Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Dupax Catholic Church Revisited


Also called St. Vincent Church, this Catholic edifice will play center stage again this Lenten season (April 1-8) and during this year's Joint Patron-&-Town Fiesta of Dupax del Sur (April 21-22). [March 19, 2012 photo by charlz castro]

The Dupax del Sur church is one of the oldest and biggest of several houses of worship built by the missionary priests of the Augustinian Order in the sprawling Cagayan Valley Region during the 18th and 19th centuries. It suffered damages caused by devastating earthquakes and armed clashes during World War II, but these damages were later repaired. Except for these painful experiences, it still stands undisturbed and majestic amid the gentle grandeur of a rustic surrounding… a peaceful community of hardworking and God-fearing people, clear rivers and green fertile fields, and a protective palisade of lush vegetation and towering mountain ranges – an object, indeed, of deep pride and affection to the townfolk. 

Built of locally available materials, such as rock, lime, coral, or river rock and wood, plastered over with stucco, the church covers an aggregate floor area of 7,200 square meters. The architectural design is strikingly similar to that of the cathedral in Tuguegarao. The façade is simple, relieved by an arched main entrance and two arched windows. Between these windows, at the center, is an arched niche and directly above the niche is a circular window. 

Just beside the edifice is a four-tiered, square-shaped bell tower. Visiting foreign and local tourists usually climb up the spiral stairway for a bird’s eye view, from  the balcony above the fourth tier, of the surrounding scenery. 

According to the recorded history of the town, missionaries of the Dominican and Franciscan order arrived in the locality as early as the year 1632. The real founding of Dupax, however, took place on April 22, 1726 when the Augustinian missionaries Fathers Nogrante and San Juan, planted the cross in honor of Nuestra Señora Socorro in a little chapel erected at the foot of a hill, a few hundred meters south of the present church. The hill is called “Cudus” (Cross) by the Isinays.

Cudus Hill looms in the far background in this morning photo taken March 19, 2012 by charlz castro

The present site of the church was chosen following a curious and strange occurrence at the original location of the small chapel set up at the foot of the Cudus hill. According to legend handed down from generation to generation, the construction of the rubble walls around the original site was already in progress preparatory to the building of a permanent edifice. The story goes that on several occasions the parish priest, including some natives, noticed amorseco seeds clinging to the robe of the image of the San Vicente Ferrer then in the chapel. (The amorseco is a kind of grass, the seeds of which readily cling to dress touching them.) Some villagers were reported to have seen the image in the wilderness at the present site of the church, which accounted for the amorseco seeds clinging to the robe of the image. 

Because of the recurrence of the incident, the priest and those engaged in the construction work came to the conclusion that the image did not like the original site of the chapel. The builders decided to transfer the chapel site to the spot in the wilderness where the image had reportedly been seen. 

Subsequently, after the area had been cleared, the construction of a permanent church got underway.The cornerstone of the church and convent commenced in 1771, and the edifice was completed in 1776. Before that, the sacristy behind the convent was finished in 1771, and the convent was later completed in 1776.
The bell tower was built by stages and completed gradually for a span of 15 years: the first in 1773, the second in 1776, the third in 1786, and the fourth in 1788. 

As time went by, the aging church structure was weakening. Tell-tale signs of decay were showing. The ravages of time and the harsh elements cannot be held back. Repairs had to be made, otherwise this historical landmark will very likely crumble into ruins. Accordingly, in 1978, repair and rehabilitation work began under Fr. Paul Bollen, and completed in 1979. Again, in July 1990, the church suffered massive damages due to an extremely strong earthquake. It was repaired and restored with the help of parishioners and many generous people from abroad and from all over the country.

(NOTE: Except for the "Santo Niño" which I changed to "San Vicente Ferrer", the text above were copied verbatim from the mural of the St. Vincent Church on a wall of one of the buildings of St. Mary’s Dupax.)

No comments:

Post a Comment