Holy Rosary Minor Seminary

Holy Rosary Minor Seminary
Holy Rosary Minor Seminary in Naga City, 2003 (Photo by Betty Lalana and Lino Arboleda, Ortigas Foundation Library Collection)

Casa de Clerigos or Seminario Conciliar de Nueva Caceres / Location: Elias Angeles St, Naga, Camarines Sur / First buildings built ca 1783 by the banks of the Bicol River / Buildings at present site, between 1816 and 1829, rebuilt between 1862-1879

Although the Council of Trent, 1545-63, decreed that every diocese should have its own seminary for the training of priests, for lack of personnel, the diocese of Nueva Caceres (Naga) did not build a seminary for almost 200 years. Established as a Casa de Clerigos in the 18th century by the bank of the Naga River, presently, Calle Caceres, the building was transformed into a seminary by Fr Antonio de Orbigo y Gallego, OFM, bishop of Naga in 1778-88, who was moved to Manila in 1788. Responsible for the seminary’s construction, he built a 27-varas-long quadrilateral structure whose facade, first story, and arched supports of the second story were completed in Apr 1783. A few months later, he reported that the seminary was partially covered with a tile roof. Bricks were used in the construction since no suitable stones were available. With the buildings complete, the seminary was officially established in 1797.

The seminary’s site by the banks of the river was a problem. Annually, the river would rise and the seminary would flood. The cathedral near it was likewise subject to annual flooding. Fr Bernardo de la Concepcion, bishop of Naga from 1816 to 1829, decided to move the seminary and cathedral to their present site. He commenced building a new seminary, expanding its original plan by adding a wing. He rebuilt the seminary using cut stones, the same material he used for the cathedral and the episcopal palace.

A typhoon in 1856 and a fire in 1860 damaged the seminary building and this was subsequently repaired. However, Bp Francisco Gainza (1818–1879), bishop from 1862 to 1879, considered the damage severe and decided to construct another building, the present one beside the cathedral.

At the invitation of Gainza, Mariano Perfecto (1853–1913) established a press within the seminary. Perfecto, who wrote and published the Hiligaynon version of the Pasiong Mahal published by the Santo Tomas press in 1884, migrated to Bicol from Iloilo, where he had a successful career as writer and publisher. He became governor of Camarines Norte and Sur, 1910-12. Named Libreria y Imprenta Mariana, this press was to publish many works in Bicol.

In 1865, at the invitation of Gainza, the Padres Paules or Vincentian Fathers took charge of the seminary. Founded by St Vincent de Paul in France, the Vincentians spread to Spain. In 1862 they were sent to the Philippines to work for the formation of the clergy. The Vicentians immediately went to work to repair and expand the seminary buildings.

In 1925, the seminary was renamed Seminario del Santisimo Rosario. Spared during World War II from destruction, the seminary reopened after the war. In 1964, the seminary was renamed Holy Rosary Minor Seminary. In 1997, it celebrated the bicentennial of its canonical establishment.

At present the seminary is an L-shaped structure to which new wings have been added. The pleasing arches of the first floor form a portico in front of the rooms. The main entrance, placed at the center of this structure, leads to a foyer paved with azulejos (glazed tiles). The second floor rooms are accessible through a flight of stairs, decorated with old paintings. The wing that projects from the main structure has classrooms on the first floor and residences on the second. The seminary building is the only surviving one of its kind, as the Seminario de San Carlos in Cebu; the Seminario de Vigan; and the old seminaries in Manila, San Jose and San Clemente, no longer stand.

The Museo Arqueologico and the Museo Ecclesiastico have been established on the ground floor of the seminary. The archaeological section displays artifacts excavated in Bicol from the Ermelo M. Almeda Collection, while the ecclesiastical section displays objects from the seminary, cathedral, and other churches in Bicol. The rest of the seminary has been restored. A chapel for seminarians on the upper story of the main wing has been refurbished and renovated.

The seminary was an influential institution in southern Luzon as it was the only institution of learning south of Manila until 1872, when the Colegio de Santa Isabel, established earlier by Bp Gainza as an exclusive girls’ school, was made a training school for teachers. Many prominent Bicolano studied in the Seminary among them, Jose Imperial Barlin, the first Filipino bishop from 1905 to 1909, Jose Maria Panganiban, Tomas Arejola, and nine of the 15 martyrs of Bicol. On 29 January 1988, the Holy Rosary Seminary was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute.

SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer