Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The church of Bambang in Nueva Vizcaya is dedicated to Sta. Catalina de Sienna. My only interest in it before are the girls who went to the private St. Catherine’s School and the annual Simbang Gabi when we will jog the 5 kilometer distance from our barrio and back just to have some of the now extinct bibingka and puto bumbong. Later, I will learn that my Auntie Angeling (my father’s eldest sister, he is the youngest) had me baptized in the church on 9 May 1971, although I was supposed to be “born an Adventist” (my mother’s faith), and gave me a dual religion (triple if that short stint with the Mormons is counted). The church also shares a few of the “firsts” and “lasts” in our family history: it is Bulan’s (my eldest son) first and so far last job as a ring bearer during the wedding of my brother Sherwin/Eric who, for the record, was the first between us to bring home a wife (his girlfriend then) and the last to be get married in church rites (he first tied the knot with the girlfriend in civil rites) and the last great walk of our father who was by then semi-paralyzed (too much gin and women) but still insisted on walking the aisle with my brother.

With my becoming a churchopile, I discovered how dramatic was the entrance to Bambang from the south through the national highway zigzagging down from Magsaysay Hill, the church bell tower dominating the landscape starting from where the now beheaded lion of the Salinas Lions Club , before the traveler is swallowed by the creeping urban rut (announced by a short time motel right where the road bends into the town).

The Augustinians started the Christianization of Bambang in 1724 and were succeeded by the Dominicans who came in 1739. Bambang was established as a pueblo in 1737. Fr. Domingo Caro (OP) started building the church in 1772 that was said to be the biggest built by the Spanish in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. Today, what might have been the apse is gone which significantly reduced the church’s size. I lately learned that buried below the altar of the Lady of the Rosary was an Igorot woman --- Rosa Santa Maria --- who was one of Bambang’s two “flowers of sanctity”. One of Bambang’s parish priests --- Fr. Teodoro Gimeno (OP) --- established the village of Almaguer where my great maternal grandfather Sixto Lazaro of Dingras, Ilocos Norte settled during the early years of the 20th century.


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