Huwebes, Nobyembre 29, 2012



With the blending of old engineering and modern day architectural structural designs, its result is a splendid and magnificent old and modern structure, which today still proudly stands for over 120 years if we would consider the day when it was first constructed.  The old brick church was constructed in 1892 by Spanish Jesuit Missionaries in their second coming to the Philippines. They first arrived in 1581 from Nuevo España following the mendicants groups, and in 1768, the Jesuits were expelled in all the dominions of the Bourbons kingdoms.[1]

Thus, they were forced to leave their Philippine Mission and returned to Europe.

Fortunately, the suppression order was lifted and the Jesuits returned in 1859; possessing the whole island of Mindanao as their exclusive missionary area.[2]

Leading its construction were Jesuit Brother Coadjutors Francisco Riera, a master carpenter and builder; Juan Costa, an expert potter; and Antonio Gairolas, carpenter; and of course, the townspeople.[3] But the war had ravaged it and it is in this point that we must know its story, not only on how it is today, but how it was in the olden times, or before it had turned into a brick church.

The Ravage:

Before World War II or before it was razed to the ground on September 16, 1942, it was comparable with the churches of Cagayan de Misamis and the one at Camiguin in Mambajao. But sadly because a Japanese Officer named Capt. Okumora with two other soldiers sought refuge at the belfry after engaging in a gunbattle with the guerillas led by Lt. Collado, the church was the sacrificial lamb; and it’s burning took place inevitably in order to wad out the enemies who were strategically posted at the two bell towers.[4]

It was wartime, the military decided to burn down the church; and nothing had been done to stop them from doing it, not even the compassionate appeal of the Parish Priest, Fr. Clement Risacher, an American Jesuit. Despite the audible sobbing of pious women, the order went on undeterred and fixed, “the church must be burned”. The sobs and yearnings to spare it from burning had not reversed the burning order.  So, right at the sight of anxious onlookers, dried coco midribs “langkay” were gathered and used as torches to light the mounds of wood piled nearby the church’s wooden structure which ignited and turned the building into an inferno. The hard wood structures were easy pyres, and in a matter of an hour, or two, the beautiful church that the Balingasagnon labored much to erect for three years was toppled down; and its ashes and embers mixed with the sandy-loam soil.  

The burning heat was so intense and the suffocating smoke was unbearable. From the safety of the belfries, the Japanese soldiers were totally helpless and jumped, mindless where they would land and flying like squirrels without any flaps to minimize the drag of their fall. They must had met their deaths before even perhaps touching the grounds, a .30 caliber bullet is indeed a bone and flesh crusher ammunition; its projectile is faster like the speed of a Mach 1 Tomcat fighter.  

Tactically, the act of war was well-regarded as a justified and made out due to an execution of a decision, a military strategy indeed. In their own points of views, it was justifiable because in a sense they successfully killed the three Japanese, whom they feared had the capability to send the distress call through a radio set at their headquarters in Cagayan de Misamis. But the question is, did the Japanese really have a radio set with them; and was it capable of transmitting a message from the belfry to Cagayan de Oro? But those questions do not matter anymore today, what was done could never be undone.  

On the point of views of ordinary people even those who were not church-goers during those days, or for those who are not even born yet during the war, the burning was a great fiasco; a shame for an unnecessary loss of a great icon, the focal point of the religious lives of the townspeople. The burning order was an unworthy military decision; they could have starved their enemies and surely they would have come out from their rat holes and surrender for hunger and thirst. But why there was such a rush to burn down the church, perhaps they had not even placed a stone on its foundation during construction, so it did not matter much for them.

But since it was war, no one had assumed the responsibility of the guilt and blame; and poets would usually say that time and circumstances made it to happen. Nevertheless, a conscientious mind would always inwardly and silently asked the conscience of those who are accountable, “what have you done?”

The Construction of the Brick Church in 1892:

As can be traced in the letters of a priest to his senior colleague, a Superior perhaps; the initial phase of construction of the brick church started when Brother Francisco Riera erected the first thirty (30) columns, which served as the main and important structures of the building. 

From the Jesuit Missionary Letters, Cartas 10:522-524 written in Balingasag dated 29 December 1892 by Fr. Jose Vilaclara[5] to Fr. Jacinto Juanmarti, S.J. hereunder is what he said:

“Quite enthusiastic work on the churches is going on in this region. In Balingasag, Bro. Riera has now laid the foundations, the small pillars, and 30 posts. Each barangay has a lime kiln for the church and an oven for bricks is always used. They also have stones close by. Omitting for the time when they are harvesting the rice, the inhabitants of the town volunteer for work.”

Apparently, the construction works of the brick church started in 1892, as said by Fr. Vilaclara to Fr. Juanmarti. The latter was the Mission Superior of the Tamontaca Mission in Cotabato.[6]

When the construction began, Fr. Salvador Ferrer, S.J. was the Parish Priest. He was at the helm of the parish, because when he first arrived in 1877 with Fr. Gregorio Parache, S.J., he was only his Assistant. The Jesuits gradually took the mission stations in the Misamis area from the Recollects; and such indeed created ill-feelings. The Recollects felt they were being driven for good when the Jesuits came back to Mindanao; nonetheless, they did not know only that they would be given other missionary charges in the provinces near Manila, to the great dismay of the Filipino secular priests, who were also qualified to serve as Parish Priests, but never were given any chance to prove their competence.
The Recollects gave the missionary charge of the Parish of Balingasag in 1877 to Fr. Gregorio Parache by virtue of an order issued by Governor General Jose Lemery E Ibarrola Ney y Gonzalez. He was a former Senator in the Peninsula [Spain], and became Governor General in the Philippines on February 2, 1861.[7] Despite, the order was issued in 1861 yet, or any time after the assumption of Governor General, the actual turn-over of the parish of Balingasag took place more than a decade and a half later. Probably, they deliberately did not take the parishes in the Misamis area immediately because they wanted the ill-feelings created by that order would be healed first. Likely also, they may have not enough priests to man the entire missionary areas.[8] So perhaps it was one of the causes of the delay.

At the time Fr. Parache took the parish of Balingasag, Fr. Francisco Arcaya, OAR was the Recollect Parish Priest. He replaced Fr. Angel Martinez del Carmen, OAR who died in 1875.

Going back to the happenings in the Great War, the burning of the church in 1942, therefore, completely razed down all its wooden structures: the two belfries; the big wooden main and side altars of ebony [retablo]; the ceiling [alcova]; the choir’s cloister at the second floor above the main door; the thick wooden main door on the west and its two side doors; small sacristy’s doors; and the 30 hardwood posts. 

What we accounted refers only to a few things the church had, and we have not touched yet the things which indeed are priceless that went with the ashes.

But are there other churches aside from the brick church?[9] Yes, there is, early history books said. If the ruins in sitio Galas, a contested area between Barangay Waterfall and Baliwagan being historically rich; was indeed a church, the first stone church of the early settlement of Gompot [Balingasag], therefore, was constructed thereat.   

The ruins today would not enable us to visually conclude that the ruin was indeed a church because it is fully dilapidated or all had fallen to pieces. However, if local history books would be the final arbiter, all the subsequent two books which were published later say that it was a church. Thus, we would admit that the oldest church in Balingasag was somewhere in Galas. Since the settlement was transferred to the present town site some 2 or 3 kilometers away going northwest, the old stone church was abandoned and through the passing of time, it had fallen to pieces either because of acts of god, or by man.[10] Perhaps, it was abandoned because it was ruined either by man or by the force of nature.  

If the devout Christians were able to erect a stone church at the old abandoned settlement of Gompot, how come they were unable or it took them only in 1892 to built a brick church?

These are questions which could be answered only by conjectures and guesses; and could only be good if it can be supported by consistent reasons, and citations from well accepted scholarly works, or by artifacts. 

The Old Wooden Church Other than the Brick:

Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J.[11] was in Balingasag Mission in 1888. He was assigned at the Tagoloan residence, and this is what he said about the old wooden church of Balingasag in this acclaimed work Mission Evangelico:

“La Iglesia, tenia a la sazon una parel de nueve a
diez palmos  de alto, sobre la cual se levantaba
el tabique Pampango, techo de nipa, tres Buenos
altares y el mayor, de camagon, de regular arqui-
tectura.  Predicabase en ella en visaya todos los
domingos y dias festivas mañana y tarde . . .”[12]

From what he said, seemingly a handful of what we understand from it, says that the church’s wall was made of tabique pampango[13] of about nine or ten palmos high; its roof were of nipa, with three good altars and the main altar was made of camagong or ebony; and in good architectural taste. The church preached always in Visayan either in the morning, or afternoon in all Sundays and feast days.

This church Fr. Pastells was referring to was the old church that was not certainly adjacent with the wooden priest’s house; and nearly perpendicular to it, was where the brick church of 1892 was constructed.   

As can be recalled, the Immaculate Conception Parish of Jasaan was established in 1830; and nineteen years later, Balingasag was made as a parish too, on November 3, 1849. From 1848 and downwards, Balingasag was attached to the Parish of Jasaan. The reason why probably Jasaan became a parish earlier than Balingasag was maybe mainly for its nearness to the Recollect base in Cagayan de Misamis.

The Punta Gorda Mountain, lies between Jasaan and Balingasag, and an overland passage connect the two places. But overland travel on those days was not easy; it was too difficult for missionaries to access this colonial place easily. If they come to Balingasag, they must have used long boats or bancas than dare to walk the difficult terrain of the Punta Gorda, as there were no roads yet connecting the two places. Longboats during those days were hand-rowed because steam or bunker engines were prime commodity and inaccessible.

Nonetheless, it must neither be construed nor assumed that because Balingasag was attached to Jasaan, she was a barrio of Jasaan. It could not be that way, Gompot or Balingasag was known to the Spaniards even in 1571 and she was much ahead with Jasaan in terms of population, production, and land area, and it had attained a status similar with the pueblos of Cagayan and Tagoloan.[14] What maybe is appropriate to say is that Balingasag was a “visita” of the Recollects from the Parish of Jasaan until 1849 though she was already a colonial town in 1749 according to Padre Felipe Redondo y Sendino, the Provisor of the Diocese of Cebu.[15]

For all we know, a town in the early century of Spanish colonization, and even later in the 19th century, need not necessarily be a parish to achieve the status of township; and such was due to the scarcity of priests. Thus, despite Balingasag was already a recognized civil town in 1749, she was only installed as a parish in 1849, or a century later, after she was made as a colonial town. During its installation, the Recollects were the missionaries in Balingasag and so with other places in Mindanao. Imaginarily, the boundaries were located at Punta San Agustin in now Governor Generoso, Davao Oriental and drawn northwards straight to Punta Sulawan in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental.[16]

But during the second coming of the Jesuits, Balingasag in 1877 was made as the center of the Jesuit Mission in this part of Northern Mindanao particular in the eastern side of what is now Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon areas.[17] There was only one Jesuit residence in this area and it was in Balingasag, where missionary trips were planned, prepared, and executed. However, on the western part, El Salvador was one of Jesuit residence and it was located in El Salvador. The residence of Tagoloan was established later.

The first known church in the present or later times and to have been erected at Balingasag poblacion was the one constructed by the Recollects that the Jesuits had assumed in 1877. Where was it constructed in the first place, was it in the present site where the brick church was laid or somewhere?

This wooden church stood maybe more than a hundred meters away from the town’s mooring place, or in what is today’s wharf and where the business booth areas of the Lambago Café are established. Of course, it fronted the Bohol Seas, the navigation map says so. For good reason, the church had not been constructed beyond the old Calle del Mar or the present road link starting from the northwest side of the wharf going to sitio Nabalian and Cala-cala. Despite, it was some distance away from the shore, heavy waves during the west monsoon season i.e. from early June to August each year can still mercilessly hit it, even if it was some distance away from the shoreline. The old wooden church may have occupied partly the assembly ground of St. Rita’s High School Preparatory Military Training Corp in the old days, and likewise nearer to the four-storey classroom building. Near to this multi-rise building, a college gymnasium was also constructed; in fact, even the monument of Sta. Rita de Cascia was uprooted to give way to the construction of the latter.[18]

The first known church in the present or later times and to have been erected at Balingasag poblacion was the one constructed by the Recollects that the Jesuits had assumed in 1877. Where was it constructed in the first place, was it in the present site where the brick church is laid or somewhere?

