Heritage tag for 204-yr-old church sought
PIDDIG, Ilocos Norte—Local officials have initiated steps to declare the 204-year-old St. Anne parish church, which shut its doors for good recently, as a heritage structure.
Mayor Eduardo Guillen said the Piddig town council is deliberating on a draft resolution seeking this status after the church was closed this month due to structural problems.
Guillen said once the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) grants the request, the local government would seek funding from either the NHCP or the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to restore the church.
The initiative has been backed by Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who offered to endorse the proposal from the local government.
Fr. Joey Ranjo, spokesperson of the Diocese of Laoag, said the NHCP and NCCA recommended that the St. Anne parish church be restored.
But Laoag Bishop Renato Mayugba ordered the church’s closure pending the availability of funds and after noting a report from the Piddig municipal engineer that the building was “unfit for human occupancy” and would endanger churchgoers.
Mayugba celebrated Mass and closure rites for the St. Anne parish church on Sept. 14.
Ranjo said if restoration proved to be too expensive, the diocese may raise funds to preserve the church while building a new structure.
Fr. Lorenzo Torreflores, the parish priest, started a fund-raising activity for the church’s restoration.
Guillen said the town government could shoulder the P1 million cost of materials needed to build a temporary church for Piddig parishioners.
Piddig, some 21 km from the capital Laoag City, is a former “visita” (a community with a chapel) of neighboring Dingras town. In 1798, Piddig was
established as a town and St. Anne parish was created by the Augustinians in 1810.
During the Philippine-American War, a five-member team of Filipino guerrillas used the church as a base to repel American attacks.
An earthquake toppled the top section of the bell tower on March 19, 1932, but this was repaired.
During the Japanese occupation, the convent and the sacristy were burned, leading to the destruction of its parish records. The church’s facade and its interior were restored in 1965.
The convent was later repaired and converted into a parochial school, the St. Anne Academy, church records showed.
Representatives of the NCCA subcommission on cultural heritage conducted a workshop on heritage law and basic conservation methods in Laoag City in early August.
The NCCA also sent technical experts, composed of structural engineers, to assess old churches in Ilocos Norte that needed immediate repair and rehabilitation. The experts recommended that the St. Anne parish church should be restored.
Ranjo said the St. Anne parish church would be kept for its historical value but the parish will not use the building for Masses and other religious rites.
“The wooden trusses are deteriorating and its foundation has apparently loosened over the years. Water does not only seep in from above, there’s water also coming from the ground. Strengthening the foundation alone would cost us millions of pesos,” Ranjo said.
Other historic churches in Ilocos Norte have undergone restoration or have been marked for repairs, church officials said.
Ranjo said the latest church that had been restored is the St. Joseph parish church in Dingras town.
The restoration of the church’s facade, altar and roof were funded by Ilocano immigrants in the United States.
The altar of the St. Andrew parish church in Bacarra town had been restored while the wooden trusses of St. William the Hermit Cathedral in Laoag City had been replaced with steel.
Ranjo said the St. Augustine parish church in Paoay town, listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) as a World Heritage Site, is due for restoration. Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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