majesty. Palacio of the Ciudad Fernandina of Vigan, October 25, 1799 Fray Agustin, Elected Bishop of Nueva Segovia.

The Alcalde had his “parecer”, his official opinion, ready and signed in the Casa Real of Vigan on November 2, 1799. This is his answer to the decree of the Fiscal of July 10, 1798! He gives his answer to the four points. Regarding the building of the cathedral he points to the first and decisive document, the Real Cedula of 1769, and he mentions the great zeal of Bishop Ruiz, who died in greatest poverty, in a state of shameful to his episcopal dignity. He mentions the sacrifices of his Provisor, Don Manuel Basa who also died a poor man, and following the exposition of the bishop he speaks of the contribution of Dr. Don Benson and of some Spaniards and natives. He repeats the statement of the bishop that the cathedral is indebted to the sum of about 6,000 pesos.

He concurs with the bishop declaring that it is morally impossible to give an exact accounting for all the expenses. His answer to the third point is new. He declares that neither in Ilocos nor in the other provinces are there encomiendas, foundations nor other possible contributions which according to the Law of the Indies could be used for the building of the cathedral. The money needed for the successful conclusion of the work, including the debts to be settled, amounts to about 26,000 pesos. On the last point which concerns the houses, lhe has this to say, namely, that it is known that houses of wood and grass are not allowed close to the cathedral and to other costly buildings of stone, and that they have to be built at a prudent distance because of the danger of fires.

The pro-secretario of the bishop Br. Florentino Uson had the copies of these documents ready on November 8 with the following two witnesses, Don Juan Pedro Albano and Don Bernabe Sales.

Bishop Blaquier, being a busy man, wrote his own letter to the King only on February 12, 1800. He refers to the two important Royal Cedulas of 1769 and 1797 and to the decree of the Capitan General of July 10, 1798 addressed to the Alcalde of Ilocos. But, he continues, things do not move so fast in Ilocos. He started acting as bishop on July 31 (otherwise usually May 31 is given!) He opened the visita pastoral in Vigan on October 22, and this led to the two documents of Bishop and Alcalde. He sent everything to Manila, but he does not know what is going on in Manila. He can only ask for help, because there is no other help forthcoming.23

(To be continued)