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Friday, January 1, 2010

Alimodian Roman Catholic Church History

This is the right side view of the present church showing the bells in the belfry. Two thirds of the belfry toppled down during the earth.
aerial interior view of Alimodian parish church
the altar view of Alimodian parish church

Alimodian church pre war pic
Spanish Colonial Period

The Spanish colonization of the Philippines logically started on March 16, 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan landed on Homonhon, an island in Samar. Since then, several Spanish expeditions were sent to the Philippines to colonize the natives. The first move that the Spanish Conquistadores did was the construction of the Roman Catholic Churches in all the towns or pueblos (seat of government) they colonized and Alimodian was one of those places.

Alimodian was founded in 1754 and a few months later the town leader s planned to build a church. It was agreed that the site of the church would be on the place where the rope that pulled the tablon(a huge timber) would break. The tablon came from the shore of Ogtong (now Oton) and it was pulled by a pair of carabaos. Thus the site was decided and the people built a chapel of bamboos, cogon and logs. On January 25, 1755, Fr. Vicente del Campo was assigned as the parish priest of this town. On July 19, 1756 he was replaced by Fr. Francisco Javier Calchetas.

In the year 1780, Marcos Gregorio, the town gobernadorcillo, and the incumbent priest Fr. Francisco Monasterio initiated a move to build a permanent church of bricks, rocks plastered with lime. The site was moved northwest of the church’s cemetery on Nichols Street. It was finished in 1784. However, in 1787 a strong earthquake shook the town and partially destroyed the church.

Almost 74 years later, a plan to build a stronger and more permanent building was made. Then on December 5, 1859 the cornerstone of the permanent church was laid amidst fitting religious ceremonies attended by high Spanish dignitaries from Manila, Cebu and Iloilo. Father Florencio Martin was the parish priest. There were documents signed by the high officials of the church and the town. These documents were placed inside the barcelona mixed with the following coins: 1 sicualohon (P0.6 ¼), 1 sicapaton (P0.12 ¼), 1 capatihon (P0.25), 1 salapion (P0.50), 1 pisoson (P1.00) and one gold necklace. This barcelona was covered and placed inside the tabla which was prepared like a trough bait big enough to hold the jar. The tabla was sealed with lime and buried under the main door of the church. There were fireworks and singing of the Te Deum, Laudamus Letania de San Marcos and ringing of church bells. The sponsors, visitors, and church dignitaries were treated in the house of Capitan Timoteo Amarra. The church was finished in 1864 and was formally opened for public worship on December 22, 1864 amidst impressive ceremonies. The construction of the convent was then immediately started. The convent was just as big as the church and longer in length because of its tri-square form as the church’s annex from north to south. It was completed in 1868.

During the construction of the church, the Alimodiananons sacrificed and suffered much. Forced labor was utilized in the construction as well as in the gathering of materials. Each cabeza was given a quota of table, lime, sand and gravel. Failure to fill up the quota incurred the punishment of flogging. The palmeta was used for light offenses. Labor was not paid and the laborers provided their own food. Women and children were utilized in gathering white stones and making them into lime. Lime was made by roasting the white stones in improvised ovens for nine days and nights and pouring cold water over them to cool. Then these were pounded to produce lime powder. Lime was used in plastering bricks and tabla (wood). The men were utilized to get tabla from Camando, now Leon. Some were utilized in making tisa. Tisa was made from clay which was mixed by human feet or by carabao then moulded into squares or rectangles and burned in kiln. They were used for walls, roofs and floors of the church.

In the morning of June 20, 1869 when Fr. Ignacio Marcos was the parish priest, an earthquake of undetermined intensity rocked the building for a couple of minutes. It was Sunday and many people were injured in the human stampede.

On February 17, 1877 the new bells manufactured in 1876 by Juan Reyes in his foundry in La Villa de Arevalo were installed in the belfry. The largest of these bells weighed 120 arobas, (one aroba is equal to 12.25 kilos) thus giving the biggest bell (mayor) the total weight of 1,470 kilos. The bells were made of bronze with alloy of silver. Two pairs of bullcarts arranged side by side were utilized to haul the bells from La Villa de Arevalo to Alimodian. It was said that residents lined along the streets and offered alms of Spanish coins as their voluntary contribution to defray the hauling expenses. It took hundreds of men to pull up the bells to belfry using a big cable, the end of which reached the river bank on Nichols Street. One man died on the spot when the cable snapped and broke.
Pino, a brave man, was responsible for putting up the biggest bell (mayor) into its place. The bells had different names like San Agustin, Sta. Monica, Ma. Consolacion de Leonisa, Sto. Tomas de Villanueva and San Ignacio de Loyola.

The use of the bricks and lime as roofing materials for the church was later found to be impractical, so on February 13, 1882 during the term of Fr. Serapio Gonzales, these were replaced by galvanized iron roof.

On February 2, 1887 an earthquake shook the building and caused the large image of San Agustin to fall from its pedestal in a niche over the main door of the church.
Different Spanish priests were assigned to this parish and the first Filipino priest and native of Oton, Iloilo was Fr. Maximo Montealto.

