STA. RITA, Pampanga, Philippines—Aside from the permanent relic of Saint Rita of Cascia, sweet delicacies and native home dishes and the cultural performances of the ArtiSta Rita, there is another good reason to visit this rustic town.
Old bells have become Sta. Rita’s latest crowd drawers.
There are five heritage bells in this town: the Señora de la Cornea was installed at the belfry in 1869; Dolorosa bell in 1878; and the bells of Virgen de Lourdes, San Jose and Santa Rita—all installed on May 20, 1911. The last three pieces of relic bells are scheduled to be declared “Centenary Bells” by Archbishop Paciano Aniceto.
The installation of these bells was initiated by Fr. Braulio Pineda, the first Filipino priest of the town and a native of Sta. Rita, before the 1898 Revolution against Spain broke out and after the cessation of the Filipino-American war in 1903, according to Msgr. Eugenio Reyes.
Enrique Guanlao, president of the parish pastoral council, has indicated in a paper that H. Sunico Jaboneros manufactured the five bells.
By the time that Reyes was appointed parish priest here in 2009, only the tandem of the medium-sized Dolorosa bell (kampanang menor) and the huge Santa Rita bell (kampanang mayul) gave the town a sense of time and ceremony.
Reyes learned that a steel hammer was used to strike the brass-made Santa Rita bell whenever it was rung, further damaging the bell.
The wooden flanks holding up the bells and the wooden flooring of the belfry were crumbling. In 2010, Reyes and Teresita Guanzon raised funds to repair the bells.
On Aug. 3, 2010, Royal Bells Philippines (RBP) took them down for repairs. They were restored 47 days later and were blessed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David.
A note from RBP describes the Santa Rita bell as “the most beautiful sounding bell of its vintage and style that we have ever rehabilitated.”
Reyes says the pair of bells has been attached to an automated system.
But the bells may still be rung manually, Reyes says. Their last kampanero (bell ringer), a man named Cesar, is still alive.
Guanlao says the bells are an important part of the lives of Sta. Rita folk. The bells announced weddings, processions, feasts, floods, fire, deaths, the Angelus and the end of the 8 p.m. recitation of the rosary.
In this small town of gentle people, the agunyas (the sound made by the bell) for the dead is gender-specific. The Santa Rita bell announces the death of a man, while the Dolorosa does so for a woman. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon