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