Another Look at THE CHURCH OF JARO
The original site of the parish of Jaro was in Alanga, where the town of Lapaz was originally located, but was vulnerable to Muslim attack. In 1639, Fr. Pedro Del Castillo started the building of a new church and a convent of strong quality and was finished in 1644. Around 1686, Fr, Manuel Lopez informed the father provincial of the poor state of Jaro church and its convent after a typhoon. Fr. Bernardino Alisen, OSA relocated the town to its current site.The gobernadorcillo in 1722 with its barangay heads testified that, ”our town does not have any church because it was destroyed as well as the convent.” The townspeople then requested the Superior General to exempt them from polos (or taxes) so that they could start building the church which wouldbe of great service to both Majesties.According to a native Jareño, Ms, Ofelia Jalandoni, this church stood on the spot where the house of Doña Salud Montinola once stood. At present, this is the site of SM Supermarket, Jaro.
It may have been possible that by 1722, Fr. Alisen started building a new church and finished it before 1726 while Fr. Aguado completed the relocation of the town from 1742 – 1744. The building convent and church were said to be of “very solid quality”. Fr. Aguado also laid out plans for the town’s roads, a 25 meter high tower. But in July 13, 1824, the church and tower were heavily damaged by an earthquake. For this reason, Fr. Jose Alvarez restored the church, convent and tower from 1833 to 1835. Due to this restoration, Fr. Alvarez set up a brick factory at the site. But the buildings were again damaged in the 19th century.
Another very active parish priest of Jaro, Fr. Francisco Aguería laid out plans for a new church and gathered the needed materials. Under his direction, many bricks were baked and more than 2,000 pieces of wood, 12 by 32 feet long, were carted from the forests of Concepcion district and the island of Negros.
In 1864, after the district of Jaro was named a diocese by Pope Pius IX, Jaro was also chosen as the bishop’s residence. The Papal Document reads,
“…because Jaro, as we have come to learn…. Besides, it has only one Parish-Church under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary popularly called the ‘Candelaria’. Adjoining the church is a large house enough for the Parish Priest to live in. Therefore, the church, as well as the house, sees to be suitable enough as Cathedral and Bishop’s House respectively. The new prelates of Jaro can make use of them. Through the generous solicitude of the Government, a new building for the Bishop’s Residence is to be erected, and the aforesaid Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, together with the adjoining house, be enlarged as is becoming and as promised.”
The Augustinians handed over the Parish of Jaro to the diocese in 1869. Sizing up the dilapidated church, the construction of the Jaro Cathedral began also this year following the plans of and using the materials prepared by Fr. Aguería, Bishop Mariano Cuartero built the church. The old church was said to be “dingy and dark in the interior and had an unattractive exterior.” The parishioners, instead of giving alms brought offerings during the Mass in the form of construction materials like stone, sand and eggs. The moving spirit behind the bishop was Don Manuel Arguelles, a former petty governor also known as “Capitan Pasado” of Jaro. He helped much in the construction of the big cathedral.
Construction began on February 22, 1869. By January of 1874, the Cathedral together with the Bishop’s House and the seminary were ready for inauguration. The Cathedral was described as 46 meters long and 16 meters wide with two rows of big pillars made of stone and “ladrillo”. In between pillars were arches. At the end of these pillars were two (2) pulpits, seemingly bathed in gold. At the opposite of the puerta mayor, were two sturdy doors, one leading to the baptistery and one leading to the choir loft.
On January 7, 1874, Bishop Mariano Cuartero, the first bishop of the Diocese of Jaro issued invitations for the solemn blessing of the St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral of Jaro. This was sent to civil and religious officials of the three provinces of Panay and in the province of Negros. The Archbishop of Manila, heads of all religious organizations in Manila and the Bishop of Camarines were also invited. On February 2, 1874, after five years of construction, the Jaro Cathedral was formally inaugurated.
From January 24 until February 5, 1924, the Jareños commemorated the Jaro Cathedral’s Golden Anniversary. Present were Bishop James McCloskey, the last American bishop of Jaro as the Honorary President, Don Teodoro Benedicto as President and Don Gregorio Jalbuena as Director General who headed the preparations for the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Jaro.
On February 2, 1924, the Jaro parish fiesta became a grand celebration with the blessing of the new Cathedral. The celebration was preceded by a Solemn Novena and Triduum on the second day. Memorial requiem masses were offered to the builders of the Cathedral, Bishop Mariano Cuartero and Don Manuel Arguelles as part of the celebration. On the third day, the stone statue of the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria was transferred from the old church to the new Cathedral in a solemn procession. On the fourth and last day of the celebration was the blessing of the candles followed by a Solemn High Mass. A grand and solemn procession in the afternoon closed the four-day celebration.
Sometime in 1961, Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco and Auxiliary Bishop Juan Nilmar gave a new more “cathedral like” look to the Jaro Cathedral. Twin towers at both sides of the façade was constructed to replace the bell tower that was damaged by the earthquake in 1948.
It was during the term of Msgr. Jaime L. Sin, then parish priest of Jaro (1967 – 1972) that the present convento was constructed.
The Centennial Jubilee Celebration of the Cathedral of Jaro was on February 2, 1974. A grandiose commemoration by Archbishop Jaime Sin and then parish priest, Msgr. Alberto J. Piamonte was made. Among the guests were: Apostolic Nuncio Bruno Torpigliani and Archbishop Antonio Frondosa and Bishops of Western Visayas. In the dusk of February 20, 1981, the Jareños were blessed and privileged to see the Vicar of Rome, Pope John Paul II atop the canopy balcony of the Jaro Cathedral’s facade during his papal visit to the country. The Jareños and the people of Western Visayas celebrated Mass with the Holy Father after which he crowned the miraculous image of the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, patroness of the Parish of Jaro and proclaimed her as the Patroness of Western Visayas.
During the tenure of Rt. Rev. Jose Gamboa, H.P., the stained glass windows of the Cathedral were added. The stone rails of the altar were removed. An ossuary was built at the back of the cathedral near the sacristy.
Msgr. Amadeo Escañan, during his tenure, had the two sacristies repaired by putting in a changing room with a comfort room for priests. He added landscaping improvements in the frontage of the Cathedral grounds. The deteriorating choir loft was renovated. The church pew were sanded down and varnished to make them look new. Cement tiles were installed around the cathedral church.
To this date, only a remaining portion of the tower and the church plans can be called Augustinian. With the coming of new parish priests, we’ll see more changes in the Cathedral.
Joy H. Gefes
Evelyn B. Nervato
Francis Ray D. Subong
Angels in Stone (Augustinian Churches in the Philippines)
by: Fr. Pedro G. Galende, O.S.A. c. 1996
Monografias de los Pueblos de la Isla de Panay (Monographs of the Town in Panay)
by: Fr. Juan Fernandez, O.S.A., Translated by: Jose G. Espinosa, Jr.
Jaro Cathedral Souvenir Program, 2006