What the Old Wooden Church’s Interior may Look like?[19]

As said by Fr. Pastells, the wooden church had three altars. He had not given us a brief description of its interior, so based on local sources; we would like to notate the following:

The main altar or altar mayor was in two layers and made of camagong. On the first layer stood the statue of Sta. Rita de Cascia on the centermost part, and not far from her, was the statue of San Roque. Opposite the San Roque, stood the statue of San Isidro Labrador; and occupying the second lower layer of the altar was the Sto. Niño. There were no other statues, except the Sto. Niño. All these sacred statues came from Barcelona, Spain.

On the right wing of the church, there stood an altar unlike the main altar that had two layers; this had been on a single layer. Though it was small, the altar however likewise was made of camagong, like also the other altar located opposite to the left. The statue of San Jose occupied the centermost, and on either sides of the altar, the statues of Virgin of La Purisima Concepcion and the Virgin of Sorrows [Dolorosa] were placed. Not far from these statues was the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The pulpit was located on the center-extreme right side of the church’s main altar. It was elevated a little bit, with the painting of Holy Spirit serving as back draft. Opposite to it or the one located on the left, was a small altar, which had the statues of the Virgin del Carmen and San Agustin.

One distinct feature of this old church, it had hardwood [tugas] flooring; the walls or panels were likewise hardwood [lampirong] and anchored on a cement [possibly tabique pampango] measuring more or less at six finger-length. The window jams were hardwood of the same material including the window panes.

It had a few benches at the center of the church’s interior [12 rows of benches actually and arranged opposite each other] which were exclusively used by the prominent persons of the town like the incumbent Capitan, Capitan Juez or Juez de Paz, Teniente Primero, Teniente Segundo, and the sixteen Cabeza de Barangay. The School Teacher or Señor Maestro had a seat of his own located near where his students would kneel; and there were no other chairs because the ladies would just seat on the floor while the men would stand during the mass.

According to Fr. Pastells, the church’s roofing was made of nipa. We just but keep on wondering why the roofs had ceilings or alcova, which are made of amakan.[20] Usually, only structures that have permanent roofs should ideally have ceilings or alcova. Using alcova or ceiling in a structure where it has no permanent roofing may only dilapidate early the ceilings because the rain would get through the roofs. So, despite the roofs was nipa, still it had ceilings made from amakan that were twined by rattan to have a firmer grip with the ceiling braces.

However, dilapidation of the ceilings and its interior would be imminent although the materials they used were all hardwood “lampirong”, “balayong” and “tugas.” Although these are hardwood, it would not be able to withstand continuous exposure to rain if the roofs were unkempt. If the roofs are well maintained, and rainwater could not get through it, the natural process of dilapidation would be slower. This edifice may have been constructed sometime in 1849 when Balingasag was installed into a parish, or perhaps it might even be constructed even earlier than 3 November 1849.

From its roofing and as can be seen directly from the ceilings, there hung three (3) aranyas or chandeliers. These shiny chandeliers were made by vanishing tradesmen who know the art of goldsmith or blacksmithing; and two of which had a diameter of two feet while the other one had only half of their sizes. These were all made of melted old coins “the Queen Isabella editions” which accordingly had greater content of gold than plain steel. The local goldsmith had known their job well for the chandeliers were crafted beautifully as if were priceless collector’s items from Spain

The church’s ornaments too were crafted by these goldsmiths and it ranged from shining pall post “palio” to simple candle holders “candelario” or those intricately designed to hold more candles at a time measuring more or less 35 inches in length and 23 inches in width; and there were six of them. 

When one enters from the main door or puerta mayor, at its left side the baptismal font was located. It was a small room and grilled with wooden rails or sashes; and at its midst was the ceramic font for baptism. At its back draft was a huge painting depicting the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist at Jordan River.

The opposite side of the baptismal room or to its right, was a wooden stairway “balayong” leading to where the choir’s cluster.

From the outer side of the church [puerta mayor] to its left was where the church bell tower was constructed. It was not too high; in fact it was made of wood and stood barely a few feet taller from the church’s apex. Nevertheless, it had accommodated five (5) bells; two were rotating bells while the rests were all fixed.

[The bells had names and why did they have? For identity, yes, but why their names were names of saints? For abundant graces? Let us leave it, but rightly they ought not to be named that way.]

The rotating bells were named as Stella Matutina and Sto. Nino; and the remaining three fixed hanging bells were called as San Roque, San Bartolome and Sta. Rita. The biggest bell was the Sta. Rita; it could accommodate five (5) persons at a time in its inner cone.

On October 31, 1878, Fr. Francsco Xavier Martin Luengo, SJ an Episcopal Visitor of Balingasag Parish arrived together with Fr. Jose Canudas, SJ across the Macajalar Bay from Tagnipa or El Salvador. Their visit was concerning the confirmation of children; the Episcopal Visitor was authorized by the Bishop of Cebu to institute the sacrament on his behalf.[21] This was what his assistant, Fr. Canudas, SJ said:

“And what shall I tell Your Reverence[22] about the decoration of the altar, the silver processional crosses, the big thick carpet covering the presbytery and the decorated priestly vestments? That everything was quite costly like those of a cathedral.

The church, although not bad, does not fit all those adornments. It has a cota about nine or 10 palmos [a palmo is about 12 inches] tall, atop which is a rather well-constructed tabique pampango, the roof of nipa. The church has three beautiful altars, the main one especially precious, since it is entirely of camagon [a kind of ebano]; its architectural style in good taste.”[23]

From the second paragraph as said by Fr. Canudas, there was too a cota with a height of about 9 or 10 palmos and its roof was made of nipa. .

In 1889, there was an exploratory team for scientific research which the Jesuits organized to visit the different mission stations.  Fr. Francisco de Paula Sanchez, SJ was the head and he was in Balingasag on exploratory visit.[24] He arrived at Balingasag taking a long boat from Jasaan in the afternoon of 23 April 1889, after negotiating it for two hours. His impression was this in a letter to the Rector of the Ateneo dated 30 April 1889:
“It is very wide, with good altars and even better ornaments; the choir, numerous and well-rehearsed, assisting at the solemnities with a band of 40 musicians I believe to be the best or one of the best in all of Mindanao, for an expert musician, already known in Manila, is its director. Hence, the church is serviced much like a small basilica.”

Another Jesuit explorer who at that time was not a priest yet, was Jose Maria Clotet.[25] He was with the team, but arrived in Balingasag days later from Tagoloan and spent his Holy Week in the parish. This was his impression:

“The priest’s residence is placed at the entrance to the town, not far from the shore, and with an attractive garden on one side, and in front at a few paces away, the church. A bit antiquated, but spacious and in good condition. The altars are elegantly simple and in good taste, the main one made of camagon [a kind of ebony], with gold décor.”[26]

Since the time the Jesuits took it from the Recollects on October 28, 1877, the old wooden church continued to be serviceable, in fact it was a bit antiquated, but spacious and in good condition” yet, said Clotet in 1889 and “very wide, with good altars and even better ornaments …“said Fr. Sanchez. Was there any compelling factor why such a church had to be replaced by a brick one when it is still serviceable and could even outlive time because it was made of hardwood “tugas, lampirong, and balayong”?

The answer is plain and simple, the sea eroded the area and not much later the church would be demolished by heavy waves, despite there was no storm surge yet in those days unlike today as a result of global warming. Yet, the right decision was reached by the priest and the people, the church had to be moved somewhere, safer from the heavy waves during westerly monsoon or the habagat.[27]

The 1892 Construction:

Probably, 1892 was the best year to begin the construction of the brick church. For countless reasons, the undersigned believes these might be the most logical reasons, to wit:

a)      The Master Carpenter, Brother Coadjutor Francisco Reira and Brother Coadjutor Juan Costa, the Expert Potter and Brick-Maker, were assigned purposely together in the Northern Mindanao Missions particularly for construction of churches. Bro. Costa was first assigned in Balingasag in 1889 and he successfully finished the Waterworks System there. He had successfully transferred such technology to the locals, thus making the town therefore capable of producing bricks through kiln driers in the barrio such as those in sitio Luguimit and Camarin in Binitinan. His assignment here benefited not only the parish of Balingasag, but as well as the near Jesuit residences such as those in Talisayan, Tagoloan, and El Salvador.
b)      As can be recalled in April 1889, Fr. Sanchez and Brother Costa had a serious talk regarding the project which the latter would be working soon. Such was about the piping of potable water from barrio Linggangao to the poblacion. The waters from the spring where the Kitagtag Creek originates shall be piped in through clay pipes or those made in bricks following the intricate marked and identified points passing through the Linggangao areas up to Balingasag Poblacion.
c)      The completion of the Proyecto de la Traida de las Aguas del Pueblo Balingasag sometime in August 1890 greatly influenced the planners to proceed the construction of the church because voluminous cubic liters of water shall be needed. Somewhere between the existing fountains located at the old tribunal or in the latter years as the public market, which today is a Sports Covered Court and the Plaza by the Sea [right now the areas somewhere the College Gymnasium and partly nearer the four-storey new concrete building of St. Rita’s College of Balingasag], was where the third fountain erected.
d)      The church may have sufficient funds from the sanctorum to prosecute the project.
e)      Perhaps it was the forte of time, building magnificent churches,[28] 

With these considerations, the construction of the brick church started on September 19, 1892 and this was classified as a public work. Under the colonial law, all able bodied men aging 18 years old to 60 years old, were obliged to render 15 days work each year for public works. Through the initiative of the religious groups, the numbers of days work to be rendered by a polista or worker was reduced from 40 days to merely 15 days beginning 1883. Before 1883 or before Don Joaquin Jovellar became the Governor General of the Philippines, corvee labor or polo was fixed at 40 days work in public works each year of every male taxpayer.[29]

We would not make any absolute assumption that during the last decade of the 19th century, it was the forte of time that big churches which were intended to outlast time, were constructed by missionaries. There is no concrete explanation to this, except that in the second district of Mindanao where today’s Misamis Oriental was a part of it, unusual and unexplained things happened at a time or happening rightly after the other. What were these?  The construction of four big churches began and of course, the Jesuits were too busy. So, could this be not a forte that happened during those times?

The first brick church the Jesuits constructed in Misamis Oriental was at El Salvador. Fr. Ramon Pamies was the missionary priest.[30] Next to that which happened a little later, was the construction of the church in Balingasag. It was started by Fr. Salvador Ferrer. Then, churches were constructed at Tagoloan and Jasaan nearly on the same period.

Participation of the Parishioners:

Under the corvee law or polo, it was so explicit that all able male from ages 18 to 60 years old must have to work for 15 days a year in public works. Since the Church and State in colonial Philippines were one, the construction of the Balingasag Church was considered as a public work.

Supposedly, only the men shall render work, but it was not that way for the women through volunteerism they worked as well, including the children. If that happens in today’s setting, there would have been direct violation to PD 603 or the Child and Youth Welfare Code. Said law protects the right of children and rightly should they be allowed to work, their works must be lighter and, in safe and non-hazardous areas.

Despite, the church’s construction site was never a safe or ideal area for children to work, they happily volunteered for work, for they believed it was a rare privilege to work for a cause so noble. So, together with the women, they had special work assignments, they carried stones, a shot-foot size or maybe smaller or bigger than a child’s head; and dumped it at a cesspool in the middle area where the church would be erected.

While this was the usual activity of the women and children, some women were assigned to cook food, and surely too they brought with them from their respective homes anything that can be eaten or cooked for the hungry men, who either pile and lay the bricks, or cut and towed timbers from the Lingangao or Dal-as areas to the construction site. There was no truck in town; in fact, it was not an era of mechanization yet. So, horses, cows, or carabaos were the beasts of burden including men.[31]

Aside from the works done at the construction site, those who were specially trained by Brother Costa in pottery, ceramics and brick making like Felipe Cabural and his gang, must have mixed clay and straws, and heated them in temperatures in excess of the boiling point of water to harden it in the kiln driers. These kiln driers were at Luguimit and Camarin in Binitinan, but maybe there were other shops in the nearby barrios, unfortunately our local references failed to mention them, where they may have been located.

