The Town Church (La Iglesia del Pueblo)

Those of us educated in the old manner keep a very pond memory of the town church. This church symbolized our home, our small country, and recalled our childhood. Members of all social classes founded these temples and mansions, “stone by stone and story by story”, to serve as the religious and social center of those early communities. Around it rose residences and expanded townships, connecting in this  manner the material structure of the old civilization.

Alas, this tradition is disappearing, modern urbanization has come to our towns, changing their exterior aspect and destroying their pristine character. Instead of churches, what now rise are markets, schools, railroads stations, and round these modern hubs develop the new cities, founded on divergent bases.

“It’s now very changed,” we hear them say today who visit the provinces. And the assurances is: “You wouldn’t recognize it any more.” The houses of masonry, Spanish colonial in style, still surround the churches, like lifeless shells, full of damage, dust and damp; but new commercial sections with their modern constructions have formed round the market built of cement or the railroad station; and there’s an enormous plaza fronting the new school where boys and girls play in the afternoon classes… the women have established in the most populous district a puericulture center with the little hospital and maternity beds, I repeat that there has been a change.

Oslob Church. Taken 2009 after it caught a tragic fire that destroyed it. The reselient Oslobanon's has been working to rebuild this majestic church by the sea.

The fact is: when we travel the provinces today and begin visiting in each town the places once so familiar to us, an oh! Of admiration escapes our lips at the sight of so much change introduced in one of two decades. We notice that the tower of the old church is leaning, If not utterly ravaged; ruinous and full of moss is the belfry; the convent uncheerful and unpainted; and crumbling or fallen the garden walls which On the other hand, no other parts of the town have risen, as if by art of enchantment, scattered little cities, with their laughter, their charms, and their manifestations of modernity…

Progress is man approaching his Creator – I remember reading that in Alberdi. The difference is that yesterday we used  the churches, now we avail ourselves of other agencies…

From Teodoro M. Kalaw’s “Dietario Espiritual: 1926-1927”. Translated from the Spanish by Nick Joaquin.

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