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The Morong Church
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A FRANCISCAN TRIBUTE TO THE FAITH OF ITS PEOPLE

 

By: Fr. Cantius J. Kobak, OFM

 

The heart of  Morong town is the church and its people beautifully woven together for the past four hundred years. It is the Franciscans who brought the people together into a community, founded the town and shared with them the Light of Christ in the year 1578.

 

Morong According to Fr. Mariano Martinez, OFM…

 

“The town of Morong presents a beautiful panoramic view with its surrounding border of Cardona, especially in the months when the rice plants cover the limited but fertile soil with its verdure set so picturesquely in the level plains and which the natives call Balso.

 

To the right of the road be seen the undulating waters of Laguna Bay, with a few of its green islets like huge baskets of foliage, floating on the waters.  Further and in a distance on finds the immense walls of dark green formed by the luxuriant vegetation of the mountains, and against it the towers of  Tanay  and Baras.

To the left, beyond a small plain inundated by the water where the mudfish freely play about and which is covered by the swaying foliage of palay, gently agitated by the winds and which seemingly imitate the waves of the nearby lake, could be seen a few mountains, not very elevated, however, extending themselves as a backdrop for the immediate towns.

 

Fronting the main road is the town of Morong,  the capital of the district which stands out visibly on hewn stone with its tall, beautiful and majestic tower.

 

The Morong Church fašade, white as snow, recalls the purity of the intention of the Sons of St. Francis that wounded seraph, in their tireless effort to spread the Gospel in all its purity.

 

It is a pyramid dedicated by the Franciscan Spirit to the King of Heaven.  I salute you! Stand firm do not allow yourself to be defeated by your enemies who continuously pretend to undermine your foundation!  When strong force of the earthquake shakes you, incline yourself with resignation before God as a sign of respect to its Omnipotence!  When the typhoons, which drag everything like a powerful scourge, would strike against your walls, preserve yourself immobile; let it pass peacefully, let the waters and the winds pass tranquil, reminding you then of eternity which remains unmoved before the changing changes of time!  And when the clouds of heaven, charged with electricity leave their startling discharges and illuminate you with its crimson light, be like the stairs wherein prayers go up to God from those in trouble who seek the mercy of God.

 

Preserve yourself ever immovable and firm like the eternal testimony to the works and spiritual labours suffered by the Sons of St. Francis of Assisi in this sanctuary from which will spread the faith of Jesus Christ!  And thus with time God forbid any spiritual decay here, preserve yourself and ever remain majestic, towering like now, as an obvious sign that what was built by the Gospel of Humility endured longer than that built by human pride!

               

Then the angel that serves as your pedestal, in honour  to our beloved Fatherland, would cover in mystery the oppositions which in this epoch, the humble habits of the Sons of St. Francis suffer and who seek protection under your shadow!”

 

The Morong fašade tower is the most beautiful and the tallest built by the Franciscans and unequalled to the present (1887).

This imposing edifice is dedicated to the great Doctor of the Church, St. Jerome.  According to Fr. Felix Huertas, OFM, in his Estado Geografico…1865, the church was situated in the beginning on the right bank of the river but was destroyed by a great fire in 1612 together with a larger portion of the town.

Not long afterward, in a span of three years, a few master Chinese rebuilt it anew in stone on the left bank of the river.  It measures some fourty-two meters in length and about twelve meters in width.

The sanctuary forms a semi-circle and is situated on an elevation of living rock some ten meters above the town level.  The little space in the front did not allow the construction of a bell tower; to avoid the added expense in constructing another tower and which might, in the future, serve as an obstacle if the church would be enlarged, as is now a necessity, its tireless Cura was determined to build a new fašade that would contain the desired bell tower.  In effect, the parish priest, Fr. Maximo Rico, OFM, opened the foundation by digging in a yard of living stone, put the cornerstone in June 24, 1850 and completed the entire task on February 6, 1853.

 

The church fašade, of intricate and complex order, has three segments rising toward the sky.  The first segment or portion, which includes the main doors, has four columns in the center and one in each angle; three pieces each with its corresponding pedestals, cornices.  Above the arch of the doors, there is the arms of the Doctor St. Jerome, titular of the parish.  It is extremely well-curbed and executed.

 

The second segment is composed of four columns of two pieces each and in the center a spacious window of the choir and a columns equally like the others in each angle.