Those which were produced in Camarin were transported to the poblacion by banca because Binitinan is near by direct route through bancas than overland travel; and while those from the shop at Luguimit, were brought to the construction site by carts drawn by work animals. With the carpentry works under the general supervision of Jesuit Brother Coadjutor Francisco Riera and his aide Brother Coadjutor Antonio Gairolas, the work moved on schedule. Though it was too tiring work, the work moved on and interrupted only during rice harvest time, for a large number of the workforce stopped and worked in the harvest. Thereafter, they returned to the construction site in high spirits and continued the work, despite they had worked already more than what had been required by the corvee law.  

The work was indeed tiresome; imagine there were no trucks only simple machines – pulleys, fulcrum, caratilla, maso, paleta, shovels, pick mattocks and human strength ¾ horsepower, but yet the workers continued to persevere and kept on working while happily chanting rhythmically “Iboy Salla” to while away their tired muscles and focus their preoccupied minds.[32]

The piles of bricks more or less 10 meters in height and lesser than two meters thick were secured; they served as the wall and enclosure of the church. There were three entrances, two from each side while one was the main door. Furthermore, two bell towers were erected from either sides of the church and fronted the seas. Of course, the bell towers were not made of bricks, but of hardwood.

Upon entering the church’s main door, to the right was a stairway to the upper floor, where the choirs used to cluster. From this floor, one could either go to the right or left to access the two bell towers on another floor, which had the bells. The wide open space on the lower floor had a nice wood flooring of tugas and balayong. Tugas has whitish color while balayong is red; they were placed and nailed alternately, thus it had a beautiful floor combination. Indeed, the design and arrangement of this section was a bit intricate than the similar section of the old wooden church by the sea.

There were usual problems in the construction as normally happening like the clashing of opinions and decisions. As if the Parish Council, if we have to call it in today’s setting and the Parish Priest had different views where to place the church main door. Shall it be at the west side of the building or fronting the sea, or not? The parish priest insisted that the main door shall face the mountain or to the east, so its altar shall be on the western side of the church. However, the parishioners had dissenting opinion, so it overruled the wishes of the priest. Such had disgusted him that the work was suspended temporarily.

Could that be a reason why there was suspension of work, perhaps yes or there had been some justifying reasons.[33]

By October 1895, the brick church was finally finished and such was so impressive for a town to have, an icon, and a trademark of the townspeople fervor to their religion, which they learned to live and accept through the missionary labors of the early Recollects and now the Jesuits. The final touches marking its completion were the religious paintings on the ceilings. The ceilings were hardwood and crisscrossed from the edges of the wooden structure of the bell towers up to the where the bricks on the eastern part were fixed.  Likewise, the church’s roofs were galvanized iron.[34]

Sadly a month before the church was finished, the initiator of the project Fr. Salvador Ferrer died in Manila on 9 April 1895. He had never seen the totality of at what he had started. Fr. Francisco Chorro had earlier replaced him.

On its inaugural blessings in October 1895, Fr. Juan Bautista Heras, SJ,[35] the Local Superior based at the Tagoloan Jesuit residence solemnized the church in honor of her patron saint, Sta. Rita de Cascia. The blessing of the two bell towers was done on the following day.

Forty-seven years later after it was blessed, the brick-church was reduced to ashes on September 16, 1942 because the Guerilla fighting for a noble cause against the Japanese Imperial Army decided to drastically burn it, so the four enemy soldiers would abandon their position.[36] But the guerillas were wrong, the Japanese preferred to die honorably than surrender. Their enemies died at the cost of a heavy expense of the charred magnificent church.

The Aftermath:

As a result of Lt. Collado’s tactical decision, only the brick walls of the once magnificent church stood. The wall is about 8 meters high and a meter in thickness and it serves as the perimeter. Its two majestic belfries that offered a skyline phenomenal view of the town despite towering acacia trees were surrounding them to the west and eastern side of the church, tumble to pieces, but the bells were intact and never melted.  The wooden structures were easy prey of the fire, as well as the galvanized iron roofs and only a handful of those roofing materials could still be utilized.  

The ravage brought by war in a sense had never stop the exercise of piety of the faithful despite their church was flatten to the ground.

Until the Lenten Season [April 1943], masses were at the priest’s convento.[37] Not much longer, masses and institution of sacraments in the poblacion was suspended because military operations intensified; the priest and the remaining residents of the poblacion evacuated. In a much safer place in the mountains bordering the areas of Napaliran and Lagonglong, the priest had his makeshift chapel at Agong Daku. Away from rifle and machine gun fires, the priest began saying masses at the chapel, but before that could be done, the sacred church vessels like the chalices, ciborium, platen, cruets, monstrance, priest’s vestments and altar bell had to be retrieved at Kawiton. These things were brought at the height of the evacuation or escape out from the poblacion, after the same was being requested by the church’s sexton to carry or safe keep them.[38]

Reconstruction Works:

Despite the parish center was in self-exile closer to three years beginning 1943, it was reestablished in mid 1945 at the poblacion. The General Armistice was signed by ranking Japanese officials and Gen. Douglas MacArthur of the Allied Forces on board a battleship off Tokyo Harbor, World War II was officially ended. It was liberation time and peace time. It was a time too of thanksgiving to God and, for corporal and spiritual rehabilitation.

Fr. Risacher returned to his former base, so with the countless families that evacuated. After setting first the old priest house, he consecrated the burned brick church, of course, after the same had been tidied; and solemnly installed the Blessed Sacrament in a tabernacle, where God’s presence is symbolically demonstrated by the ceaseless flicker of candle or oil light all the time.
By June 1945, the set of parochial life was at the poblacion. Reconstruction had to begin since everyone was there already and eagerness to reconstruct or restore the ravage church was in everyone’s Christian heart.

Technically, to restore is different from reconstruct. To restore is to bring it back to its original shape or design.

So, if by chance, the thought were for restoration, maybe it would take quite so long a time to obtain the technical plans and designs. Although everything were given by the Spanish Jesuits to their successors the American Jesuits in 1927 when the latter took charge of the parishioners, maybe it would be hard for later to retrieve the technical plan and designs of the church if the same was born.

If they did desire to strictly restore the old brick church, they must have to try their luck and secure those documents from the Jesuit Province of Aragon in Barcelona, Spain at the Archives of San Lucat. Maybe being aware of this constraints, the reconstruction of the church began, and no longer strictly for its restoration.[39]

In a stricter sense of the word, Fr. Clement Risacher began the church reconstruction in 1945. Had the burning been attributed by mere act of atrocity by the invaders, perhaps they would responsibly indemnify us. But the thing is, it was the Guerilla under a bungling field commander who gave the order of burning.

Well, Japan indeed paid gargantuan sums of money and good as reparations for the damages she had done in the Great War. Reparation came to us in forms of heavy equipment, trucks, or money. Even today, they have funding agencies to accommodate requests coming from worthy community base projects in need of funds. For one, JICA is there for projects mostly concerning water system.

However, the monies the government received out from reparation are appropriated to government projects, so the church being a separate entity from government shall have no part on it and must find its own funding. In the case of the church reconstruction of Balingasag, the work must be undertaken not only by one priest, but by so many priests until the church looks again beautifully as could be seen today. 

Fr. Risacher after serving Balingasag for 12 years, he was here in 1937 yet; left for another parish.
Fr. John Pollock, SJ replaced him in 1949. He initiated an intensive work preparation program; it is a prelude to another massive construction undertaking yet to come and it would be again a big undertaking after the construction in 1892.

 With the assistance of the Parochial School teachers of Sta. Rita School, students in Industrial Arts or Vocational Education, or whatever was the subject curriculum during those days, were utilized to do simple and menial works like carrying a few feet in length of lumber from the trucks to the worksite. Aside from woods taken from nearby Linggangao and Dal-as, truckloads of assorted sizes or cuts of wood were taken from the areas of Kawiton in Lagonglong.[40] Unlike in 1892 where there were no trucks to carry on great loads except for animal drawn carts and bare human power, in the 20th century trucks were used in hauling wood intended for columns, trusses and brazes.[41] 

Moreover, a Landing Craft Transport [LCT} in military parlance or popularly known as landing barge landed at the camarin once owned by Caromias and later by King Hong Khu. It carried a barge-load of galvanized iron for the roofs of the reconstructed brick church and other construction materials. The barge came from Cebu City. Students, volunteer parishioners, and paid laborers hauled the cargoes.

In 1892, Brother Coadjutor Francisco Riera used 30 columns to support the main roof structure, belfries, and ceilings, excluding the brick foundation because they likewise separately carried the load of the furling and trusses on each wing areas of the building. Based on count through recall since the center columns are no longer there, there are about 15 wooden columns also on each side of the reconstructed brick church. Probably, the positions of these wooden columns during the reconstruction were on the same spot before the brick church was burned.

The significant differences between the old brick church 1892 and the reconstructed brick church in 1949 are as follows:

  1. There were no more magnificent bell towers on the western part of the church or on the areas fronting the sea.
  2. A bell tower was constructed on the eastern side of the church at its right when one faces the mountain.
  3. There was no second floor anymore for the choir.
  4. The retablo or three altars on the eastern part were all charred; a new altar was constructed and it occupied the western part of the church or to where the former main door was located. The main door was on the east side and it had two small side doors.
  5. The priest house in 1892 was formerly located at today’s St. Rita’s College quadrangle while in 1949 a new convent was constructed fronting the reconstructed brick church in the west northwest.

Let us not talk on how the mass was said since during this time, Latin was the mass language, and the priest did not face the churchgoers. It was an era of the Confiteor Deo and other Latin prayers. It was in Vatican II Council when some significant changes were introduced like the use of the vernacular or the native language and the turning of the altar upfront so the churchgoers may see what was going on during the mass. Pope John XXIII convened the council on 11 October 1962.[42]

Three years later, Fr. John Pollock was assigned to another parish and Fr. Ralph Lynch, SJ was the parish priest from 1951-54. The reconstructed brick church was his priority too, as he continued the project of his predecessor.

In 1954-1955 under Fr. Arthur Shea, SJ, although his stay was short a year only, the parish was a beneficiary of a full-life size sculptured station of the cross from the United States.[43]

[Could it be not those items came from Rome and purchased only by the kind benefactor from the U.S.? Perhaps it was just shipped from the U.S. to Balingasag and not directly from Rome?]

In resume therefore of the Jesuit endeavors from 1945 up to when the last Jesuit left Balingasag in 1959 to give way the secularization of the parishes, their corporal works must have been focused on the reconstruction of the brick-church.

From the simplest work such as the putting up of window grills and up to the relocation of the altar back to its original position in 1892, they had done it with full enthusiasm and diligence.[44] The last American Jesuit missionary priest of Balingasag before the diocesan priests took over the parish was Fr. Theodore Daigler [1958-1959]. It was him who relocated the altar to its original position. Meaning, it is the present location of the church’s altar.

The Brick Church during the Diocesan Time:

The clergy priests or the non-religious orders received from the American Jesuits their missionary areas in the late 1950s, though it is also a fact that some parishes are still managed by religious orders; and such was mainly for reasons that there are no enough diocesan priests to minister the parishioners.[45]

In 1959, the Parish of Sta. Rita of Balingasag was too fortunate to have an Auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Teofilo Camomot, DD. He was an auxiliary bishop because Msgr. James Hayes was the Archbishop, for Cagayan de Oro Diocese was lifted to the status as an Archdiocese in 1954 by a Papal Bull issued by Pope Pius XII. With him was Fr. Joaquin Resma and known to the children during those days as the “Magician” considering that he used to play hand tricks and make money out from plain newspaper. Thereafter, he gave the money to his well amused spectators, the children and instructed them to buy bread. 

During the first communion of Grade III Class 1963 of the Carmelite Sisters under Sta. Rita’s College, a high school by then yet; the communicants had a group picture taking a pose at one of the side altars [retablo] to the right. In that picture, the undersigned was there. So from that, we can safely say, the concrete altars already existed in 1962 or 1963 or even in 1959 because Fr. Daighler brought back the altar to its original position.

