Sen. Angara calls restoration of RPs 18th century San Mattias church in Isabela

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, October 28, 2010-Senator Edgardo J. Angara calls for restoration of 18th century San Mattias church in Tumauini, Isabela which is considered as one of the best and most artistically-constructed brick structures in the Philippines.


He explained that there are damages that are both visible and invisible, especially those that were caused by the war, adding that before Typhoon Juan hit, the walls of the church needed structural assessment, especially the front wall although damages of the recent typhoon are yet to be appraised.


To analyze the wall damages, a thorough structural assessment must be made and the need to reinforce concrete parts after many unrecorded and haphazard repairs must also be checked which weaken the brick and lime mortar wall.


Historically, the first church of Tumauini was blessed on February 22, 1707 by the Provincial Father, Fr. Juan de Sto. Domingo and was dedicated to its patron San Matias. The first mass was said on its feast day, February 24.  It has a unique cylindrical bell tower, the only of its kind in the Philippines.


By virtue of Presidential Decree # 260 signed in 11 August 1973, the Church of Tumauini was declared a National Historical Landmark on February 24, 1989.


The Senator is the author of the National Cultural Heritage Act which provides a comprehensive framework for the preservation of Philippine cultural heritage including cultural sites, old buildings, monuments, shrines, and landmarks that have cultural significance and historical value.


"The enactment of our National Cultural Heritage bill constitutes a serious action in preserving our cultural treasures.  This is our way of honoring and protecting our country’s most important historical structures," the senator said.


In order to avert the diminution, depletion and destruction of the country’s heritage, there must be effective coordination among concerned agencies which aims to do better management of cultural properties such as creation of categories and privileges for cultural properties, institutionalization of heritage zones, and documentation of traditional and contemporary arts.


He said that there has been a cultural neglect in the country, as many cultural heritages have not been protected, preserved, conserved and promoted adequately and effectively. He then illustrated this through a number of examples where we repeatedly saw cultural neglect.


“The Philippines has painfully witness the defacement, if not complete destruction of national treasures because of neglect while other countries have made heritage conservation the cornerstone of their successful and highly profitable tourism efforts,” he said, adding that the destruction of buildings and other historically or artistically significant structures, bridges, parks and other public spaces or landscapes.


Catholic churches have been unsystematically renovated, and relieved of precious and significant materials such as beautifully wrought religious images of ivory, and wood, relics, even the silver frontals of altars.


In 2006, upon the motion of Senator Edgardo J. Angara, the senate approved the bill seeking the declaration of the country’s oldest Mosque, Sheikh Karimul Makhdum, as a national shrine.


The Mosque is right in the heart of Tubig Indangan, Simunul in the island province of Tawi-Tawi wherein it was constructed in 1380 A.D. and considered as the oldest Muslim prayer house or mosque in the Philippines. The National Historical Institute (NHI) is tasked to supervise the preservation of the site.


“Declaring it as national shrine is of far reaching significance because it celebrates the construction of the first Muslim mosque in our country, built two (2) centuries ahead of the Spanish colonization,” Angara said.


It was built by an Arabian missionary, Karimal Shikh Macdum in 1380 AD and was buried in Tandubanak Shitancal in Tawi Tawi wherein a simple marker marked his grave.  The four big pillars of the mosque remained as they were originally today. (Jason de Asis)