Sunday, November 20, 2011

Res Ipsa Loquitur

My spirit weeps for you, oh sacred temple of my ancestors!

They have ripped you apart, stolen your treasures, defaced your interiors, robbed you of that historical soul which has inflamed the hearts of so many across countless generations...and yet, they are not done with you! Not yet...not until they have destroyed every last valued bit of your artistic integrity and historical worth! The rape of the ancient Church of San Policarpo continues with reckless impunity as her children helplessly, and worse, oh so willingly, stand idly by to watch her unabated yes, I rip my garments in grief and lift my gaze to heaven as my spirit weeps for you, oh sacred temple of my ancestors!

O, mores! O, tempora!


I fear and tremble at the thought that there may come a day when we will wake up and find you gone...or see you standing but far beyond our collective recognition.


I have recently been home for the All Saints/Souls' Day memorials and part of my usual routine each time I am back in the old hometown is to take a stroll around the poblacion (yes, braving it-- at the risk of cardio-pulmonary complications from inhaling all the infernal gas fumes spewed by tricycles and jeepneys all over, *chuckles*). And the same bitter realities as I walked around haunted and bit my consciousness with a renewed nerve-wracking jolt...all the familiar scenes of childhood are now sadly gone forever! Not that this is a totally new discovery...I have known it, written about it, raved and ranted against it for so long people like you must have grown tired of hearing and reading about it from me. But it still bites every time it hits rubbing salt on old wounds each time it bites that the pain never really wears off with each homecoming.

The old Cabuyao bridge, gone. The ever familiar town market, gone. The grassy playgrounds of our town plaza with the old Rizal monument, gone. The oyster-shaped bandstand (reeking of the pungent smell of goat dung and the haunting echoes from childish laughter and applause), gone. The old houses that once lined Calle Real (and the familiar faces in their front porches and behind their window shutters), gone. The old Cabuyao Institute building, erstwhile ancestral home to the Batillers, gone. It was like being caught in the twilight zone...terra incognita, a different world, casting altogether unfamiliar scenes and shadows that distracted my native consciousness. At some point, it looked like I was in the inner ghettos of Manila...shades of Blumentritt, Singalong and San Andres even came to mind, alas! Not the cherished and caring town of my boyish memories, but a geography all at once known and yet totally unfamiliar.

It is only at the sight of the old Cabuyao Church of San Policarpo, as I stood on its hallowed grounds that I recovered my bearings...that I found refuge and delight in the epiphany that I am still on Cabuyao soil, the town of my childhood and growing up years. As I gazed upon the exterior of my old hometown church, the memories came rushing back...happy, bittersweet, and yes even sad and painful...but Cabuyao memories nonetheless, reminding me that I am home in my beloved town. If I rant and rave about preserving this old structure and conserving its heritage, when I rail to the dying of the light until the sun's rising against the loss of its countless historic treasures, valuable because they are priceless but also because they are FAMILIAR, trust me all of you -- it is born out of a nostalgic Cabuyeno's fight for his birthright, for his personal sense of meaning and unrelenting effort to hold on to this last historic symbol of an essential consciousness that he is Cabuyao's native son and seeing it from belfry to main altar, from inner nave to kubol grounds, filling him with the unquestionable certainty that he is indeed home at last.


I just got back from Cabuyao and I found out that the plan to open up the right wing of the church to build an extension (adjacent to the left extension area) is true. I have spoken to a few people about this plan and after hearing their stories and opinions, here is my PERSONAL take on the matter:

(1) There appears to be a need to provide more room/space for parishioners who attend Saturday and Sunday masses. I have nothing but the deepest respect for what church authorities perceive to be their legitimate pastoral needs and necessities. But space in the long term, I must insist, will always be limited. There is only so much space that the church can provide to accommodate a consistently growing population of Catholic faithful under its jurisdiction and care. Ergo, I do not believe that expansion is the answer in the long term.

(2) I will stay out of the controversies that have been raised (whether real or imagined) about and against the pastoral administration of the parish. There will always be those who will like the state of affairs on one hand, and those who will be against these on the other. What I have is a question: How extensively has the consultation been on this proposed project? Have there been discussions of the benefits and costs vs. other possible alternatives within the council and beyond it, to include the sentiments of members of the parish community?

(3) Beyond the conservation and pastoral care of built ecclesiastical heritage such as this old church (which I will take up separately in our other page), has there been serious consideration of the architectural integrity and the structural soundness of the proposed expansion by the proponents and their technical consultants?

(4) Lastly, I am concerned that this is beyond a mere numbers and space issue -- this strikes at the heart of a communal responsibility to agree that heritage conservation, including and perhaps especially in the "house of God", is everyone's concern. That it should not be the most expedient option. That a commitment to conservation is a measure of respect for history and the legacy of our forebears. That structures and objects of wood, stone and steel have stories to tell of our past and point us to a better understanding of ourselves and our community, today and in the future. In short, that cultural heritage is not dispensable at the slightest demands of "necessary works" attendant to the compliance with practical, and in this case, pastoral, needs and necessities.

We should be prepared to provide options or suggested alternatives to this personally undesirable option. Let me throw in my 10 centavos worth:

If the current space (without the expansion) provides a seating capacity, for example, of 1000 seats ( I am working with hypothetical figures here since I do not have the exact numbers) and the proposed expansion will provide an additional 150 seats, then we are proposing to provide 900 additional seats for 6 Masses on any given Sunday (150 x 6).

If that is the case, and if my mathematics is correct, wouldn't one additional Mass on a Sunday provide an equal number, if not more, seats to achieve the same end result?

If we agree that this is a better and less costly approach yet we are faced by the limiting factor of the the lack of priests to provide more masses on a given day, then shouldn't the focus of our problem solving efforts be geared towards requesting for additional curates to provide pastoral care to our parish rather than to the more costly, time consuming and conservation unfriendly approach of expansion?


Part of my pain is that these (mistakes) are in fact not the "unintended consequence of the natural order of things"... if it were that, it would perhaps be, at the very least, easier to accept. But this sad state of affairs is, I'm afraid, borne out of communal irresponsibility, leadership greed and neglect,  and to a considerable degree, a result of man's inhumanity...and sadder still, I look at my hands and they are not totally clean, they too are smudged with the grime of this collective culpability. But as the old line goes, "hope springs eternal"... my advocacy is to expose and discuss, to stir the collective thought and imagination, to excite and yes, even anger, the communal Cabuyao psyche to a realization that there is something sadly wrong in the status quo...hopefully help in working for a reversal and a turnaround, even with small steps...

Let's hope these events are not irreversible...for the sake of generations yet to come!


As you have seen from all these, I have spoken publicly and openly.  I have not conspired in secret, nor criticized in whispers.  I am not moved by hopes of personal gain or vain glory.  I have written from the heart and bared my true Cabuyeno's soul for everyone to see.  If I have spoken with disrespect or or written falsely, then bear witness to my rudeness or falsehoods so that I may promptly apologize.  

However,  if I have spoken honestly to cultivate intelligent and polite albeit courageous conversations among our people with the aim of resolving serious questions and issues of common interest, then why do you use your pulpit against me?

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