Malaueg Church

Malaueg Church
Church of San Raymundo de Peñafort in Rizal, Cagayan, 2016 (John Leonardo Dimain IV)

Also known as Rizal Church / Roman Catholic Parish Church of San Raymundo de Peñafort / Location: Malaueg, now Rizal, Cagayan / Begun 1617

The name Malaueg refers both to the original name of the present-day town of Rizal and to the language spoken by its inhabitants. Malaueg/Rizal is the southwesternmost town of Cagayan Province. It is only 8 km from the border of Apayao Province further west on the national road. The town stands above a curve of the Matalag River, whence its name, according to an old source: “Matalag” (name of the river) and “ueg” (local word for river). The Matalag River in turn links the highlands of Apayao with the Chico River, itself joined to the mighty Cagayan River at the junction of Nassiping.

This town represents the largest concentration of speakers of Malaueg, an Ibanag-related language. It is the largest Christian settlement in the greater Itawes/Apayao area. The area figures prominently in local oral lore. Just another river bend to the east is barrio Mauanan—the mountains on each side of the river were the lairs of Biuag and Malana, mythical atlases who hurled coconut trunks at each other across the ravine.

Attempts at Christianization began very early in the 17th century. A native named Pagulayan made repeated visits to Lal-lo, the seat of the Dominican enterprise in Cagayan, for missionaries. Pagulayan was baptized Luis in 1606, and the ministry of Malaueg was formally accepted by the Dominicans on 26 Apr 1608. The laying of the first stone for the church on 21 November 1617 was officiated by no less than the bishop of Nueva Segovia and the Dominican Provincial. A year later an earthquake cracked the walls, but, Pagulayan and his sister, who was baptized Luisa Balinan, raised support for the church’s construction. A future saint visited Malaueg in the person of Francisco Fernandez de Capillas, who signed in the baptismal books in 1633 (this Dominican missionary was martyred in China in 1648 and canonized in 2000).

A fire ravaged the church and convento on 22 Jan 1641. Ten years later, on 12 March 1651, the renovated church was blessed. A new apse was built inside the old apse, indicating that this old apse—and virtually the rest of the church and convento, with their homogenous stonework—could be part of the structure begun in 1617. The insertion of a “new” apse inside the original fabric between 1641 and 1651 could imply a decrease in population—or that the pioneer missionaries had been overly optimistic. Nevertheless, the early 20th century historian Fr. Julian Malumbres named this church as the largest in Cagayan in its time.

Most of the church and convento were built of masonry using oblong or round river stones of various sizes. Intriguingly, the exterior of the southern wall of the nave (to the left as one faces the facade) has conserved its palitada or protective lime covering to a great degree. In contrast, there is hardly any palitada left on the northern wall and the stones are exposed to the elements. As a testament to the masonry of the 17th century, the stonework has not eroded despite the exposure to the elements. By 1651, the technology of making bricks must have been introduced. Bricks bridge the gap between the old and new apses, and there are brick motifs on the facade.

The facade was conceived on the simplest pattern: a quadrangular lower level topped by a triangular pediment. A stark cross on a triangular base flanked by two smaller triangles is the only decoration on the pediment. A pair of niches in brick flanks the doorway.

The baptistry’s thin walls and unusual location, jutting out of the northern wall roughly at the midpoint of the nave, hint that it was built at a different time and for a different purpose. It may have been built as a temporary chapel while the rest of the church was being built. Its northernmost wall may have been left open such that the chapel faced the field (today’s playground and garden) where the parishioners would congregate. If this is confirmed, it is linked to the famous Latin American capillas abiertas which were open-air structures for large gatherings of people.

To the right of the facade is the bell tower, which in its squatness and quadrangular plan resembles those in Tuao and Lalloc, which were also built in the 17th century. Left of the facade is an ancient convento, masked by a modern concrete school. Both levels are of stone; the absence of beam extensions on the upper floor indicates the absence of a volada or cantilevered gallery typical of later Fil-Hispanic conventos.

The present retablo is a re-composition of the hardwood remnants of the original altarpiece. The presence of the estipite, a motif based on an inverted obelisk, dates this altarpiece to the middle or late 1700s. At about this time there was a renewed “building boom” throughout the Cagayan Valley. The largest bell in the church, dating from 1793, also points to a new wave of prosperity in Malaueg. The small collection of wooden religious images provides a tantalizing glimpse of Cagayan colonial statuary.

The church complex of Malaueg survived into the 20th century, preserved from the bombings and earthquakes that devastated colonial churches and edifices throughout the Valley. It was roofless for an unknown length of time. A marker was installed by the Philippines Historical Committee in 1939. In 1951 administration of the parish was assigned to the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) and aid from Belgium helped restore the church. Malaueg church is arguably the most intact early 17th-century monument outside Manila. It was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum on 31 July 2001.

SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer

Originally posted 2002-11-22 04:50:58.