 

The 3rd segment has four columns also; whose center calls the attention to a well-done masterpiece statue of the Holy Patron and above its niche the Franciscan coat-of-arms,  well-worked-out in bas-relief.  The angles form a beautiful barandilla crowned with four puppies and jugs for illumination.  It is twenty meters and four points in elevation upon whose height the bell-tower stands in octagonal shape with eight columns and four windows, surrounded by an attractive cornice of eight inches in thickness which sustains a balustrade, showing a multitude of jugs in the shape of puppies for illumination.

In the other four angles of the lowest portion are four statures of two meters in height, representing the four cardinal virtue.  Upon the vault of the belfry is an angles on an elevated pedestal with a sword in the right hand and a banner in the form of a cross in the left.  The belfry has a bell in each window and another in the center, all of melted metals in the year 1852.

 

This exquisite, masterful and solid work was directed by Don Bartolome Palatino, a native principal of the town of Paete, who was sixty six years old at the time.

 

The estimated cost was pegged at 1,635 pesos, six reales and ten centimes, but the expense rose to 6,000 pesos when finally completed.  The townsfolk did contribute materials, lime and labour for its construction.

 

Toward the east and adjacent to the church is the convent or parish house which is also of excellent construction, spacious and very pleasant due to the lovely panorama presented by Laguna Bay.  One catches a lovely glimpse of the multitude of barges afloat on the Bay, the rich vegetation on its coast and the finely marked-out farms and towns seen at a great distance.

 

During the time of Fr. Felix Huertas, the presbytery was in a semi-circle, but today(1887) it had been replaced by a spacious cross vault, crowned by an elevated dome.  The unevenness of the land offers great difficulties for the building of walls to fence it, to level the land was, able to overcome the difficulty and left the walls some three meters high above the church basement when he turned over the parish to Fr. Vicente Garcia, OFM who continued the work.  Some two meters of walls was still lacking when the next cura, Padre Manuel Rodriguez, OFM, took office.  Under his diligent direction, the task was completed.

 

The three arms of the cross-vault are equal to dimensions and very spacious and could contain as mush people as the rest of the church.  In the center rises a well-proportioned dome with several windows of crystal of varied hues.  Due to the frequency of earthquakes desiring that the work be strong enough to stand the quakes, the cupula was constructed with wood only but roofed with galvanized iron.  This great work has satisfied the great need of the people.

 

This church was such immense dimensions for a large parish which comprises the oblations of Morongo, Cardona and Teresa to the Present (1887) has served the people well and continues to be the largest church in the district.

 

 

In the sanctuary, a new and a beautiful altar has been installed with iron gratings.  On the Gospel side of the cross-vault are two smaller altars, one of which had been remodeled and painted anew, and the other recently made for the Holy Sepulcher,  financed by a wealthy native chief of the town, Captain Miguel Tomboy.  While on the opposite side, where an altar was since the beginning, it was repaired and painted anew.

 

The zeal and effort of the Franciscans is not confined to building churches and convents, although this is the one objective of the mission in the Philippines.  Love for the Filipinos has prompted the Franciscans to engage in many other projects of social nature such as: schools, dams, briges and roads, all undertaken at the expense of the Franciscans with labour provided by the towns-folk.

 

The people of Morong, due to the efforts of Fr. Rico, OFM, had constructed a large irrigation project which gives fertility to not a small part of the arid lands.  The extremity of this town is irrigated in a great part by the mentioned river which has its source in the Mount Aduas in the north of the town of Bosoboso,  running from north to south, watering the farms of the visita of Sta. Rosa and hiding itself in the mountains toward the west and forming several picturesque waterfalls.  There it changes its course towards the east to bathe the town and empties in the Lake Laguna.  This river has as its tributaries on the right those of Santiago, Ypac, Bujangin and Sta. Rosa and to the left those of Sapang, Abuyod, Banca, Iba, Payong, and San Guillermo.

 

Near the terminal point of the Mentioned cascades, which has an elevation of some forty meters, a canal was opened in 1884 to irrigate the lush site called Balso.  To do so, it was necessary to construct a strong dike and to carve a mount of living rock for a canal of some three hundred meters long on the slope of the mountain.  The task was accomplished by Fr. Maximo Rico, OFM who provided the equipment and the townsfolk did the labour.