In 1964, benches [the ones which are still used today] were solicited by the priests from the parishioners. It turned out only that out of airs the donated benches bore the name of the donors, thus it says in an embossed plastic about an inch in width, “Mr. & Mrs. Juan de la Cruz”. By that marking, it seems to imply that the bench is reserved to them when they come to hear mass. Good that later on, all those plastic identity tags were taken off from the benches.

Sometime in 1967, the communion rails at the presbytery were pulled off. It had stopped the awful practice of priest of going to and fro the presbytery to give the Holy Viaticum to the faithful who kneeled along the rails during communion.

[Each parish priest has his own priority project, and it never occurred that the church was not attended too. Nonetheless, we could not mention every detail of the improvements they made as it would run into monotony; in fact there were laudable improvements made but they are not for the church, but for other projects like the convent, parish hall, and cemetery, and so on. What we wish here to notate in this paper are the significant achievements with regards to improvement of the brick church. So we wish to apologize for the partiality.]

From 1971-1977, improvements were made on the altar. Masonry works was done, the exquisite arching of the three altars [retablo] was done.[46]

In 1977 up to later part of 1983, the church’s ceiling was being worked out; and it simply minimized the warmness of the church during the hot summer sun.  

To address the unpleasant sight of the dilapidated “companario” on the eastern part of the church and to ensure the safety of the “sacristans” who would like the steep stairs every now and then for the bells to ring, on the ground at the left side near the sacristy, a steel bell tower was erected. After the steel tower was finished, the sacristans had shown great sighs of relief because they were always afraid in climbing the “companario” not for its heights, but for other things their minds were manufacturing more so during the 8:00 o’clock evening bells for the repose of the dead.

[This is not directly related with the reconstruction or improvement of the brick church, but certainly it must have some good effects with regards to the ministry of the parish in general. It happened during the remaining half decade of the 1980s when Baliwagan was groomed into a parish. At first she started as a Chaplaincy and later became a full-fledged parish with the titular name as the Parish of the Mother of Perpetual Help.[47]  It actually lightened the mass loads of the Parish Priest of Sta. Rita since Balingasag was divided into two parishes, with Baliwagan taking the areas to the East Southeast up to the barangays of Malagana as her ecclesiastical territory.] 

Another significant works for the brick church was done from 1989 to 1995. A prayer room at the Church’s Sacristy was constructed and consecrated. It is a solemn place to talk with God through prayers, people with some traits of mysticism and asceticism pray preferably in the sacred confines of this room.[48]

Congruent with the prosecution of the project to establish a holiest place in a sacred place, the prayer room; the church’s altars were likewise renovated and the retouching of the sculptured Station of the Cross were done. It is necessary to retouch those treasured religious objects because for four decades it hung uninterrupted at the walls; and only the resident swallows touched them affectionately for their hardened nests are built nearby or within the crevices of the sculptured statues.

The Renovation of the Brick Church’s Roof Structure in 1998:

[Why do men if given the chance to do extra good things shall go with it? Is there a prime motivation? Yes, there is, for life’s journey is but only once, man wishes to be remembered of his goodness, he wants to live some legacy behind and in so doing, he may be able to build a good house somewhere in the future, where he would spend the better part of his life sooner thereat.

Goodness just like evil is inherent in man, and it all depend on him what he desires to do with his life. Generally, men are happy when they have done something great; however, there are those that can live happily even without doing good.  

Why do I say this discourse as an opening statement? It is because there are some people who had looked into the renovation or reconstruction of the church in 1998 as something undoable or cannot be done. The priest alone could not do it, but the people had concertedly labored to make it happen. It happened, the church reconstruction was done.]

In September 1998 after the parish priest had assessed the lives of parishioners and probably had found them spiritually uplifted as demonstrated in their eager commitment to projects and activities the church had. He noticed also that there had been a consistent high attendance of churchgoers, so he had though that perhaps time has come to bestow into them great and challenging responsibilities. With him spearheading, he believed a project worthy of remembering through time could be done.

The brick church was reconstructed by Fr. Risacher in 1945 and such work was continued by Fr. John Pollock in 1949 with great enthusiasm; and by other priests. Undeniably, the parishioners had participated physically and supported the project as well financially; the extent perhaps of their participation was a bit less because at the time the parish was technically a missionary area of the Jesuits. Aside from the meager sources drawn locally, funds from outside may have been come in forms of donations probably, and exclusively were used by the Jesuit Society to finish the project. Indeed, the project was finished, despite there are some rooms for improvements that could be done later, which other priests had seen.

Despite all the odds, in 1998, a young priest had shown determination and eagerness to renovate the roof structure of the old brick church. Everyone in the parish signified his willingness to support this once in a life time undertaking of a priest. The parishioners knew that the project though how costly it would be, if ever finished shall be ultimately owned by them and not by the priest. Highly motivated by this thought, every home had a personal pledge, the monies, they shall offer it monthly. For this, the Parish Pastoral Finance Council was tasked to do the greatest challenge, to raise a big sum of money amounting more or less to the total cost of the project estimates.[49]

Nevertheless, the monies shall not be produced right away, but raised in staggered basis depending on the flow of work and materials used. As such, there would spatial time to think how to raise funds, would it be solicited or through donations, or monies shall be raised through fund raising - raffles, concert, and so on. 

If the church’s income shall be depended upon for the project, it never could rightly be enough in comparison with the projected expenditures in terms of labor and materials.  Church collections are solely not for the parish alone, but certain percentage goes to the Archdiocese; and from there we do not know how it would be appropriated and spent. For sure, part of that will go back and shall be used to subsidize “weak parishes,” or those having lesser collections.

Partly, a church or archdiocese’s fund shall be appropriated to answer also its social responsibility. In times of natural or man made calamities, the church is there on the forefront and this means expenses. Other object of expenditures shall be the infrastructure projects of the archdiocese, much money shall be set for this. The rest maybe may go to Vatican, where it shall be again appropriated piece by piece for the different concerns she has.

[This is only a wild guess, but this is how monies in government flow, though in terms of financial disposition there are always differences between  government and church governance, their variance may not be far enough insofar as administrative respects of monies would be concerned, I guess so again. If government has corruption, the church may have none, or if there is, such would be insignificant compared with governments.]

As maybe known by everyone, the total estimated project costs amounted to a tune of P9million. By the time, the project was nearly completed and coinciding with the mandatory expiration of the Parish Priest, thus his inevitable transfer to the Parish of Claveria, total expenses amounted to P7million already. This did not include yet the extension of the sacristy.[50]

“In the beginning it was something like that, but later on when it was nearing completion, it was more than that,” the good priest said.

The greater bulk of the expenditures mainly were the costs of steel that served as trusses, purlins, braces, angular bars, and round and corrugated steel bars for the roofing structure. Next to it was the cost of specially made Coloroof sheets ordered at RJ Jacinto Company in Lugait, Misamis Oriental. Following the roof materials, another great expenditure was the costs of flooring [marble tiles were used from Romblon and Bulacan], including cement. Cost of aggregates and backfilling materials were bit lower than the estimates considering that owners of heavy equipment [dump trucks, graders, and road rollers] offered them for free to work for a day or two, more so during weekends, so, the cost of equipment rental was saved.[51]

It can be recalled that the entire floor area excluding the sanctuary or the presbytery section was backfilled. Load and loads of aggregates and backfilling materials were carried by dump trucks to the interior of the church through the main door at the western entrance. The elevation of the floor area was raised to two feet for the paved roads surrounding it were already higher than the church’s flooring. 

Backfilling was solidly done, the inner layer that held the backfill materials was an old concrete floor; and after thicker layer of soil were laid and compacted, concreting followed. The ultimate work of the floor area was the laying and sanding of the marble cut slabs or tiles.

Had the heavy equipment were rented, the costs would have been staggering for rentals are usually computed or charged by the hour. But out of their generosity, only the fuels, lubricants, meals, honorarium of operators and drivers, and costs of right of way passage of trucks entering or passing the properties of land owners in going to and fro the quarry site were assumed by the Parish.   

The Middle Interior Columns and Its Challenge:

The crucial work of the renovation of the church’s roof structure was the elimination of the 12 middle interior columns on each side. These wooden 12 columns supported the whole weight of the old brick church roofing structure.

In determination or distribution of a structural load to the foundations, there are lots of basic considerations to be reckoned. Firstly, the roof structural load shall be considered on its “dead load” weight. Meaning how much or how heavy is the roof structure load alone without any additional loads on it, like additional weights of persons on top the structure [live load]. Another consideration is the wind factor; or its gustiness during extreme weather conditions such as those happening during super typhoons.

Soil analysis is a factor to reckon with, because if in case the soil is muddy, the columns have to be piled driven, and as soon as the rock bed is reached, pile driving shall stop for the columns are now anchored well below.

For this specific undertaking, a question was tackled whether or not the total roof structural load including all other considerations would be directly absorbed by the old brick structures alone. Would it be not necessary anymore to reinforce it with new concrete columns? And if it will need some concrete column reinforcements, would its structural foundations be able to hold the load of the roof structure considering that the bricks are already old, having been kilned long time ago?

The 12 middle interior columns on each side would have to be eliminated, that is why there had been a renovation work. Seemingly, it was a problem and that question hangs in the air, whether it is attainable or not? Henceforth, there were criticisms, because some people did not believe that the renovation can be done without their support. Ordinary people listened to their filthy ideas.[52]  

If pessimism were entertained, problems seemed to exist gravely and it may weaken the will to work. But for the engineers, the problem on the distribution or determination of the roof structure load was merely a matter of mathematical computation only. They had seen the necessity to reinforce the old brick columns with new concrete columns and girders to be able to carry on, or sustain the great load of the roof structure and the stress it has to bear. There was no need to pile drive the reinforced columns, firmed matting below in the foundation may do.

After thoroughly identifying where to place the counter sustaining pressures to withstand the stress, the Engineers erected reinforced concrete column. The new columns were fittingly placed at the center of every brick column at an interval of two brick columns starting from the side door. The side doors are the mid-section of the church’s total length from east to west. A reinforced concrete column was fitted to the old brick column starting at the brick column of the side door. From the first reinforced brick column of the side door, it moved towards the east and with an interval of two brick columns, another reinforced concrete column followed. In an interval of two brick columns starting from the side door and moving towards the east, there were four reinforced columns erected.

Since the area of the church is rectangle, there would be identical numbers of reinforced concrete columns at the west side starting from a similar side door. The brick columns on the other side [north] are equal with the south side. So, the measurement of the area is plainly length multiplied by the width would be the area, or with a width of 20 meters multiplied by its total length of 60 meters give us an answer of 1,200 sq. meters for the total area.  It is a perfect rectangle.

Moreover, a concrete girder or beam extends from east to west with columns underneath it, and designed as arches [six arches from the east side to the side door and similar number from the same side door towards the west] and strongly matted with steel. The arches served as additional columns that supported the girder which was securely placed horizontally at the apex of the old brick columns, to assist carry or withstand the load of the entire roof structure.

Web members on each truss were intricately designed and either was vertically or diagonally set; and the bracings started a few inches away from the roof girders. To give firmer support to the trusses, angular bracings from the nearest column were extended or looped towards the upper end of the truss. In some sense, they seemed to serve as bottom chord of the truss, but they are not. The design is called as cantilever, and appropriately advisable for trusses that had been extended at five meters or more, away from the columns and towards the ridge roll or apex of the roof.    

Connected from truss were the “C” purlins. The purlins were attached or welded on the top chord of the truss; and readied to house the Coloroof. Aside from “C” purlins, angular bars were abundantly fabricated and placed parallel to each other and braced with 8mm round bars. They served as the support of the structure because they were braced horizontally from the trusses and functioned too as purlins, thus minimizing the costs and use of purlins. Sag rods were likewise used to establish firmness of the purlins as the former were linked to the purlins.

Rafters were also used in between trusses to give support. When the interval of the truss exceeded 5 meters or fixed at 5 meters, rafters shall be used to prevent sagging.

Partly for stress tensioning, lateral ties and turn buckles were installed for diagonal movement; and they traversed diagonally from one truss structure to the other, thereby keeping the truss always firmed. In support of the lateral ties and turn buckles, were struts. Turn buckles and struts have similar functions, there only difference is, turn buckles traversed diagonally from one truss to the other and it had a big “X” design, because usually they traversed in two’s and crossed each other. Struts are to be connected horizontal from one truss to the other at the bottom chord.

