Archdiocese of Lipa: Don't betray history. Save centuries-old Balayan Church school and convent from destruction
The Simbahan ng Balayan (Immaculate Conception Parish Church) has stood for more than 400 years, recognized as one of the Philippines’ most beautiful churches and historical shrines. But now the Catholic Archdiocese of Lipa is on the verge of despoiling this National Historical Landmark and Natural Cultural Treasure.
The Archdiocese has started talks to have the adjoining 18-century structure leased to a national grocery chain. This will mean the destruction of the the Convent, which houses the nuns, and the elementary school building of the Immaculate Conception College. History wiped out in one sweep -- the convent/school used to be the site of the Casa Real (House of Tribunal) until 1752.
Please help us, residents of Balayan, save this national treasure. Please help us stop an illegal and immoral move by the Archdiocese of Lipa. The Church of Balayan bears a historical marker installed by the then National Historical Institute (now, National Historical Commission of the Philippines - NHCP). This means that the Church itself officially recognizes the historical value of its property.
The Church is powerful. It already has shown a precedent in ignoring Balayan residents’ pleas, when it allowed a burger chain to rise on Balayan Church land. Now it is poised to directly violate the historical integrity of the Simbahan.
We believe that if you help us, if we work together in this campaign, we can stop the desecration of history by convincing the Archdiocese of Lipa to submit to NHCP oversight.
Archbishop of Lipa Archdiocese
Lipa City, Batangas
RE: THE HOLY GROUND OF THE CENTURY OLD CHURCH OFBALAYAN, BATANGAS
Warm greetings to our Protector of the Faith and the Church!
The concerned citizens of Balayan have received reports that the Immaculate Concepcion Parish Church of Balayan is entertaining moves to further commercialize the church grounds. More specifically, being considered to be used as a grocery, are the Convent, which houses the nuns, and the elementary school building of the Immaculate Concepcion College.
Upon further investigation, we understand that the Archdiocese of Lipa wishes to utilize all properties of the church for its commercial value in order to generate income. We gathered as well that in the latter part of July 2013, an ocular inspection of the Balayan church grounds was initiated by the Archdiocese of Lipa along with an Evaluation Meeting with a select group of parishioners to evaluate reactions to the revenue generating proposal of the Church. Proposals were offered to occupy the convent and the elementary building calling for the nuns to be relocated to another area within the grounds. Based on feedback we received from the said group, a significant number of participants opposed the said plan.
Moreover, we sought an audience with Balayan's Parish Priest, Fr. Edgardo Pagcaliuangan last August 4, 2013, to validate these facts and received confirmation that there are present negotiations to lease the Convent, to a grocery chain.
For your reference, we would like to volunteer these facts in order for your office to re-consider such a move :
1. The school/convent structure was constructed in 1744 and served as the Casa Real till 1752. During the Spanish Colonial period, Casa Real was known to be the Royal House (House of Tribunal) or their version of a “Municipal Hall.” After 1752, it became the Convent of the Balayan Church and became the Immaculate Concepcion College in 1935 to the present, 4 August 2013.
2. The Churchgrounds directly beside the Church where the Convent stands was the old “Kuta” which was built in 1744, to protect the town of Balayan against pirate raids. In 1751, the Casa Real was built inside this Fort; this structure later on became the Convent of the Immaculate Concepcion College.
3. The Church of Balayan bears a historical marker installed by the then National Historical Institute (now, National Historical Commission of the Philippines - NHCP) on 8th December 1986 with the full concurrence of the Church. This means that the Church itself officially recognizes the historical value of the Church, and logically, must do its best to preserve it by not introducing elements that are inconsistent with or will violate the historical integrity of the marked structure. It is best that the Church as well as the Archdiocese of Lipa submit to the NHCP any development plan prior to introducing any changes or new structures. (NHCP)
4. May we remind the Balayan Church officials that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has a committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church chaired by Bishop Julito B. Cortes. The CBCP recognizes the historical and cultural worth of its structures all over the country. (NHCP)
Archbishop Arguelles, we are disturbed by this supposed program being initiated by the Archdiocese of Lipa.Though we understand the need for revenue generation, we believe that it should not be achieved at the expense of desecrating our heritage structures.
We fought against the insertion of the McDonalds Store in the Church Grounds in early 2001, but found it was too late. We wouldn’t want this to happen again now. The case of McDonalds should not be used as a model for commercialism within the church as to this day, we do not agree with its continued existence in the church grounds.
We protest in very strong terms, that the School must stay as a non-commercial operation within the Church grounds.
The Convent and the School’s heritage structure should remain as an educational institution as we protect and preserve the few remaining vestiges of our ancient and historical town. We, the concerned citizens of Balayan, would not want to see the remnants of our history lost to the jungle of commercialism.
Archbishop Arguelles, with all due respect and holy fervor, we ask you to consider our protest and be as one with the people of Balayan in the preservation of History and Heritage and the Sanctity of our Church grounds.
Sincerely yours in the service of God and Man,
THE LOPEZ FOUNDATION OF BALAYAN
Col. Julieto Culili
Cc: Dr. Maria Serena I. Diokno, Chair, National Historical Commission of the Philippines
Bishop Julito B. Cortes, Chair, CBCP, Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church