American Period

When Spanish gave up the Philippines to the Americans on December 10, 1898 in the Treaty of Paris, the Alimodian church retained its beauty and splendor. Its belfry was one of the biggest and the most beautiful in Panay and Negros. No remarkable changes were made in the physical setup of both the church and the convent.

Japanese Period

With the outbreak of World War II on December 8, 1941 evacuees from the city flocked to the interior towns, especially Alimodian since it was a mountainous place. The convent became the refuge of the rich from Iloilo City to mention the Ysmael and Caram families who were friends of Fr. Mariano Perez, the incumbent parish priest that time.

When the Japanese landed in Oton, Iloilo on April 16, 1942, the people left the Poblacion and fled to the mountains. Looting and robbery became rampant in the Poblacion. The convent was the first target of the robbers and looters and in the course of their work, a spark from a match stick caused a can of gasoline to burst thus causing a big fire in the convent.

No help was given. Thus the once tall, proud and beautiful convent was turned into an ugly pile of soot-covered ruins. Upon the order of the head of the Civil Government, the church was burned a month later for fear that it would be used by the Japanese as their hiding place and storage of their supply. Since the base and walls were made of table and bricks, only the rafters, the roofs and interior furnishings and decorations were burned. The image of the patron saint, Sto. Tomas de Villanueva was saved by Tomas Claveria and Cipriano Amsua and the image of the Santo Entiero by Antonio Allonar. The church and the convent were left to unabated weathering and disintegration.

On August 22, 1943 the civilians surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Forces, so the people returned to the poblacion and constructed their huts. The parishioners put up an improvised building inside the hollow shell of the old church. It was made of bamboos and roofed with solidap (coconut leaves). True to its mission, it afforded a sanctuary to the parishioners with Fr. Genaro Ramos as the parish priest. Later the solidap roof was changed to nipa and elevated to the original roof base. It remained as such until the liberation period came.

The Republic and the New Society

With the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur on December 20, 1944, the Filipino way of life returned to normal. Schools were reopened and postwar reconstruction began. Americans granted independence on July 4, 1946. Payments of war damage claims brought more improvements to the towns and cities. The facilities of the church began to improve. Pews were donated. The two side altars were roofed, although with nipa. The parish priest this time was Fr. Marcos Doloso.

However, in the dawn of January 28, 1948 a titanic earthquake called Lady Kaykay rocked the whole island of Panay, especially the Province of Iloilo and caused the collapse of the church, the convent and the belfry. About two-thirds of the belfry was destroyed by the earthquake brought the bells to rest to solid ground (except the biggest – mayor) which for 71 years signaled to the parishioners not only in moments of worship and sacrifice but also on the approach of impending evils that threatened their lives and property. Thus, the church was left and neglected.

A temporary building was built on the southern part of the ruins to provide the need for a place of worship. A temporary convent of wood, bamboo and nipa was also put up adjacent to it. Fr. Carlos Crucero was the parish priest that time. This temporary building and belfry were used for almost three years.

After three years of intermittent earthquakes of varied intensity, the temporary church managed to stand undisturbed. So the parishioners requested an engineer to check the safety and durability of the burned building. Assured of the safety of the façade, the walls and the arches, the parishioners decided to rebuild permanently. The parishioners pooled their resources, used all ways and means in order that the roof would be made of galvanized iron, the arches cemented and reinforced with iron bars, and the walls plastered with cement. The back part of the main altar was totally changed into hollow blocks. The main, as well as the side altars, were modified. This was made feasible through the efforts of Fr. Juan Nacawili, who was then the co-adjutor of Fr. Carlos Crucero. A new communion rail and pulpit made of marbolized cement were donated as well as the church received a donation of an organ. Uniform pews were also put up. The renovated church was opened for public worship in 1951.

Though the church was opened in 1951 for public worship, the belfry was finished in 1952. The bells were installed to the belfry through the efforts of the “Caballeros de San Jose,” a religious organization in the parish under the management of the late Venancio Alejan, a noted carpenter of the town.

The years that followed were marked by rapid construction of the new convent and improvement of the church. The parishioners and different mandated church organizations like the Catholic Women’s League, the Pastoral Council, the Association of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Dominicans and the Knights of Columbus, finished the convent through their cooperative efforts. The parish priest at that time was Fr. Alfonso Tamonan with Fr. Nicolas Caberoy as his coadjutor.

Fr. Ismael Castano came to Alimodian in 1968 and through his efforts the interior part of the church, its walls and arches were reinforced, strengthened and painted white. A ceiling of lawanit and plywood was put up and painted cream. The image of St. Thomas of Villanova, the town’s patron saint, was placed in a niche above the main door facing the plaza thus giving a warm welcome to the parishioners and visitors. The grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes constructed and once prominently standing at the right front part of the church gave attraction to the plaza. Major improvements and renovations had been made during the time of Fr. Encanto and carried by the parish priest Fr. Edgar Palmos. Succeeding priests include Fr. Rex Jiloca, Fr. Ron Alquisada, Fr. Martin Alarcon.  The Alimodian Parish Church is one of the beautiful landmark that this town can be proud of.

Alimodian Church and Convent 1930s 

Photo Source: 

Old Iloilo Facebook Group

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