Ideally, trusses would have some intricacies in design and that depends on a given situation. Maybe one of the reasons why designs shall have some intricacy is to be able to have extra rigidibility. With appropriate bracing and stress tensioning system, structure durability can be achieved. A nice roof structure whose loads are evenly distributed to strong, and durable columns; and good foundations below can somehow withstand small magnitude of seismic movements. A magnitude too big more than the stress load of the columns, foundations, trusses and other structural related supports could be endured for a time through the art of flexibility, but certainly the structure can not at all times bear the stress, more so if the act of gods would be repeated immensely and intensely.

For this, there were two additional concrete columns fixed at the western part of the structure or at the puerta mayor side. They were erected inside the church opposite each other and raised in support of the truss.  

[This is a layman’s views on how the roof structure load had been evenly distributed to the old brick columns on each side - south or north perimeters of the church.]

The roof structure design at the mid section of the church as well as those of the two side doors are complex. It does not have the ordinary roof design common to old buildings. The mid section was cut-opened and, purposely lifted a few more feet higher than the regular height of the roof, so it may generate natural ventilation. Instead of the usual inclined symmetrical design that formed an angle more or less at 30º or 35º, or lesser than that at the lower curve of the truss on its extreme ends; the design of the lifted section is like a cut cylinder. The cut cylindrical shape faces downwards and this is a unique structural design in town. It is known as a vaulted roof.  

Meanwhile, the roof structure fronting the side doors were also cut. From the cut section, two diagonal roof structures are formed, one is shorter than the other; and they crossed forward even beyond the side doors. It was extended beyond that point for shade from rain or light cover of the churchgoers.

The major structural works included erection of concrete columns, girders, beams, and making of additional support arches; and the installation of steel trusses, purlins, angular bracings, and the roofs belong to roof works, so with the ceiling.

Ceiling works:

After the Coloroofs were nailed or tucked to the purlins or angular bars, woodworks followed; and the essential work was paneling.  Ceiling works just like the structural work is likewise intricate; the woodworks must follow the contours of the roofing. In the mid-section where the roof had been lifted and cylindrical in shape, the ceiling too was like that.

Ceiling joist were either screwed or bolted from the purlins and angular bars to hold the panels or ceiling. Whole length marine plywood was attached as panel, or ceiling and a wooden molding evenly divided its length. There are 8 rows of marine plywood on the main ceiling structure from the east and going horizontally to the where the side doors are located. Exactly at the end of the eight (8) plywood-lengths [4’x 8” in size], is the opening of the cut portion of the ceiling. The open space is the roof cylindrical structure design. It has an area of about 44 feet in length or [11-plywood arranged vertically in width]. The area of the width is 32 feet or [8-plywood arranged horizontally starting from the roof beam, or 4 feet plywood’s width multiplied by 8 plywoods will give us an answer of 32 feet].

Thus, the lifted open space area that served as natural ventilation where the cylindrical cut was designed may have an area of about 32 feet in width and 44 feet in length.

Ornamenting the ceiling is a wooden frame or cornice that starts its rectangular form at the fourth plywood length. The cornice is on either side of the ceiling and extends from east to west.

How high was the construction’s bamboo scaffolding inside the church? Too high and always scary when one is not used to it, but for the erectors, welders, carpenters, and laborers who dared the challenge, it was just like working in a receiving room.  

With all the aches, sweat and fears of the construction workers, because for sure they did feel fear, the renovation was successfully completed with zero case of fatality. There was a case of work connected injury; two workers were electrocuted while removing the old galvanized roof. The wet zinc touches a live wire and two workers in the roofing structure had cheated death for fortunately they survived; and were hospitalized under the account of the Parish. From then on, the Project Engineers and everyone in the project exercised extra-ordinary diligence to prevent occurrence accidents.[53] The project was finished with zero rate of accident, as a consequence of the adaptation of safety first policy. 

The Inauguration: 

With bar charts, and PERT [Project Evaluation Review Technique], the Engineers were able to evaluate the progress of the actual work in S-Curve Chart, because the accomplishment reports data are just fed in the database. By those engineering monitoring tools, they were able to forecast that the project could be finished not beyond year 2000. In other words, the project was on schedule, or on the frame time. Sensing its manageability, works for the bell tower, a multi-rise structure in 4 stories; and a devotional chapel inside the church was started. Actual work took off in June 2000 and was simultaneous with the renovation, it went on.

In December 2000, the renovated brick church, the bell tower, and devotional chapel were solemnly inaugurated by Bishop Jesus B. Tuquib, Doctor of Divinity. [He is the Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese being already retired now. Bishop Antonio Ledesma, a Jesuit is the Bishop of Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.


[The reconstruction or renovation of the church was indeed a general endeavor of all people who had committed to share their time, effort and few pesos for its completion could imposingly be placed rightly in local history because it deserves a place thereon.
Despite it was never compulsory but purely voluntary, parishioners had made it a point though how poor maybe they are to spare a few pesos for the construction of the church.

What a virtuous act of selflessness, they almost have nothing, yet they gave it though they knew they have nothing that much left for them at home.

Maybe let us look back to the ordinary workers on site, though they knew what they would receive is lesser than the usual fees of big construction company, they never said “I do not wish to work anymore because the rate is not alluring.” Instead they worked with great enthusiasm; even happily trading or not minding a full day’s work as merely nothing but only voluntary because they too are committed of finishing the project that does not have enough funds. And people too were volunteering to work on weekends for no cash consideration.  How come? Why is it?

The answer maybe is; man always wants to do something good. The renovation of the brick church was a rare opportunity for people who had served to share their time or money for a cause so good.  

Like those who lived or worked aboard, they have not seen the project, nor maybe requested by the priest to donate, but they knew through their families that the project is ongoing. Whether they had seen it or not, the appeal from their families for help reverberated in their hearts. They gave.

There is no need for corvee law to be decreed like in the colonial days, but only a little push of right action or direction, or leading by example can redirect man’s way of thoughts from self-centeredness to unselfishness. Really, the priests indeed hit the hearts of the true Balingasagnon, those who care not only of himself, but for others too.]

In The Present Times:
About the Priests.

By course of natural order as life shall and will always be; all the Spanish Jesuits who actively or indirectly participated in the construction of the brick church in 1892 were long ago dead. Even those who were assigned here after 1892 and the priest [Fr. Theodore Daighler, SJ] who turned over the parish to the diocesan priests in 1959 may have or had gone forevermore.

Life seldom reaches a century, and if it does, it is so rare and indeed a great blessings. The diocesan priests who were assigned here from 1959 to 1977, five of them are now rested. However, in 2012, Fr. Leo Cervantes celebrated his sacerdotal golden jubilee; he was assigned here in 1965 to 1968 and God must have bestowed his countless blessings to him. In fact, he had a thanksgiving mass at the parish church.

But evidently dying is not only for the older ones, it is for anyone including the younger ones; and sadly Fr. Nilo Aguiman died in 2010 while serving as Parish Priest of Sta. Rita.

We are not counting who lives or who dies, it is not the theme of this essay. On the contrary, we are discussing this in order for us to know that their deaths indeed had blessed us, the faithful; for they lived and died as priests and forevermore, they are, till time ceases.[54] 

The former parish priests who had served Balingasag are still assigned in other parishes today as parish priests as well, except for Fr. Alfredo Tamayo who is now serving a parish in the U.S. But for Fr. Pedro Sombilon, the long years of service may have exhausted him, he is now retired. However, every now and then, he used to celebrate masses in the city’s churches. Their retirement home is at St. Patrick House at the seminary complex.  

Fr. Joel Oga is the current Parish Priest. He is assigned here vice Fr. Aguiman (d), because Fr. Allan Pulgo’s assignment here was only temporarily until at the end of the Lenten Season of 2010.[55]

How the Brick Church Looks After the Renovation:

The removal of the wooden interior middle columns visually made the church more spacious.[56] Its presbytery though it was elevated earlier is not much higher now than it was before, because the area below it; was likewise backfilled, hence they also are elevated presently.

So, the priest or those who are on the presbytery can always see openly the churchgoers who are below them. That is why, for some reasons, the priest may always know who were sleepy during mass especially during the homily.

Insofar as the “retablo” [back altar] is concerned, the existing one is similar to the previous, the fact that it has three canopies as well. Occupying the center canopy is the Cross of the Risen Christ; to His left is the statue of Sto. Niño, while on the right side is Sta. Rita de Cascia. The apexes of the canopies are shaped like as an inverted letter “U” of the English alphabet.

The canopy’s posts or pillars are rounded, with shiny brass or bronze plates on its base and on the uppermost end of the post, there are three pieces of square slabs which ornamentally were placed before the “U” design of the canopy begins to arch from one post to the other. Below this retablo is a wide block of concrete or seemingly like a back draft [rectangular in form still part of the retablo] that faces the main altar.

On either side of this rectangular block are two full-life size angels, and a few feet away from them, or going inward to the center of block are tiles or block of beautiful tiles. They look nice; the design is attractive. 

The retablos were improved during the too short term of the temporary successor of the late Fr. Aguiman. The retablo looks good with the new color combinations now. The main altar has a transparent glass upfront where a sculptured minute image of the Last Supper is depicted and could be seen visibly by the churchgoers.

Located far left from the main retablo is where the tabernacle is placed. It occupies a space below the retablo, where the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus occupies. Opposite of this, is the retablo where our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is placed.

Overhead or located near the main altar are two small chandeliers hanged opposite from each other. Another bigger chandelier is likewise hanged on the center, a few meters away from the main altar. At the rear area or from the puerta mayor, one chandelier is also placed.

From the main door and located to the right is the devotional chapel of Sto. Niño.[57] It is well furnished, people used to pray thereat always. They sometimes forget that it is the Blessed Sacrament that should be the focused of everything. Well, this does not mean they are not doing well, anyway.

Except for the sacred images or statues of saints who were previously mentioned in their places at the retablo, other saints occupied every available window on either side of the church. Thus, we would see either from the left or right side of the church’s wing the statues of St. Michael the Archangel; San Isidro Labrador; St. Joseph; St. John Vianney; St. Augustine; San Vicente Ferrer; San Lorenzo Ruiz; San Roque; Our Lady of Guadalupe; Our Lady of Fatima; the Pieta; Our Lady of Assumption; Our Lady of the Rosary; St. Anthony de Padua; and so on.[58]

The church has four rows of benches or pews and the ones which are placed at the side areas are small benches. In ordinary days when there are masses, benches are not all occupied, but on Sundays and days of obligation, it is hard to get a seat. To remedy this, the Parish Priest with his assistant had arranged four masses in the parish church alone, three in the morning and one in the afternoon during Sundays.

The area at the right side of the sanctuary is occupied by Lay Ministers, while on the opposite side is where the mass servers are seated. The Lectors occupy the main front benches to the left, a few paces away from where the Holy Gospel shall be read.

Moreover, the choir’s cluster is located at the front right side, below the sanctuary. There is no second floor, where the predecessors used to station themselves; and at the top of their voices sang the Kyrie, Christus Vincet . . . Christus Regnat, Tantum Ergo, and other mass hymns during pre-Vatican II time.

Furthermore, the church bell tower is a four-story building; the first floor housed the Catechist’s Support Center [it is a small store that sells prayer books and novenas, crucifix, rosary beads, and candies and biscuits, and so on.] The second floor supposedly would be occupied by SANRICO, the parish cooperate; maybe in due time it would be occupied. At the tower where there is this conical structure, a big bell was fixed. Two other smaller bells were also hanged thereat, and they toll only during the 8:00 o’clock nightly prayer for the repose of the souls in purgatory or when it would quietly express the passing of innocent children, who are brought to the church for the blessings, a sacristan once said.

The dimension of the bell tower is 6 meters square exactly 2 meters wider than the bell tower of Carmen Church in Cagayan de Oro City.[59]    

Some Reflection:

Before we close this essay with the final “Had’s” and “If’s’” sentences, perhaps it is befitting to give some significance of the historic value of the sculptured ‘via cruces” which are placed or hanged at the brick walls of the church.

