Brief visit to the Church of San Rafael

Before heading back home I visited the historic San Rafael church located in the old poblacion. The barrio is well inhabited unlike the ones that I had seen earlier. It took me two rides from Daang Cruz. The tricycle heading for the church cost me 50 pesos! But of course, this is small change – I would not miss the chance of stopping over such a historic place .

The history of San Rafael is linked to what many consider as the deadliest battle, though a lopsided one,  ever fought by the Katipuneros. Here Hen. Anacleto Enriquez was killed together with 800 of his men inside the Church and its convent. They were said to had been buried in a mass grave just a few distance from the church but no one seem to know (those that I asked) where it was exactly. After walking around the church and convent, I realized that with that many men holed up in that confined area, the church and convent was tight quarter with barely a space to breath for the katipunan men. I could not imagine that many bodies stranded in such a small space. Even if they were not assaulted by the seasoned Cazadores, who had chased them out of Malolos, with that number (800?) trapped inside, they would’ve starved to death in San Rafael in a few days.

The facade of Iglesia de San Rafael

They launched a book about the treasure of the town. Most of the relics are from the church.

The Atenian Enriquez, the leader of the group, was one of the founders of Katipunan in Bulacan. Enriquez’ brother, Jacinto, was later chief of staff in del Pilar’s army during the second phase of the revolution. Jacinto was one of only four survivors in the battle of Tirad Pass – referred to by some historians as “Philippine Thermopylae”.  Del Pilar was said to had been shot in the neck during the initial confrontation with the Americans because of his refusal to take cover. The rest of his men were killed by the Americans. I wonder how many lives would’ve been spared if Aguinaldo had surrendered to the Americans instead. His army was on the run with little hope of anything better than to hide and evade. Of course we can think about these scenarios because we have hindsight. That was a tough position for the Filipinos.

Strangely, the municipal website cites Trinidad Tecson, the lady revolutionary from San Miguel de Mayumo, among those killed in the siege. The writer probably got carried away.Trinidad Tecson is known by many titles; “Henerala Ningning”, “babaing lalaki”, “”Mother of Philippine Red Cross” and “Mother of Biak-na-bato”.We have the most creative and agile minds when it comes to names. The former Commissary of War died in 1928 and is buried in the North Cemetery. I know this because I remember seeing her tomb in the veteran section of the north cemetery.

A Painting of the battle that took place insice the church and convent of San Rafael. An overly dramatized depiction of the event that took place inside the convento.

Image of San Rafael at the gates

The present symbol of the municipality of San Rafael is the image of the historic church. A testament of its role in the society it help build. Written in the convent walls. I found this brief history  of the church:

Sa simula ang lugar ng San Rafael ay bahagi ng bayan ng Quingua. Noong taong 1750 itinatag ang San Rafael bilang bayan at marahil kaalinsabay na din ang pagkatawag nito bilang nagsasariling parokya. Pinaniniwalaan na ang mga Prayleng namamahala at dumadalaw sa simbahan ng San Rafael ay mula sa Parokya ni Santiago Apostol ng Quingua (Plaridel) ay naninirahan sa bahay ng pamilya Vasallo hanggang sa maitayo ang kumbento ng parokya taong 1863. Batay sa mga dokumento sinimulang gawin ang matibay na kumbento yari sa tisa, bato at narra.

Taong 1868, itinalaga sa San Rafael ang kanyang unang Kura Paroko sa katauhan ng isang Agustinong pari na Espanol nas is Padre Antonio Piernaveja. Kasabay din nito ang paghiwalay ng isang bahagi ng San Rafael upang gawing isang bagong bayan ang San Ildefonso. Mula noon naging opisyal na tirahan ng Kura Paroko ng San Rafael ang kumbentong ito.

Sa paglipas ng panahon, hindi lamang nagsilbing tahanan ng pari ang kumbentong ito ng iba’t ibang gawain at pagpupulong ng mga samahang pangsimbahan at gawain ng parokya. Noong panahon ng Hapon, naging ligtas na lugar din ito na tinirahan at tinaguan ng ilang mamayan. Pagkatapos ng giyera nagsilbi din ito na pansamantalang piitan bayan ang isang bahagi ng ilallim ng kumbento.

I instantly recognized the name of the first assigned “Kura Paroko” as I remember reading it from somewhere. He’s a Damaso-type character. Padre Antonio Piernavieja was the kind of Friar that drove the people around him to fear and hate his kind. Piernavieja had been instrumental in the trial of the Gomburza. It was an account of his together with that of Padre Echegoyen accusing Padre Burgos involvement in the infamous motin de ’72. This event sent the creole priest and the two other Padres to the guillotine. One of Rizal’s dark characters in his first novel was based from this man. This depiction, in a way, is accurate as the same Friar had been a subject of numerous complaints by the San Rafaeleno’s during his tenure as Cura. A case was filed against him and the complaints were; failure to conduct mass, relationship with an unmarried women (even had a child!) and his suspicious solicitation for some bridge construction. It is significant to note that the case reached Manila and was dismissed later on. During the revolution the same man, now in Cavite appears as prisoner. He was made chaplain by the Katipuneros – his flock was the devout Catholics in the revolution. His luck would later run out as he was accused of spying. The Katipuneros then tied him up and he died of hunger and thirst in the fields.

The significance of this man is his actions during the Gomburza case. They never realized the effect the execution would have to those who aspire for independence. If they they knew they would have avoided it. With Rizal’s execution, it indicated that they never learned from history. If 1896 was the year of the revolution, ’72 was the year of the awakening. Before that century ended Filipinas became their Eden lost. But he  and people like him are a minority in a vast majority. Evidence of the Church and her men attending to its communities abound and this could never be disputed.

Unfortunately, we are seeing some of these Damaso attitudes again from our Catholic leaders. Instead of strengthening local churches by once again building solid relationships with the local community they engage in politics and media. Like Piernavieja, these political priest, bishops and cardinals are giving all Catholics a bad name. They never learn.


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