Wednesday, September 06, 2006


My friend Eboy hails from the coastal town of Orion along Manila Bay. Together with Dante, we are known as PRRM's "Packard Boys" because of a common Packard-funded project, and our preference of staying at the "Packard Office" near the V. Luna Hospital whenever we are in Manila. Our triumvirate eventually outgrew our professional ties and became good friends. Both Eboy and Dante stood as ninongs to my youngest son Balong.

Orion was estblished as a visita of Abucay until it became an independent mission center in 1667. It was reported to have a large convent and a massive beautiful church, dedicate to San Miguel Arkanghel, by the end of the 17th century. The church was repaired when the town was again taken over by the Dominicans in 1832. The parochial buildings sustained heavy damage during the 1852 earthquake and were repaired in 1854. Fr. Miguel Fuster (OP), Fr. Miguel Auli (OP), and Fr. Ulpiano Herrero later initiated repairs and further improvements. Orion's most prominent sons are Cayetano Arellano, the first Filipino Chief Justive of the Philippine Supreme Court, who was born there in 1847; and Francisco Baltazar, author of the epic Florante at Laura, who reside in Orion from 1842 until 1862.

Aside from Orion's church, the province of Bataan boasts of other significant colonial churches that survived the ravages of World War II. I recommend a visita iglesia from Orion going south towards the Olongapo-Gapan Road. On this route, the first church after Orion will be that of Pilar which interestingly is the only church in Bataan built facing the mountains.

Next will be Balanga City that was originally established as a visita of Abucay. Fr. Agustin Esquivel (OP) supervised the building of its first stone church and convent in 1714. Fr. Benito Rivas (OP), Fr. Juan Antonio Vicente (OP), Fr. Vicente Fenandez (OP), and Fr. Fernando Ma. Minano (OP) added improvements probably until 1845. In 1898, Fr. Marinao Sarili became its first Filipino priest. The church today serves as the Cathedral of San Jose.

After Balanga is the town of Abucay that was established as a mission by the Dominicans in 1588. Its present church, dedicated to Santo Domingo de Guzman, was the site of a battle in 1647 where almost 200 Filipino defenders were killed while resisting Dutch invaders. It was damaged during an earthquake in 1852. Fr. Francisco Blancas de San Jose (OP) and Tomas Pinpin operated a printing press in Abucay in 1610 --- one of the earliest in the Philippines.

The next visita will be Samal --- Sir Gani’s hometown that was established by the Dominicans as a mission in 1596. The parochial buildings, built under the supervision of Fr. Jeronimo Belen (OP), were destroyed during the Dutch invasion of 1647 that the Filipino defenders under Alejo Aguas repelled. Fr. Juan Zubelso (OP) had the church (dedicated to Santa Catalina de Sienna) rebuilt at around 1650 but this was razed by fire in 1836. There are no records on who rebuilt the church except for Fr. Miguel Protell (OP) who supervised some improvement and the building of the convent. The church was burned in 1898 by Filipino revolutionaries to flush out a Spanish garrison entrenched in the convent. Fr. Justo Quesada (OP) had both buildings rebuilt in 1905.

The church of Orani --- dedicated to the Nuestra Senora del Rosario --- will be the last stop. It is considered to be the best church and convent in the whole province of Bataan. The Dominicans established Orani as an independent mission center in 1714. There are no records on who built the parochial buildings that were repaired in 1792 and 1836. These were heavily damaged during the 1852 earthquake. From 1868 until 1891, the church as rebuilt and improved by Fr. Bartolome Alvarez del Manzano (OP) and Fr. Fermin Perez San Juan (OP). It was razed by fire in 1938 that also destroyed ¾ of the town of Orani, and was subsequently rebuilt.

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