In Note No. 30, the undersigned had talked about the beautiful churches of the North like those in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; Vigan in Ilocos Sur; and Baclayon and Dauis in Bohol in the south.  We do not compete for honors with those churches because true exercise of religiosity is never equated in contest as to whose church is better than the other. But if we talk of travel and sightseeing, the ones mentioned are the most sought by tourists. So, we say, those churches are really nice.

As said earlier, we are not for competition; however it would not be certainly bad, if we aspire someday to be like them. In one of the unexpected travels of the undersigned to the north some two months ago, he happened to spend a day in Vigan. Aside from a stroll or calesa tour at the Heritage Village [old colonial house, cobblestone pavement, souvenir shops, etc.], one remarkable destination that one should never forget is a visit at the Vigan Church [St. Paul Cathedral]. Although, its size is incomparable with our brick church, what the undersigned keepsake most, are Vigan’s “via cruces.”  Their Station of the Cross is likely similar with ours.

Before he saw the Vigan’s “via cruces,” his mind, so with his heart were filled with pride that our church has the unique “via cruces” all over the country. Despite, the undersigned is not well-traveled, but there were times when he could go to other places by mere chance, or should we say by accident. Maybe on seminars or had traveled with friends or relatives. In the places where he had once gone before Vigan, there are no “via cruces” similar to Balingasag.  

So, indeed, he concluded that the ones in Balingasag is one and only in the country. But such pride in his heart and mind receded at the sight of a likely similar “via cruces” at Vigan Cathedral. Its length, width, or more or less its structure, are likely similar but not on its minutes details.

Nevertheless, the tickling small sense of pride is still upheld because to him, the one in Balingasag were skillfully sculptured; and the carved figures or “persons” projected on each station are more in number than those at Vigan Cathedral. The carved figures or “persons” of the Vigan “via cruces” seemed just to have been embossed lightly on the wooden frame. They are not carved or sculptured well, aside from the lesser numbers of carved figures displayed on each station.

Hence, deep in his heart, he feels that the Balingasag Church has the nicest “via cruces” till now. What about for another ten or twenty year? Could the carved or sculptured figures last by then considering some are in the process of dilapidation?

As a matter of fact, Station of the Cross No. 1 inadvertently just felt from the wall and broke into pieces, even its wooden framework disintegrated. It can no longer be restored; it was a total wreck. Local sculptor could not replicate it; we wonder those in Paite, Laguna if they can. Or could it be only the original maker of that can replicate it, if that is the case; it would be in the U.S. or in Rome, or Spain.

What the undersigned wishes to convey before other “via cruces” would meet similar fate or be dilapidated by time, at least there would be proper preservation care. Such responsibility supposedly shall be inherently vested on the parishioners because of the historic value of those “via cruces.” A random scrutiny of the “via cruces frames,” some already have traces of cracks due to quakes or stress; and they are visible. The woodworks of most frames are already attacked by termites; and it would not take so long for those beautiful “via cruces” to be out of service because of total dilapidation.

Now is the appropriate time for us to do something significant to preserve this heritage, which we have since 1954. Fr. Arthur Shea, SJ received these as donation from one of his benefactors. The “via cruces” has been here with us for more than 50 years already, and insofar as laws is concerned, such is already considered as a heritage of Balingasag.   

We must do something good not for our own time, but for our children and their children’s children. It is never late, if we give it a try while there is time yet; otherwise, we would be late and be totally helpless. If we do nothing about it, and leave it to rot without exerting efforts to save it for other generations to see, maybe we are just like those helpless onlookers who had done nothing when the church was condemned for burning in 1942. It is sad if another experience likely similar to that though it is but only a “via cruces” may happen once more. Yes, it is only “via cruces” but, its historic significance to the religiosity of the town is priceless.

Though finite things are not infinite, at least if there are efforts of care and preservation, its economic life may be extended. With everyone’s utmost efforts of care, maybe the “via cruces” would last for another 50 or more years. Is this not good? Look, the Basilica of St. Peter over the tomb of the saint on the Vatican Hill was founded by Emperor Constantine the Great in 320 AD, but it is still there now because the Christian World cares for it.[60]
Finally, had only the people in those days exercised some sort of “people empowerment” or vigilance, maybe the Lieutenant who ordered the burning shall have a second thought. Who knows if he would have given another order, and not necessarily the burning of the church? But that was it; nothing was done by the parishioners, except for Fr. Risacher who pleaded mercy to differ the order.  Nevertheless, there was no mercy. The good priest went to the church and climbed upstairs to negotiate with the Japanese, so the church may be spared. However, the Japanese were determined not to surrender, but die; it was their once in a life chance to die honorably like the way of the Samurai. So why not die for the Emperor, just like the Saints in Heaven, for God?  Indeed, they died as heroes of their fatherland, but not as saints; we guess.

It is likewise so sad for us to know later, there were others who even carried langkay or midribs of coco trees for the bonfire. And rugs were asked from nearby houses on the order of the Guerilla Officers to be used as wicks, the tenants gave; and these were later soaked with gasoline. Why? Much scared so cooperative? How awful! Had 1942 been an era of People Power, maybe the parishioners would have been in the “kapit-bisig makibaka” stance to deter or protest the burning. But it was 1942 and not 1986, so sad once more.

If only the brick church of 1892 was not burned in 1942, till these days, the hardwood structure certainly would have outlived time yet. Since she was burned, her yesterday’s beauty only exists in the memories of those who had seen, prayed, or had attended Holy Masses during those times on it. For the many who have not seen her even in pictures today, they would just think of how impressive maybe really she was. Their guess is maybe as good as mine, and for sure, we do care of her short-lived existence.


Contributed by:

Rex R. Valmores       

[The Contributor Speaks . . .

Today, if there is a picture of the old brick church of 1892, it is considered as a very rare memorabilia. Evidently, many had heard of its reference being talked about by our old folks – [oral tradition is a part of history], or perhaps cited in a good written story. But maybe it was told or discussed just so concise like a passing wind.  

Thus, the undersigned had thought and indeed began collating pieces of stories [oral tradition] and with available history materials on hand; had tried bringing it together to form a story. Well, the story did not generally begin during the time of construction of the brick church in 1892, but it skidded back or revolved at the time when there was no brick church yet, but a wooden and tabique pampango church of the Recollects. Unfortunately, however, we missed the awesome literature of the time of the Recollects; and only had the narration of the Jesuits about it, when they took charge of Balingasag mission area in 1877 from them.

This essay has been tediously prepared based on the narration of the events from old people who may have witnessed or remembered those days. However, the later events are based from contemporary works; and of course with some substantiation from the senior citizens.  

During the Great War, most of them were only 10 or 15 years old; and today they are in their twilight years in the 80’s. 

Due to failing memories because of old age, we could not squeeze clean or clear information from them. For every statement or fact presented, there must be some revalidation of what had been stated. Such could never be validated just by anyone, but by older people too. If there are similarities of their statements, maybe what they said is likely true.

But, of course, those validated statements would again be screened and checked through crisscrossing the pages of earlier works of local scholars and other references, if available.

The process as said is tedious, nevertheless; it has to be done that way.

To read a thing of the past, more so that we have to concretize it in our mind’s eye, requires patience; and the undersigned salutes them for that.

Henceforth, may the reader absolve the undersigned for all his shortcomings. For the technical people, it is indeed hard trying to understand the confusing terms and language of the Engineering World. So, kindly accept his sincere apology. The undersigned wishes too, to thank Engineers Darwin Emata, Ernesto Chavez, and Francis Dahilan for a nice briefing of their works. It is only sad that he does not have a big engineering mind to muster and grasp it well.

Lastly, if it would not go so odd, perhaps this contributor desires to bestow this small work as a token of respect to our lone classmate who had joined a Religious Congregation. She is now in Rwanda, Africa, in one of the disheartening places on earth where apartheid killings happened before. Good that there is peace now. She is with the Daughters of Divine Zeal, an Italian Congregation whose apostolate has reached to the Philippines. Presently, they have a house in Marikina City.[61]

After high school, some 42 years later, a handful of us fortunately met Sr. Maria Amie Acut in the homecoming last May 2012. We were greatly honored of her presence, indeed.

In Rwanda, she takes charge of their Congregation Retreat House where the Sisters shall devote a full year of prayers and meditations to enhance their religiosity before they would decide to accept the perpetual vows.

Going back in 1970, in a graduating class of more than a hundred, it was only the cute and morena beauty Amie who had chosen the Life of a Nun. She told me, “I was really surprise why I become a nun; it is the least thing that I ever thought. But if God calls us, we go with an open heart.”

A good number of our classmates are church workers now, nurturing the RVM religious upbringing; there are Lectors like Anita and Phoebe; and Thelma, as a worker in one of the ministries at the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro. Brendon acts as a council leader in his parish as well as Crisogono during his term.

In this pressing time when work is always a priority for some, we have classmates who would or had stayed by with their Parish Priests or Ministers; and they are and would always be there ready to serve. The undersigned wishes to acknowledge with gratitude the commitment and support they had shown. It is therefore befitting to thank them – Rudy and Laura, Crispina, Marilyn, Chuchie, Ma. Luisa, Helen, Juliet, Marybelle,  Lux, Marilou, Minda, Elleriza, Herminia, Leonie; Julia; Albino; Douglas; Edgardo; Cristino; Sofronio; Rolando; Romeo; Virgilio; Matthew; German; Roger; and Neciforo, for such a laudable work and keep that up.[62] 

For those who are not mentioned, it does not mean that their works are merely insignificant or no greater importance at all. It is not like that, but, we could not mention everyone’s name because we do not know for sure how everyone has been faring. Nevertheless, though how insignificant maybe the work is, if it was ardently done for God’s greater glory; irrespective of what religion one professes, we would like to believe that one has already done a deed of righteousness.

God always sees even the most insignificant things we did, oftentimes people missed to see. 

Our batch is somehow blessed; at least we have one classmate who indeed has offered everything to Him. There is no better way of describing Sr. Ma. Amie’s noble deed¸ but perhaps the poem “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barriett Browning may capsulize it in a line, when she said, “I love thee to the depth, breadth, and height my soul could reach.”  

For this, let us have the high five!]

