A short remark on the papers recording the letter of Bishop Ruiz of 1794, written at the end of 1800, on December 22 expresses some astonishment that there is no reaction from the Philippines. At this time the documentation of Bishop Blaquier did not yet reach Spain.
The papers prepared by Blaquier and Cubells must have arrived in July 1801. The Council of the Indies discussed them and handed them on to the Fiscal for his opinion on July 20, 1801.
The Fiscal answered on August 7. As usual the Fiscal summarizes the case. When Blaquier took possession of his see, he found that the information as demanded by the Governor in the Real Cedula of 1797 was still not finished. On the occasion of his visita pastoral of the Vigan parish the bishop contacted the Alcalde on October 22, 1799, and things began to move. He confessed his ignorance why Manila had not acted. In any case he had not received any help for his cathedral. The money he has for this project is his own little salary and that of the parish priests. The structures of the cathedral are finished, so also the bell tower; the main nave can be used, but not the side naves. The building so far cost 30,000 pesos. He needs still some 20,000 to complete the work in order to have a decent cathedral. He cannot give an exact accounting, since some money came through pious donations. One thing is certain, he did not get the help provided already in the Cedula of 1769; neither did the Cedula of 1797 produce the desired help. The Fiscal now proposes that the bishop appoints a person to whom the money left by his predecessor (now in singular, in earlier documents always predecessors) should be given, in addition to a yearly amount coming from the tributes of the diocese until the cathedral is finished. The Governor in Manila should act quickly; he should give an information about the result; the bishop on the other hand should be economical in his expenses. The mayordomo to be appointed by the bishop should give a yearly account.
The Council, sala primera, consisting of the following members, Torre, Escovedo, Mangino, Acedo, Urizar, Salcedo and Roxas, in a session on August 14 agreed with the proposal of the Fiscal with the proviso that the money coming from the tributes should be in agreement with what the Law provides for in such cases and only after there is a corresponding decision of His Majesty. It seems no action was taken on this resolution, at least we have no document till February 1803!
In the meantime Bishop Blaquier wrote another letter to the King on May 6, 1802. He says that he still has no answer for his letter of February 12, 1800 and the documentation submitted at this time in accordance with the Cedula of 1797. In the meantime the main altar was gilded, paid by the money of the cathedral and of the parish priest. The altar of the Poor Souls was also gilded, thanks to the donation of a Sangley mestizo, Don Juan Mariano. The same is true for the altar of Our Lady, whose donor was another Chinese mestizo, Don Alejandro de Leon. A fourth altar is being made in honor of Jesus Nazareno, so much venerated in Vigan, with the same two mestizos paying for it. The Filipino, Don Melecio Gallardo, promised another altar. The sacristy, so badly needed, as explained in the former petition, is under construction. They are putting the tiles of the roof. For the expenses he had to look for and take a loan of 5,000 pesos. These are the improvements effected since the report of 1800. The bishop once more repeats his petition for help.
The next document is again a summary of the whole process, dated February 12, 1803. It repeats the opinion of the fiscal and of the consejo of 1801 which is now to be handed on to the King.
The Council dealt once more with the question, and finally on April 21, 1803, nine years after Bishop Ruiz had written his letter, three years after Bishop Blaquier had submitted the requested documentation, two royal cedulas went out, one for the bishop of Vigan, another one for the Governor General in Manila. The bishop is promised his help while the governor is told to act quickly.
We do not know whether the bishop, or rather his provisors — Blaquier died on December 1803 during his first Visita Pastoral as bishop in Cagayan — Eustaquio Benson (1803-1806), then Vicente Vallejos (1806-1808) or the next bishop Cayetano Pallas (1808-1815) received the spoils and the amount from the tributes as stipulated in the Royal Cedula.
What happened to the letter of Bishop Blaquier of May 6, 1802? It reached Spain in July 1803. On August 1, 1803, it was sent to the Contaduria General. We do not know why, but action was taken only a year later. A paper prepared on December 7, 1804 and signed by a Pedro Aparicio summarizes that the bishop inspite of two royal cedulas, has received no help so far. But in the meantime the latest Cedula Real of April 21, 1803 was issued and sent. Hence the Contaduria declares that under the given circumstances no further action was needed. The Fiscal agrees with this in his opinion, dated December 29, 1804. The last remark in this whole documentation is a remark from the Council, primera sala, of January 7, 1805: No exige providencia por ahora este expediente!
(To be continued)