 

It would be well to remember that in the year 1865 Morong was a separate district with the following towns and missions under its jurisdiction: Antipolo, Taytay, Mission of San Pablo, Mission of San Antonio, Mission San Andres of Lananting, Mission of San Pedro and San Pablo, Limotang, Jalajala and Angono.

 

The Franciscans also brought the Gospel and established the town of Taytay in 1579 and administered it as a visita of Santa Ana de Sapa ( Manila) until 1583 when Fr. Pablo de Jesus was assigned as its first Franciscan parish priest.  This parish was administered by the Franciscans until 1591 when it was ceded to the Jesuits together with that of Cainta which was a visita of Taytay at the time of cession.

 

The conversion and foundation of Antipolo was also the work of the Sons of St. Francis of Assisi from the town of  Morong in 1678. In  1581 the parish was ceded to the Jesuits.

 

The Mission of San Pablo, which is to the north of the town of Antipolo and at the foot of  Mount Masiguit, was founded by the Franciscans in 1586 and under the zealous evangelical labour of Fr. Blas de la Madre de Dios.  This mission was also ceded to the Jesuits in 1591.

 

Some three leagues or twelve miles to the north of the town of  Tanay, the Mission was founded by Fr. Pedro de Talavera in 1606 and administered by the parish priest of  Tanay until 1620 when the town of Tanay was transferred to this mission.

 

In the year 1640, the town of  Tanay was moved back to its old site and only some ten families lived there at the time.  In the year 1645, there was an increase of population under Fr. Lucas Perez who built a church and dedicated it to San Antonio de Padua.  This mission did well until the year 1703, but for a lack of priest it had to turnover to Jesuits.

 

While administering the Mission of San Antonio, Fr. Lucas Perez, penetrated the interior of the mountains, about five leagues or twenty miles to the north and founded the Mission of San San Andres.  The baptismal register cites the first entry December 8, 1645.  due to the lack of Franciscans, the populace decreased greatly and the mission was almost abandoned.  In 1670,  Fr. Franicsco de Bayaras, re-established

it and constructed a church and a convent for the missionaries.  It progressed extremely well, but in 1703 it too had to be turned over to the Jesuits for lack of Franciscan priest.

 

In the year 1668, Fr. Tirso de Sta. Maria was assigned to the Mission of San Andres and he founded this Mission of San Pedro and San Pablo. The first baptismal entry dates March 14, 1668. This Franciscan also built a church and dedicated it to the Apostles Peter and Paul.  It was administered by the Franciscans until the year 1703 when it was ceded to the Jesuits due to lack of friars.

 

About 36 miles away from the Mission of San Andres and to the north, crossing an elevated mountain range, the Cordilleras, there is a river called Limotang.  On its bank there was a rancheria which Fr. Francisco de Barajas, OFM Christianized.  The register shows its first baptism on May 7, 1676.  on this day, seven prominent persons of this rancheria received baptism.  The document showing the legal permission of the Franciscans to this mission was registered on May 6, 1676 a day before the first baptisms took place.

 

Since 1668 to about 1675 new rancherias has been placed under the Jurisdiction of this town of Limotang and under the pastorship of Fr. Francisco Barajas.  They were the following: Tapusi, Asbat, Mamoyao, Macalia, Dadambiding, Maguiriguiri, Bantas, and Binangonan.  This town proposed greatly till the year 1700 when the Central Government,  intending to lay tribute upon it, all the people fled to the mountains and all was lost.

 

 

Ceding to the Religious of San Francisco, the right to pasture their animals to three-hundred heads in this site of Jalajala, for the maintenance of the hospital, owned by these Religious on the site called Los Ba˝os. It is administered by the Franciscans and preserving alwaysa the ownership of the mentioned pasture lands to the Villa of Pila.

 

This hospital had adverse fortune.  It was burned in 1676 and as a result the inhabitants of Jalajala were distributed, separated civilly and spiritually from the matriz of Pila and a new town was formed  with the new name as at present by the Decree of the Civil and Central Government dated September 7, 1676.  Father Lucas Sarro, OFM was assigned as its first parish priest or minister.

 

The town of Angono was also founded by the Franciscans as a visita of Binangonan.  In the year 1679, the Jesuits ceded Angono and Binangonan towns to the Agustinians who then ceded it to the Franciscans in 1737.  in 1745, a certain Spaniards bought a hacienda in Angono and in 1737 obtained a chaplain and later permission from the Central Government to make Angono a separate town from Binangonan and given to the Jesuits for its administration.