By Tonette Orejas
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO-Kapampangans filled the San Agustin Church and its nearby museum in Intramuros, Manila, on the night of Aug. 24 to pay tribute to Augustinian missionaries who had sailed from there to Pampanga 435 years ago and influenced the natives’ character, culture and history.
As they stood on the same grounds where some of those 100 friars lived and trained, they bridged the time, seeing past and present connections between Fray Juan Gallegos, who set foot in Lubao in 1572, and far, far, far down time when Fr. Eddie Panlilio, who finished theology at the St. Augustine Major Seminary, was elected governor in 2007.
“Holy ground,” was how Dr. Arlyn Villanueva, president of the Holy Angel University, called the event’s venue.
By the way the tribute and the celebration of continuing collaboration turned out, it was apparent the people wanted to remember the Augustinian fathers beyond their white robes and emblems of a flaming heart.
Their “enduring legacies” are the Roman Catholic faith and values, heritage churches and architectural knowledge, schools and education initiatives, publications that chronicled the language and culture, ecclesiastical arts and culinary tradition, said San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto at the Mass he celebrated with Bishop Roberto Mallari and eight priests.
Other legacies are the archival documents, the solidarity of friars with the faithful in times of wars, calamities and epidemics, the opening of roads, and their engineering attempts to provide irrigation to farmers.
The extent of the Augustinians’ work and the breadth of their influence spoke of the fervor with which the pioneers lived out the dictum of their founder, St. Augustine, that “our hearts are restless until they rest in (God),” said Fray Francisco Musni, archivist and researcher of the HAU’s Center for Kapampangan Studies, which organized the tribute.
Aniceto said the Archdiocese of San Fernando was “most profoundly grateful for the gift of faith” because it steeled the people in adverse times like Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 eruptions and the lahar flows that followed.
That gift, he said, flourished because several Kapampangan, like Rufino Cardinal Santos, the first Filipino cardinal, became church pioneers themselves.
In gratitude, the provincial board presented a copy of Resolution No. 945 to Fr. William Araña, OSA, vicar of the Orient of the Philippines, Augustinian Province, and to Alvaro Trejo, charge d’affaires of the Spanish Embassy.
The resolution gives “due recognition and honor to the friar missionaries of the Calced Order of Saint Augustine for their pioneering efforts in Pampanga and for their role in the preservation of the culture.”
That made Pampanga, the first and last Augustinian territory in Luzon until 1960, to be the “first province in the Philippines to officially thank the Spanish missionaries who labored in the country during colonial times,” said Robby Tantingco, the center’s executive director.
One of the high points was the launch of the English translations of Fray Diego Bergaño’s two books, the “Arte de la Lengua Pampanga” (1729 Kapampangan Grammar) and the “Vocabulario de Pampango” (1732 Kapampangan Dictionary).
Bergaño and his collaborator then, Don Juan Zuñiga of Mexico town, managed to reach out to the present through the translations of Fr. Edilberto Santos and Fr. Venancio Samson.