[1] A Suppression Order was issued Pope Pius II in 1773 due to the tremendous pressures exerted by the Bourbons (Kingdom of Spain, France, Naples, and Pharma.) The Jesuit Order was officially dissolved. It was only in 1814 when Pope Pius VII restored the Suppression Order of 1773, it gave back all the rights and privileges the Jesuit enjoyed before the suppression. See Fr. M.A. Bernad, S.J. The Great Island, Note 3, 165-166.
[2] The first group of Jesuits arrived on 13 June 1859, their second coming since they had been here in 1581; was headed by Fr. Jose Fernandez Cuevas. With him were five priests and an equal number of Coadjutor Brothers. See Fr. M.A. Bernad, S.J. The Great Island, Note 2: 131. See Fr. Pablo Pastells, Mission, 1:9.
[3] Fancisco Riera was born in Manresa, Barcelona, Spain on 20 January 1844, entered the Society of Jesus as a Coadjutor Brother, and came to the Philippines in 1865. Except in 1892-93 in Balingasag, he spent his entire missionary career at the Ateneo Municipal in Manila. He returned to Spain in 1922, and died in Manresa on 2 January 1929. He was one of the longest-staying Spanish Jesuits in the Philippines.
Antonio Gairolas was born in Arbeca, Lurid, Spain on 9 June 1843, entered the Society of Jesus as Coadjutor Brother on 18 March 1865. He was assigned to the various Mindanao missions, was caught, and imprisoned in Surigao during the revolution. He died in Davao on 17 September 1919, after being assigned there in 1905, when peace returned. 
Juan Costa was born in Brera, Barcelona, Spain on 11 March 1845, entered the Society of Jesus as a Coadjutor Brother on 19 October 1867, and came to the Philippines in 1875. He worked in various places in the Philippine mission: Ateneo Municipal de Manila, the northern and northeastern missions. In 1899, he was recalled to Manila, and went back to Spain.  A year later he was assigned to the Dapitan mission, he was an expert potter, and taught the orphans in the Jesuit mission in Tamontaca the art of pottery and other related industries. He died in Dapitan on 18 November 1920. __ See Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J. Jesuit Missionary Letters from Mindanao, Vol. IV.
[4] DV Dongallo, MJ Valmores, & LC Diestro, History of Balingasag, pp. 110-112.
[5] Jose Vilaclara was born in Artes, Barcelona, Spain on 27 November 1840, entered the Society of Jesus on 4 October 1862, and came to the Philippines in 1875. After teaching for four years at the Ateneo Municipal in Manila, he was assigned to the Dapitan and Dipolog missions, until 1890, when he was reassigned for one year to the Ateneo. He returned to Dipolog and successively worked in El Salvador and Talisayan in Northern Mindanao. He returned sick to Spain on 2 September 1897, and died at sea off Aden [The Gulf of Aden connects with the Red Sea, it is located southeast of today’s country of Yemen, northeast of Somalia and likewise near the island of Socotra to the east.]  (Geographical annotation mine.) He was one of the Jesuits who helped Jose Rizal, in his last hours at Fort Santiago, Manila. See Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J. Jesuit Missionary Letters, Vol. IV: The Dapitan-Balingasag Mission, p. 517.  
[6] There were two mission stations in Cotabato, along the two exit waterways of the Rio Grande de Mindanao. On the northern part was the mission of Cotabato, while on the south and not too far from the former, was the mission of Tamontaca. It was in the mission of Tamontaca where the present day Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM sisters) labored much in the care and evangelization of the Teruray and ransomed children from Moro slavery. The Teruray are indigenous people of this part of Cotabato, who had been ones the focus of the evangelization of the Jesuits in their second coming to the Philippines. __ See Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J. Jesuit Missionary Letters from Mindanao, Vol. IV: The Dapitan and Balingasag Mission.
[7] Blair & Robertson, the Philippine Islands.
[8] Balingasag was the only Jesuit residence in the eastern side of Misamis or today’s Misamis Oriental. It covered the missionary areas from Tagoloan to Magsaysay, while on the western side; El Salvador was also a Jesuit residence. 
[9] The first local history book entitled History of Balingasag by Dongallo, D.; Valmores, M.; and Diestro, L was published in 1977. It categorically said that the stone edifice ruin in Galas was the first church of Balingasag. Thereafter, two publications followed authored by G.F. Vega, Historical Glimpses of Balingasag and M.V. Cero, History of the Parish of Sta. Rita. They cited as reference History of Balingasag which was published in 1977.
[10] A thesis on the cause of the transfer of old settlement of Gompot to the present town site aside from the flooding of the Balatukan River could be accessed on a forthcoming essay on e-book “Marginal Literature: Evangelization and Exploration of Northern Mindanao and Other Related Events during Spanish Colonial Philippines” by Rex R. Valmores, soon on his blogspot and facebook accounts. 
[11] Fr. Pablo Pastells was born in Figueroa, Gerona, Spain on 3 June 1848, entered the Society of Jesus on 8 August 1866, and came to the Phiippines in 1875. After a year at the Ateneo Municipal in Manila, where he became the spiritual adviser of the young Jose Rizal, he was assigned to the eastern Mindanao missions. His last assignment in Mindanao was Tagoloan, where he stayed for only a year, for in 1888 he as named Superior of the Philippine Jesuit Mission. He returned to Spain in 1893 because of poor health. During his stays in Spain, he as first assigned as Assistant to the Jesuit Provincial in Aragon, then to the famous historian, Antonio Astrain, who wrote a seven-volume history of the Spanish oJesuits. Fr. Pastells also edited, with copious notes and documents, Francisco Colin, Labor evangelica de los obreros de la Compania de Jesus en las isles Filipinas, 3 volumes. (Barcelona, 1900-1902) in collaboration with Wencesalao E. Retana, Francisco Combes, Historica de Mindanao y Jolo (Madrid, 1897), and other books.  On 16 August 1932, he died in Tortosa, Spain. See Fr. J.S. Arcilla, Jesuit Missionary Letters, Vol. IV: 268.
[12] Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J., Labor Evangelica, Mission de la Compania de Jesus, Volume 1 p. 227.
[13] A mixture of lime and cement, and matted or reinforced with bamboo stakes.
[14] Blair & Robertson, The Philippine Islands.
[15] On his scholarly work, “Breve Reseña en la que Provincia de la San Nicolas de Tolentino”.
[16] Imaginary division of Mindanao effective 1620s during the time of Governor General Tello, where it was officially agreed that all lands from the same boundary going west belong to the charge of the Jesuits.  However, in 1762 the Jesuits were expelled by the Bourbon Kings in all their dominions in the world. They were out of the Philippines and the rest of Mindanao belongs to the charge of the Recollects. 
[17] The Jesuits chose a centrally located town or mission site from where they undertook mission trips to the hinterlands. Jasaan was not a residence, but was attached to the residence of Balingasag. Other Jesuit residences were Tagoloan and El Salvador.__ Fr. J.S. Arcilla, SJ Jesuit Missionary Letters Vol. 1V p. 268.
[18]  Previously, Sta. Rita de Cascia monument was fountain in 1888 and it was part of the plaza fronting the sea. Later on, the Balingasag Waterworks System which Bro. Juan Costa, S.J. constructed with its source at Barangay Linggangao no longer operate, so the fountain was converted into a monument of Dr. Jose Rizal sometime in 1910. There was a big controversy on the issue of ownership of the land where the fountain or the Rizal monument that have to be constructed. The Parish Priest insisted that the plaza by the sea belonged to the Parish; while the Municipal President protested saying that it belonged to the Government. The controversy was latter on resolved by the Juez de Paz, however, it is said that the Municipal President lost his post, after the Priest’s claim was dismissed without merit. From Rizal monument, it was made into a sacred shrine of Sta. Rita, and its shuffling was done because the plaza by the sea was swapped with the property of the Parish on the southern part of the church, or today’s public park. [Annotation mine].
[19] LR Vega, “Daklit nga Kasalaysayan sa Lunsod sa Balingasag” Vol. III, p. 25.
[20] Thin slices of bamboo measuring not more than 2 inches  in width are  matted and entwined together on  a 4”x8” [plywood size] and serves generally as ready-made panels or whatever uses it may be used.
[21] Romualdo Jimeno, O.P. (Order of Preachers or Dominican), was Bishop of Cebu from 19 January 1846 to 19 January 1867. He had previously been titular bishop of Ruspe, Vicar Apostolic of Tunkin, to which he had been raised in 1839. See Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J. The Rio Grande Mission, Vol. I: 58.
[22] Fr. Alejandro Naval, SJ was their Provincial Superior.
[23] Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J. Jesuit Missionary Letters, Vol. IV: 219-220.
[24] Fr. Francisco de Paula Sanchez was born in Flix, Tarragona, Spain on 12 January 1849, entered the Society of Jesus on 11 May 1865, and came to the Philippines in 1872. For the next six years he taught at the Ateneo Municipal and became the favorite teacher of Jose Rizal. He was assigned to Taganaan and Tandag in Surigao successively, where the revolution caught him. Recalled to Manila, he taught at the Ateneo until he was sent to the Caraga mission in 1906, to Baganga in 1907, at the Ateneo again in 1909, and finally at San Jose Seminary in 1922. He was a trained scientist. On 21 July 1928, he died in Manila. __ Fr. J.S. Arcilla, SJ Jesuit Missionary Letters, Vol. IV.
[25] Jose Maria Clotet was born in Manresa, Barcelona, Spain on 19 April 1864, entered the Society of Jesus on 11 January 1881, and came to the Philippines in 1887.  For the next six years, he taught successively at the Ateneo Municipal and Normal School in Manila, after which he returned for theological studies and his priestly ordination in Spain. At the time of his exploration, he was not a priest yet. He was back in the Philippines in 1897 to join the staff at the Jesuit Weather Observatory in Manila, where the revolution caught him. After the revolution, he was assigned in Colegio de San Javier in 1901 and later was assigned to new seminary-college in Vigan, and back again at the Ateneo. He returned to Spain in 1923 and died in Sarria, Barcelona on 25 January 1924.  He had written a few books and several articles published in the Cultura Social.  Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J.  Jesuit Missionary Letters from Mindanao, Vol. IV: The Dapitan-Balingasag Mission, 328.
[26] Ibid, 348.
[27] Like the church in El Salvador which the Jesuits constructed in the last decade of the 19th century, it was later on demolished by the Diocesan Priest in consultation with the parishioners of Our Lady of Snows because heavy waves continued to strike it and pieces after pieces were demolished. The old brick church was constructed near the coastline. [Annotatoin mine].
[28] Nearing the turn of the 16th century, when Northern Luzon and the populous islands of the Pintados were explored and evangelized by the regular priests or the religious missionaries, construction of beautiful churches began. In the North, the Catholic Church of Paoay is considered as one of the most travel destination of tourists, aside from the Catholic Cathedral of Vigan; because of its unique structural designed. The Agustinians [OSA] built them in 1596. In the Pintados or in the Visayas, the Baclayon Church in Bohol caters most pilgrims or tourists. Bohol is also fame of its splendid churches just like the North – the Ilocos areas. In Bohol, the church of Dawis has “dug well” near its altar. It is handed down to generation that the water has some mystic cure to sickness. Nonetheless, in history “dug wells” was a nice component a church would have, because churches in olden times were not just places of worships, but it as well were places of refuge against enemies, such as those happening during the era of piratical raids of the Moros. Water gives lives to the defenders in the haven of the stone church. If dug wells inside the church has mystic power, well and good, but History is really objective to tell the real presence of waters at churches. 
[29] It was also Jovellar who abolished the payment of tributes, however he instituted the tax on cedula personal, which significantly the Katipuneros in the Cry of Pugad Lawin vehemently protested by tearing their cedulas. 
[30]  Fr. Ramon Pamies, S.J. was born in Borjas del Campo, Tarragona, Spain on 17 January 1831, entered the Society of Jesus on 26 December 1866, and came to the Philippines in 1868. He spent his missionary career in the northern and northeastern Mindanao mission until his return to Spain during the Philippine Revolution. He was firstly assigned in Davao in 1868 with the first group of Jesuits to evangelize Davao when they took it from the Recollects. He died in Tortosa, Spain on 31 March 1914. Ibid., 227.
[31] The first three automobiles in town appear in 1928 owned by the families of the Vega’s, Pimentel’s, and Valmores’. __ DV. Dongallo, MJ Valmores & LC Diestro, History of Balingasag, p. 14.
[32] Remedios Palma-Gil Magsalay, Short History of Catholicism in Balingasag.
[33] The entire fund of the church is called “sanctorum”, it comes from the tributary parishioners who paid tributes at 1 1/2 reales, 30 centavos, each year for the sanctorum. A tax in big towns constitutes a respectable fund, which the barangay heads collect for the Public Treasury. Six percent of the amount collected is paid in compensation for the work. The rest has to be presented or remitted to the Parish Priest for expenses in the celebration of three feasts (the town’s Patron Saint, Corpus Christi, and Holy Week.) For each feast, P25.00 shall be shared among the priest, sacristan, and the choirs-singers. Expenses for church ornaments, sacred vessels, repair of the churches, and other needs shall have permission from the Bishop and it must be in writing. The Royal Order of 30 January 1852 is the origin of the sanctorum. It says that “Parish Priests are authorized to spend for the repair of the churches as much as P25.00 of the church funds. For expenses beyond P25.00 but not more than P200.00, permission of the Ordinary (Bishop Ordinary) has to be obtained. In case the expenses shall exceed more than P200.00, the Parish Priests shall submit, through the Bishop Ordinary, the recommendation of the alcalde mayor or governor, the corresponding petition.” __ Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J., Jesuit Missionary Letters from Mindanao, Vol. 4:7.
