A brief history of this historic Iglesia we recently had the chance to visit last month.
Considered by our local church official as one of the ‘jubilee churches’(old pre Spanish churches in Laguna) alongside with the shrine of Sto. Sepulcro in Landayan, SanPedro and the other old century old churches in Laguna (Nagcarlan, Pila, San Pablo, Mabitac, Paete, Pangil, Pakil, Pagsanjan, Majayjay…)
In 1759 the Jesuit Missionaries purchased a big portion of land called Hacienda de San Juan, but the parish was established only in 1779 by the Franciscan Friars.
In this church, Fray Rufino Collantes baptized our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, on June 22, 1861. the original altar was burned in 1862 but immediately rebuilt by Fray Leoncio Lopez. the first Filipino priest, Fr. Angel Villaruz, served this church for 43 years since 1901. the incumbent Parish Priest is Fr. Menorca.
This church was literally just a stone throw away from the Rizal residence, I was told by a friend that its original location was in the front of the Rizal shrine before -I was not able to verify this but there was what looks like old pre-Spanish foundations where the current vidokes, sari sari stores and carinderia is located, all this establishments fronting the shrine, what an eyesore.
I’m quite intrigue by the piece of a scanned document that hangs in the wall inside the Rizal shrine which declares Father Lopez as the signatoree of Rizal’s birth certificate when it was in fact a different friar who conducted the baptism, Fray Collantes. I also heard that Rizalista’s makes a connection of Rizal being baptized here in the church of San Juan Bautista, comparing it to Jesus undergoing the same rites under his cousin San Juan Bautista, they took it for its divine meaning -as if Rizal was baptize by St. John himself. I really can’t blame this people, Rizal is a fascinating man, aside from his intellectual feats it seems that this renaissance of a man is a clairvoyant – based on what I’ve read about him this man is a believer in the supernatural, very pinoy – very superstitious.
This church has been the center of the activity of the town – like fiestas and other town functions. This is the genius of the Spanish city planning, every town built around an Iglesia or convento, it seems that all roads will lead you back to the church, a poblacion is never without a great Iglesia. Calamba’s town and this church has been conceived the same way – bringing the people closer to God and the town’s government.