Reconstructing town’s past through old photos

/ 07:57 PM August 09, 2011

IN THIS 1930 photo, Minalin residents join a funeral procession after a burial Mass at the Santa Monica Church.PHOTO FROM THE COLLECTION OF ALEX CASTRO

With old photographs on hand, Dr. Purita Pineda, Janette Lopez, Jun Laxamana and other residents trooped to the parish hall of the Sta. Monica Church in Minalin, Pampanga, on Sunday.

They went there to lend pictures for a museum that was being planned in time for the declaration of the church as a National Cultural Treasure (NCT).


A snapshot of the 1979 burial procession of Pineda’s father, Antonio Tongol, gave a glimpse of the church before a series of renovations started in 1983.

Lopez’s photo showed the church to be near the town’s famous Sunset Boulevard, which was renamed after Dr. Sabas Pingol when, during his term as mayor, this family destination won a national beautification contest.


Laxamana’s photos showed then Vice President Diosdado Macapagal visiting Minalin leaders, notably D.M. Muñoz, in the latter’s house at Forbes Park in 1961. Then there was a visit by the late Bishop Emilio Cinense to the church to confer a gold medal on Juan Macapinlac in 1965.

Several photos showed that the town had its own musical band called “Banda 37,” whose members might have also played during events held at the Roman Catholic church.

The oldest photo so far—that of a 1948 wedding—showed the altar to be secured by a circular metal railing.

The church, which was said to have been built on a hill where logs collected during a big flood in the 17th century, also experienced serious flooding in 1993 or two years after the 1991 eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo, as three pictures showed.

Residents lent more than 100 photos after the Sunday Mass, according to architect Owen Francis Canlas, chair of the parish’s Committee on Cultural Heritage, Restoration and Conservation (CCHRC). These were scanned for electronic documentation.

“We would like to reconstruct the history of Minalin through old photographs and present how the church and the town looked in the past centuries, hoping this would evoke deep-rootedness … in the past,” Fr. Greg Vega, the parish priest, said in a statement.



The National Museum declared the church a National Cultural Treasure for three reasons.

Vega said it stemmed from the church façade’s giant “retablo” (carved altar centerpiece), “capilla posas” (prayer nooks) and an old painting of the Our Lady of Consolation.

The retablo shows influences of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and animism. The capilla posas make the Roman Catholic church the only one with these features intact to date. In olden times, these were used by natives when the church was reserved for only the “peninsulares” (full-blooded Spaniards born in Spain but living in the Philippines).

A mural on the convent wall shows a 1619 map of Minalin, which is said to be the origin of the Kapampangan region as claimed by Francisco Malang Balagtas or Pansomun in a will.

Vega said the church and convent “are probably a center of religious groups—Augustinians, Franciscans, Jesuits and Dominicans—due to the presence of the images of St. Francis the Assisi, St. Dominic de Guzman and San Francisco Javier in the retablo and villages.”

The NCT status comes ahead of the 400th founding year of Minalin in 2014.

Mayor Arturo Naguit said the mural would be restored and preserved through the assistance of a group of engineers from Mapua Institute of Technology.

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TAGS: Minalin, Museum, news, northern Luzon, Pampanga, Regions, sta. monica church
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