[34]  Fr. Ramon Suico, an Agustinian Recollect, and the Parish Priest of Cagayan de Misamis changed the roofs of the Church into galvanized iron in 1861. He died on November 10, 1889. 
[35] Fr. Juan B. Heras, S.J. was born in San Jaume de Fontanya, Barcelona, Spain on 10 January 1836, entered the Society of Jesus on 21 April 1858, and came to the Philippines in 1872. He was assigned to the Ateneo Municipal in Manila, appointed Vice-Rector and two years later was the Superior of the Jesuit Philippine Mission in 1875. During his term as Superior, the missions expanded and were consolidated. He initiated the publication of the letters and report the missionaries sent to the Superior, according to the rule; he also opened, as concurrent Rector of the Ateneo; a dormitory for the students where Jose Rizal boarded as an interno student. At the end of his term as Superior, he was assigned to the northern Mindanao missions in Caraga and later on in today’s Misamis Oriental. During the Revolution where the Spanish Priests in particular the Jesuits in Cagayan de Misamis in the closing of the 19th century were imprisoned, he was appointed as the Local Superior [Balingasag Mission which includes the Missions of Sumilao and  Linabo in Bukidnon] vice Fr. Raimundo Peruga, SJ who was the Parish Priest of Tagoloan and the previous Local Superior. Fr. Heras together with the other Jesuit priests and brother coadjutors spent more than a year in prison in Cagayan de Misamis. In the prison camp, he exercised his duty as Superior and consistency negotiated with the prison officials to uplift their living conditions like the increase of their meal budgets. In March 1900, they were released and walked as free men. The Jesuits returned to Manila, however as soon as political stability was restored again, Fr. Heras returned to Mindanao and was the Parish Priest of Jasaan until the time of his death. He died in Manila on 15 November 1915.__ Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J. Jesuit Missionary Letters, Vol. IV: 274. See Miguel Saderra Mata, S.J., Noticias bigraficas del R.P. Juan Bautista Heras de la Compania de Jesus, 1836-1916 (Manila, 1918)
[36] Lt. Collado ordered the burning, he was the highest ranking officer, and in command of the guerilla movement, despite there was an American who joined the guerilla. The American soldier was Clyde Abbot. __ MJ Valmores, DV Dongallo, and LC Diestro, History of Balingasag.
[37] The old priest house which both the Spanish Orders – the Recollects and Jesuits, and the American Jesuits occupied, was formerly located in the present school quadrangle of St. Rita’s College of Balingasag.
[38] As narrated by Dr. Polygino J. Valmores, who carried it tirelessly during evacuation time. He was already 12 years old at the onset of the war. Based from an interview conducted on August 9, 2012, Lagonglong, Mis. Or. [Annotation Mine.]
[39] After the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814 and later when they returned back to the Philippines in 1859, the Province of Aragon was given the charge of the Philippine Mission until 1921, when the Province of New York took it over. Beginning 1957, it was a Vice-Province, and was created into a full-fledged Jesuit Province though not much later. Fr. J.S. Arcilla, S.J. Jesuit Missionary Letters from Mindanao, Vol. IV: 506.
[40] As narrated by Mr. Estercacio Domo, a Retired COMELEC employee in an interview with him on August 7, 2012 at his residence.  According to him, their Grade VI Industrial Arts teacher was the late Eusebio Galdo. [Annotation mine.]
[41] One notable contribution of the Alfredo Hojas was the use of his truck driven by Thomas Espinosa (d) in hauling woods from off-road sources to the worksite. __ Interview with Mr. Estercacio Domo.
[42] The Ecumenical Council was attended by 2,500 bishops and it had made 16 documents and among others are the following: Unitates Redintegratio on Ecumenism; Nostra Aetate on relationship of the Church to non-Christian Religion; and Dignitates Humanae on Religious Freedom. Vatican II had as well invited Protestants to the forum at St. Peter’s Basilica as observers, and it considers “Protestants not as heretics and schismatic but “separated brethrens”. Among the prominent Theologians during the council were Marie Dominique Cheru and Yves Congar [Dominicans]; Edward Schillebeeckx; and Karl Rahner, S.J. and Bernhard Haring, CSsR [German Theologians]. Josef Ratzinger, a Theologian too, [today’s Pope Benedict XVI] and Albino Luciani [later as Pope John Paul I] were among the respected personalities in the council. When the issue of changing the Latin tradition that existed some 2000 years ago into the vernacular and when the council was called to vote for its enactment or not, only 200 bishops [conservatives or traditionalists] voted against the changing. Not much later, masses in the universal church had been changed from Latin to vernacular. Moreover, after Vatican II, all types of recognized structure and services in the church are called as ministry [like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economic Enterprise, and so on.] During pre-Vatican II, the word “minister” denotes exclusively to ordained ministers such as bishops and priests. With reforms made, it is no longer like that today.__ Fr. Francesco Pierli, MCCJ, World Mission, a Comboni Fathers Publication, Vatican II, August 2012 issue. 
[43] Unfortunately, recently, the bolts of the First Station of the Way of the Cross [Jesus was condemned to Death] which were secured to the brick walls accidentally gave way. Beyond the control of everyone, the sculptured station fell and broke into pieces. It was totally destroyed and irreparable. In one of my visits to the North, Vigan in particular; I heard mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul and it has sculptured Stations of the Cross too. In size it is similar with that of Balingasag, nevertheless; in terms of workmanship, the one in Balingasag is much better for the sculptured images are too imposing.  (Annotation mine.)
[44] We bet the window iron grills were donated by various prominent families of Balingasag. It is readable even today; others are from organizations like “Catholic Women’s League,” “Kapunongan sa Birhen sa Lourdes,” “Apostolado” and so on. There are however window grills that have these markings, “P. G. Parache, SJ”, “P. S. Ferrer, SJ”, and “P.R. Vila, SJ”. For sure, these are not paid by them because they were all dead at the time the grills were installed and they had no relatives too in Balingasag. (Annotation mine.)
[45] In the 1970s or up in until the 1980s, the Columban Fathers had some of the parishes in like Sagay in Camiguin, in the mainland Kinoguitan and Balingoan. In the recent times, the parish church – The Shrine of the Holy Eucharist and another church in Kauswagan are under the charge of the Fathers of the Blessed Sacraments. These have been in this set-up and authorized by the Archbishop or Bishop to best serve the interests of the faithful for similar reason due to scarcity of priests, this time diocesan priests. [Annotation mine].
[46] Expert Mason and Carpenter Ireneo Macabale made most of the works in the improvement of the church.
[47] The Parish of the Mother of Perpetual Help of Baliwagan has already produced two priests. The first was Fr. Roniedon Paclar Valmoria, SSJV and the other was Fr. Ariel Cadavez Lara, an Agustinian [Order of St. Agustin (OSA)]. (Annotation Mine).
[48] It was later closed by the priest because it was so secluded and too tempting to the burglars, in fact, a nun witnessed a man forcibly opening the donation box, so he could have the money inside. Such incident is a risk for people who used to visit to pray; they may even turn as victims of these thieves, who knows. 
[49] As narrated by Bibiano B. Suazo, BEC leader of Purok 8, Barangay 2, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental on 11 August 2012 on a casual talk with him. (Annotation Mine).
[50] Interview with Cenon Sabejon, Foreman of the Balingasag Church renovation on August 28, 2012.
[51] Heavy equipments from the LGU-Balingasag, Eduardo Sausa, Teo Labadan, Construction Firm that constructed the Poblacion-Waterfall By-pass Road at that time, and other parishioners who owned mini-dump trucks participated in the backfilling works.  [Annotation Mine]
[52] There was a letter addressed to Fr. Perseus Cabunoc, the Parish Priest, which advised him not to continue anymore the project because it could not be done being impossible. The letter was signed and instead of discouragement, it had even increased the priest’s desire to carry on the project.  __ Information derived from an interview with Mr. Edison Dahang, [on September 7, 2012] former Parish Secretary since the time of Monsignor Columbus Villamil, Fr. Perseus Cabunoc, and during the time of Fr. Ricardo Dancela, where the former resigned because he ran for Barangay Kagawad at Cogon, Balingasag, Mis. Or. and was elected.   
[53] Engineer Erwin Garma and his wife Leonina Q. Abuzo, a Civil Engineer too, were the Project Engineers of the church renovation. They offered their services without collecting any technical supervision or professional fees, or obliging the Parish Priest to enter into an agreement for a decent payment of their skills and services, nor obtained a Project Contract which Engineers usually do in construction to compensate their rendered skills and services in the project. The Parish in recognition of high-esteem of their unselfish attitudes and untiring services gave them monthly honoraria, which indeed was too small not even exceeding 1% of the total project cost. The spouses received their honoraria because the Parish Priest insisted that they must receive it. [Annotation mine.]
[54] The First Spanish Jesuit Missionary who died in Balingasag in recorded history was Fr. Santiago Puntas, S.J. After the political instability of the country in early 1900 and when the situation became normal again, Fr. Puntas returned to Mindanao, where he was formerly assigned in the various missions in Southeastern, Northeastern, and Northern Mindanao. He died in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental on 19 March 1908, and his grave today could no longer be traced in the absence of a tombstone’s mark at the Roman Catholic Cemetery of Balingasag. __ Fr. J.S. Arcilla, SJ Jesuit Missionary Letters from Mindanao, Vol. IV the Dapitan and Balingasag Mission. (Underscoring mine.) 
[55] Recently, Fr. Joel Oga, the parish priest; has started installing steel grills with designs on the arches, or where the secondary columns were placed, above the old brick-columns. His concern now is the construction of a two story priest house or cnvento constructed diagonally on the northeast side of the church. Practically, the priest house would be attached with the church’s sacristy. The project is ongoing and his Asst. Parochial Vicar, Fr. Eleuterio Datoy assists him well. When the project would be finished, the old convento that Fr. Pollock constructed would be abandoned for good. It is however unclear yet, if it would be utilized as another office, or demolished, or whatever. 
[56]  The columns were made into benches and now used by the church. (Annotation mine).
[57] Where the Santo Entierro is likewise placed.
[58]  Other sacred images or statues which are owned by some of the big clans in town used to join procession during Good Friday. From their homes, they are brought to the church for the procession and blessed. These statues are the “Dolorosa;” the Scourging at the Pillar; Carrying of the Cross; the Crucifixion; the Pieta [turn-over lately by its owner to the church]; and the Santo Entierro. Moreover, the undersigned would like to believe that the statues of saints now at the church are accumulated collections by the different parish priests either made through purchase or donation, after the burning of the church. It is not known whether attempts were made by the parishioners to recover the statues from the church before the burning. Likely, all the statues were burned. (Annotation mine.)
[59] Fr. Perseus J. Cabunoc, SSJV finishes this Carmen Church project. While assigned in Claveria, Misamis Oriental, he constructed a concrete church there, which is likewise imposing. His potentials as a builder of infra project may have started when he renovated the old brick church of Balingasag in 1998. In fact, he is the Archdiocese Chair on Infrastructure Project now. Together with Fr. Cabunoc is his able Foreman, a friend of mine; Cenon Sabejon of Lagonglong, Mis. Or. who during the renovation of the Balingasag Church, had worked closely with Engineers Erwin and Leonina Garma. As such, a good part of the essay came from his narrative which the undersigned noted on 28 August 2012.  [Annotation mine.]
[60] August Franzen / John P. Dolan, A History of the Church, p.59.
[61] Information provided by our classmate Marilyn Tan-Gonzaga whose house in Marikina is near with the Daughters of Divine Zeal’s convent. [Annotation mine.]
[62] The contributor was referring to his high school classmates in 1970, to mention a few as follows: Anita Salvacion, Phoebe Llido Balabag, Thelma Aguilar Balbin, Brendon Valmoria, Crisogono Llido, Rodolfo Olano, Laura Madroño Olano, Crispina Sacote, Marilyn Tan Gonzaga [Marikina City], Chuchie Valmores Uyguangco, Ma. Luisa Santua, Helen Lazo Basadre, Juliet Llausas Galdo, Marybelle Roa, Lux Cuerquez Obispo, Marilou Domingo Angeles, Minda Labaya, Elleriza Salvacion Achas, Herminia Ranas, Melania Omahoy Tocmohan, Leonie Daguimol, Julia Naduma Dagondon, Albino Bernadas, Douglas Corona, Edgardo Salise, Cristino Acierto, Sofronio Alaba, Rolando Emanel, Romeo Zaballero, Virgilio Salvacion, Matthew Tagaylo, German Mabanta, Rogelio Mangubat [Koronadal City], and Neciforo Roa [Baliwag City].  For the ladies, we are trying to state their marital Last Names; however, we can not name them all.  [Annotation mine.]

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