Recently I discovered the kapilya where Rizal at an early age made his prayers to the Holy Virgin. The Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje located in La Paz Biñan (namesake of popular old church in Antipolo) its a 15 minute walk from the town proper. It was once a modest chapel built with stone and mortar, solid wooden doors, small windows and a modest church bell with the Virgin as its centerpiece inside, it can seat less than a hundred churchgoers.
Rizal admired both of his parents but he was closer to his Mother, his first teacher. He adored his mother’s ways and loved her the most. His mother has made a panata to visit the church in Antipolo (‘thanksgiving’ for successfully giving birth to Pepe himself), later on it was the young boy and his father who fulfilled that promise on her behalf. This was the reason why the young boy had made the same devotion to the patron saint at the time he was in Biñan. It impressed me that he would walk early at dawn to attend the 4am mass in Our Lady of Peace when at that time the proximity of the town church and another kapilya (San Jose) is more practical.
It was one hot day when me and my friend (Pepe!) arrived at the place via tricycle (a ride that lasted 3 minutes) from Biñan’s rotonda. It was said that Rizal stayed (at an Aunt’s house) close to where he studied when he was in Biñan. A prominent house in front of the town’s rotonda was owned by his relatives (its standing in front of the plaza, the Alberto-Alonzo stone house). The young Rizal would wake up early to make the walk to La Paz and back to attend Maestro Cruz’ class. The kapilya is now a parish that could accommodate up to 300 or more parokyanos far from what it was before.
We met Fr. Adi and his secretary who were gracious enough to tour us around (even offered us a meal for which we respectfully decline). The parish is now equipped with modern sound system, lights and comfortable seats –with smooth stylish floor tiles and a relatively new altar one could hardly trace any old relics, it felt like a new church.They were very proud of their history. They handed me this piece of paper where it outlined the parish story.
THE HISTORY OF NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LA PAZ PARISH
What now a parochial church in Brgy. De La Paz used to be a chapel built on a 1,172 sq. mtr lot donated by then the Bishop of Lipa, Msgr. Olalia, DD in the year 1868. A priest from the town proper of Biñan used to say mass during the highlight seasons of the barrio fiestas and Christmas. It was only on January 1967 when a parish priest was assigned in the person of Fr. Benito Pagsuyuin under the Diocese of San Pablo’s Bishop Pedro Bantigue. The current parish Priest Fr. Ricky Yapana is the 17th in line. Th eold stone and mortar chapel and wooden rectory down in 1988 and a new church building was slowly put up. Construction was completed in 2003. The nearby house and852 sq. mtr. lot owned by the Cardena family had been bought by the parish through the proceeds of various fund campaigns and has now become the parish rectory. It was only on 1993 under Fr. Zaldy Fortuno finish the payment and transferred to the Roman Catholic Bishop of San Pablo.
Being the history guy that I am – I was disappointed that they have approved to bring the old kapilya down and replaced it (also expanding the floor area) perhaps the religious leaders and the faithful had little choice since the population has grown tremendously. I felt despondent but it is what is – this structures were built to last but not if men decide to tear them down. The priest later on gave me contact information of Mr. Eric Alonde – their church historian and once head of their lay community. I was excited to talk to him and discussed Rizal’s brief preferrence for their kapilya over the other churches in the area at his time. We traded notes and oral history, he was knowledgeable of La Paz’ past and was very proactive on their parish activity.
the renovated chapel, now a very modern looking structure
Turns out that Mr. Alonde was also not aware that our hero made his devotion to their chapel. I told him about the devotion of the young Rizal and some other things about how the hero while he was in Biñan, i also explained why Rizal chose their kapilya. He later on acknowledge that they have no prior knowledge of this, they’ve probably thought that Rizal won’t even bother going the distance but he did!. It was a great feeling to have actually shared something that would add pride to their small barrio, theirs is place often flooded and with a noticeable impoverish shanties around.
Viva Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje
I’ve already emailed Fr. Adi and Eric some reference text from Palma’s & Guerrero’s biography of Rizal. They requested to be provided with this materials (how I wish I could provide them more). According to Fr. Adi he would bring this up to their council since they are planning to create another material where they’ll once again write their Parish history (even a footnote about this discovery would be a great addition!)
Kudos to my good friend Pepe, ever ready to help out with some difficult Spanish translations!