The Basque’s Presence and Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu de San Mateo

The red brick facade of San Mateo Church. Home of our Lady of Aranzazu.

The image of the Virgen de Aránzazu of San Mateo is one enduring remnant of Basque influence in the country. The Agustinos who was with the Legazpi expedition, a predominantly Basque contingent, created the first church in San Mateo but it was the Jesuits who brought the image of our Lady of Aranzazu in the town.

A blogger pal and a local of San Mateo, Traveler on Foot, had written great articles about the town’s fiesta, legends, kakanin, wars  and its devotion to Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu de San Mateo.

The present day Church of San Mateo, which can be found in the crossroads of the town center, is a result of quite a few works of restorations and reconstructions. Although set with modern day facilities, it has retained its old charm. This in way can be attributed to a sense of history that the town can call its own. Architectural design should never ignore historical background and references. Unfortunately, we see far too many churches reconstructed without considering the history of their devotion and church.

The red brick finish gives the impression of an old, weathered look – an effect that is both appealing and inspiring. I got a glimpsed of the Lady of Aranzazu but since there was an on going mass, I took no pictures inside. It was a pleasure seeing a church community that honors its past and celebrates the traditions that may have been foreign at  the beginning but quickly became local and is now a tangible symbol of a culture that is closest to us.

Basque Legacy in the Homeland

There are countless contributions that came from the Basque people here in our land. Vascos like Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to the hero Senator Ozamiz, Olympian Caloy Loyzaga to the rich Aboitiz clan – the Vascos had been conquistadores, friars, merchants and soldiers  from the region in Spain west of the Pirinioak mountain range. They came here and most of these adventurers never left the land. They were fearless and was said to had always volunteered for the so called “missions of no return”.

The Euskaldunas, which means speaker of Euskara, were great ship builders and seamen. The Basque country had supplied Spain with fighters and missionaries. Without the Basque’s, the expansion of Spanish kingdom in the islands would have been impossible. The successful Spanish expedition Legazpi was a Basque contingent. Some familiar Spanish figures that are now part of our history were Basque’s: Elcano, Andres Urdaneta, Juan Salcedo, de Goiti, Lavazares, Antonio Morga, Bishop Salazar (first Catholic bishop), Simeon de Anda and the list goes on. Even Rizal’s hero in his novel, Ibarra, is Basque.

Basco families whose descendants are still prominent citizens of the country: Aboitiz, Araneta, Arrespacochaga, Ayala, Bilbao, Eizmendi, Elizalde, Garchitorena, Isasi, Loyzaga, Luzuriaga, Moraza, Uriarte, Ynchausti, Yulo, Zubiri and Zuluaga among others. An old joke that came from the prominence of the descendant of the Basque migration is that most Basque “have an uncle” in the Philippines and Latin America.

Wherever the Basque go they take their national sport of  “pelota vasca” or Basque Pelota. Popularly known as Jai Alai (in Euskara meaning “Merry Fiesta”) it reached its height of popularity in Manila and Cebu in the mid 1950’s. It was brought down decades ago by the government due to “morality” issues that I find strange because there are other legal gambling that exist in the land – I guess they’re moral compared to the betting that goes on whenever Jai Alai is played.

Its not surprising if we had indeed inherited some Basco traits as they had successfully integrated into our lives. One grandparent kidded me that Filipinos have the “temper’ of a Basque – I think I know what she meant by that. The Basco diaspora has gone largely unnoticed because we all know them as Kastila – which is politically and geographically incorrect.

19 September 2010


18 responses to “The Basque’s Presence and Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu de San Mateo

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  • Juan Paeng

    The allies of the falangistas….the Fascist Fuhrer of Germany and Il Duce of Italy, weren’t they allies of Generalisimo Franco? I think they bombed the Basque town of Guernica.

    I wonder what was the sentiment of Pope Pius XII towards the Jews during WWII. Can you guess what all these three fascists have in common?

  • Juan Paeng

    Go, go Carlos Celdran. Although not a fan of Celdran, who seems to be OA and attention hungry, he had the guts and wits to do that and tell it in their face, yes the Catholic clergy. I am a Catholic and believe in the church. But the clergymen are hypocrites. Look around you, what comfortable lives they live, they’re like politicians- members of congress who espouse an old boys club. Protect one another. The Catholic Church is one institution that is preventing the country from progressing. I include the INC here too.

  • josé miguel

    Pepe, I have already written a number of comments re this spoiled effeminate kid. I just do not want him to succeed in his actions to draw maximum attention. The best rod to discipline this kid is for us to be building our case as formidable as we can on issues this kid is having tantrums with, like: the values of Spain as compared to that of the values of North America to our history and our development; the RH (Replicating Nero) Bill as against the Pro Life advocacy. By having a formidable case (for as long as we are grounded on the truth), this dysfunctional kid will just naturally lose attention no matter how outlandish are the contortions he will make.

    Anyway, this is about the post of Arnaldo on Basque or euskotar presence in the Philippines. They have long been struggling to form a nation of their own based on their blood, language and culture which is the most unique and pure in all of Europe. They have been either under the state of France o Spain. As of today part of these people have become an autonomous entity form Spain but still under the Spanish government. What is significant about their case is that a certain Sabino Arana gathered the origins about their race from which he based his nationalist advocacy and ideology. This has become the basis of the present euskoter aspiration and action of a people who became united and stimulated to move for nationalist independence. Many of notable euskoter were responsible for the significant developments of our nation throughout history.

    • josé miguel

      I am sorry RH should have meant Replicating Herod, not Nero.

    • Juan Paeng

      Whats with this “me encanta (madre) espana” stuff? They insulted the Revolutionarios by negotiating with the Americans in not letting them in Intramuros during the mock battle between Spain and the US. Surrendering to Americans even if the Walled City was surrounded by Revolutionarios who were Indios. Selling us for $20M without our consent. I am not a fan of the US but by that, it doesn’t mean that I prefer another foreigner over the other. Disciplining with the values of Spain (which allows divorce and is very secular compared to us today) you mean intolerant values and the rule of theocracy? What happened to spare the rod and spoil the child? If one has been to Mexico and talked to a Mexican, they find the Spanish period as villanous and dark even if they are of Spanish descent. Here I am so greatful, that the reverse happened. They learned the vernacular and compiled dictionaries. Remember the Women of Malolos and their petition.

      • De AnDA

        @ Juan Paeng – History’s like that, whether you appreciate your name [if that’s your name] or not. Sticks to you like a tatoo 🙂 I don’t advocate anything other than appreciation of the historical evolution of the “Filipino” – I don’t care about Spain and your America today. If you’ll research more about Filipino history maybe you can understand what your Filipino heritage looks like. As for “Madre Espana”, or the preference for its use, your revolucionarios (Rizal, Los Luna’s, Aguinaldo etc etc) use it with regularity my friend.

        • Juan Paeng

          You missed my point. As I’ve mentioned neither am I pro-Uncle Sam. I’m pro-us- pro-Filipino.

          Rizal did not advocate independence, for he was right. We were not ready. Aguinaldo would fit right into the present. He is a modern day politician. An opportunist for both sides. What about the Luna’s? Pikon? Very short tempered? If anyone was a hero back then, there are only 3 I can think of- Mabini, Ricarte and Bonifacio- who truly took a stand and made it clear what he wanted and advocated.

          I suggest you re-read my post. I dislike it when I’m accused of being pro something when I’m not, just because it seems I’m anti-something.

          • Juan Paeng

            When I say pro-us-pro-Filipino, us means tayo, tayong lahat bilang Pilipino.

            As Shakespeare said What’s in a name…..”

            I could not have said all of that if I did not know my HERITAGE & HISTORY. Both Spain and the US were opportunist!

            • De AnDA

              @ Paeng – I think I did miss your anti-americanismo. Filipino history can never be summed up in a short sentence. Its a process that took thousands of years to develop. I’m all for the appreciation of the product, us, I detest those who are perpetually poise to diminish and discredit the components of what we know now as Filipinismo. Intentions are not always pure, talk about opportunist, we still have them in our midst, look at the local generals. To end this long comment, my point is that in the end we have to understand what we are made of, steer clear from trying to restructure Filipino historiography, try to learn from all the mistakes that have been committed but never turn our backs from the values and culture our abuelos have passed onto us, lets used it to redefine the destiny of this country. Bow 🙂

  • migs

    interesting. my maternal grandmother’s maiden name is Bringas. I think I have Basque ancestors. my mother side is from abra, in the north. i think the strongest influence of the basques are in the north, especially among ilocanos.

  • josé miguel

    Interesting work, Arnaldo. Can I repost this in my blogsite?

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