The Building of the Vigan Cathedral (Last Part)




Vigan parish possesses a “libro de recibos y gastos” of the “fabrica” of the cathedral, covering the time from 1799 to 1855 with some pages missing.1 The book shows that the cathedral soon after its erection needed repair and big expenses, which the regular income of the parish the royal stipend for the cathedral and the share in the “sanctorum”, the obligatory collection on the three feasts shouldered. The book reveals also something about the prices of the materials, their transport, and the salaries of the workers at this time. We limit ourselves to major repairs and while not always exact we give the amounts in pesos (P) and reales (R):

1803: October: 2,800 pesos for the sacristy, still under Bishop Blaquier.2

1805: April : 529 pesos for the sacristy (under Eustaquio Benson as gobernador eclesiastico).

1809: In 1808 the new Bishop Cayetano Pallas took possession of his see. In 1809 repair work in the cathedral was going on under maestro Rufino Domingo. Some pages are missing. Here are some data:

lime: 130 cavans 19 p 4 r
bricks: 8,800 35 p (250 ladrillos = one peso)
tiles: 438 (tejas) 4 p 3 r (100 tejas = one peso)
tiles: 50 great ones 3 p 3 r (each 1/2 real)
nails: (7 boxes) 7 p 4 r (for beams of sacristy, bell tower and bodegas)
carpenter per day 2 r
(stonecutter) per day 3 r
unskilled laborer per day 1 r
cargador per day 1/2 r
maestro of the work 3 r

1810: Early in 1810 seven rafters of the roof just in front of the main altar broke down. Bishop Pallas who was on visitation in Laoag gave to the parish priest Pedro de Leon (a native of Cavite) in charge of Vigan from 1809 to 1820, the permission for repair work.3 The maestro was again Rufino Domingo. The first payment of salaries was made on January 19, the last on April 21.

Lumber: 30 p
300 cavans lime: 37 p 4 r (including transportation)
Nails: 43 p
8,350 bricks 25 p
Salaries: ca 210 p (daily salary unchanged)

1818: In 1818 the new bishop Francisco Alban was appointed and took possession of Vigan diocese.4 At this juncture we find again a major work going on at the cathedral still under maestro Rufino Domingo. It started in February and lasted till June. A total of ca 550 pesos were spent. The maestro received now 4 r; painters were given the same pay per day.

1819: Work started in February and lasted till (July?). We list down the payments for February:

Lumber: ca 80 p
18,000 bricks 47 p
370 cavans of lime 46 p
150 cavans of sand 1 p 6 r
9,360 ordinary nails 38 p
250 big nails 6 p
750 shells (windows) 2 p
161 pieces of tar 6 p

Sawyers: There follows a long list of payments made to the azerradores, who were paid according to the size of the lumber.

In March painters started with their work. This year they spent ca 600 pesos for work at the cathedral.

1824: No major works appear till 1824. Now under a new parish priest, Fr. Lazaro Teaño (1823-1833), a member of a rather rich Chinese mestizo family of Vigan, a big repair work set in. The sacristy needed attention. In 1824 the following expenses for the sacristy are listed down:


General disbursement: 356 p
800 tiles: 54 p 4 r
Nails: 37 p

1824-1826: The major undertaking were repairs in the cathedral. It started in December 1824 and lasted with some interruption, probably due also to the weather, till July 1826. The expenses summarized were:


Salaries: ca 3,190 p This includes all kinds of workers up to the maestro who now receives 20 pesos monthly.
Lumber: 1,136 p

(Including the government licenses). Most lumber came from private contractors; one item was brought by Tinguians from Abra, La Paz – Lagangilang area.

815 cañas (bamboo?) 12 p 1 r
1,128 bejucos 19 p
8,000 nipas 20 p
ca 11,000 cavans lime 984 p

Most of it came from San Esteban, some from Santo Domingo, once from the island of Pingit. Transportation from San Esteban was rather expensive.

344,000 bricks 730 p
Nails 316 p
5,550 first class tiles 156 p
7,000 second class tiles 47 p (for camarin shed of the lumber).


The whole amount spent was about 6,500 pesos. At the end there were just 6 p 7 r left in the money box of the cathedral.5

1830: During this year a “deposito” for the cathedral was built.6 Expenses are listed as follows:

275 cavans of lime 24 p 3 r
10,600 bricks 23 p 1 r
Bricklayers (Albañiles) 19 p 5 r
Ordinary workers 29
Maestro Bartholo 19

In the same year anays entered the “caja” of the cathedral and wrought havoc among the money, books and papers deposited there. Repair in the amount of 62 p and 3 r was charged not to the cathedral, but to those who had the keys of the box!

1831: The bishop with the cooperation of the parish bought two bells for 671 p 5 r. A collection among the mestizos yielded 248 p. For the next ten years no greater work appears in the accounts. In the meantime Vigan received a new parish priest, Estanislao Bumantay (1835-1843), a member of an old family among the principales. It seems that he is the one who gave to the cathedral the main altar which we now possess. He did not completely finish the work. It was left to his successor, the acting parish priest (and sacristan mayor), Fr. Canuto de la Cruz, a long-standing secretary of Bishop Alban. When in 1846 he handed over the parish to the new parish priest Pedro Abaya (1846-1862), the second priest of the Abaya clan from Candon, he carefully listed down the expenses under Bumantay and his own expenses in this work for the church:


Work under Bumantay for the main altar (retablo mayor):

Lumber 59 p 4 r
Sawyers 53 p
Sculptors and Carvers (escultores) 522 p 7 r
Lumber for floor 330 p 6 r
Sawyers 95 p 5 r
Sand and bricks 21 p 1 r
Salaries 430 p 3 r
Total 1,513 p 3 r

Work under Canuto de la Cruz:

Sculptors-Carvers 25 p 4 r
Lumber & Sawyers 55 p
Carpenters for floor 82 p 7 r
Work on the cupola 145 p
Other salaries 33 p 7 r
Painters & Helpers 25 p 2 r
Lumber & Sawyers 201 p
Total 583 p 3 r
Grand Total 2,098 p 6 r

The new parish priest, Pedro Abaya, spent much money for vestments and the interior decoration of the cathedral. The last work worth mentioning, has nothing to do directly with the cathedral. It is the opening of the new cemetery and the building of the cemetery chapel under Bishop Vicente Barreiro (1848-1856).

Work began in 1851, the final account is made in December 1853. It goes:

Place 200 p
47,260 bricks 744 p
6,133 cavans lime 420 p 7 r
820 car loads stones 16 p 4 r
Sand 102 p 6 r
7,300 tiles 29 p 2 r
61 pieces wood 116 p 5 r
Sawyers 44 p 4 r
Paints 33 p 7 r
1,000 gravestones
(losas de genova) 430 p
4,600 porcellain tiles (azulejos) 460 p
2,000 small railings (barandillas) 128 p
Carpenters 157 p 7 r
Masons stone cutters 382p 6 r
Simple workers 222 p 5 r
Painters 5 p 7 r
Overseers and material (sobrestante) 107 p 4 r
and other smaller items

The entire expenses amounted to ca 5,810 pesos.