Roman Catholic Parish Church of San Ildefonso de Toledo / Location: Tanay, Rizal / Built 1773-83
The fourth to be built in a town which transferred its site at least three times, the present church of Tanay was completed in 1783 and was considered the best constructed in the area at the time. The parish, in the charge of the Franciscans, became independent from the jurisdiction of Pililla in 1606. Tanay was transferred to a new site in 1620 named San Antonio, an area north and into the Sierra Madre. The first and second church were of bamboo and nipa thatch. The later church was burnt by a flaming arrow shot by enemies of the settlement. There was only enough time to save an image of the Purisima Concepcion, which the natives venerated. How they acquired the image is unknown. It may have been left by the troops of Juan de Salcedo sent to explore the area in 1572. In 1639 the Chinese in Manila rose in revolt against the Spaniards. The rebels were repulsed and fled in the direction of the Sierra Madre, first attacking the town of Antipolo and retreating all the way to Tanay. Fr Geronimo de Frias hid the image of the Virgin in the forest, where three retreating Chinese saw it. As they were about to desecrate the image, the three met mysterious deaths.
As a result of this uprising, Tanay transferred once more to its present location in 1640. The image of the Virgin was installed in the provisional church and a feast was celebrated annually in honor of the Concepcion after the feast of San Ildefonso, which is on 23 January. Because of the miraculous reputation of the image, Fr Pedro de Espallargas, OFM, was able to construct a church and convento of stone in 1680 through votive offerings alone. This church faced east and was located in what is presently called Tanay Plaza in front and to the right of the church. By 1773, the church and convento was almost a century old and was in poor condition. Fr Ildefonso Fentanes began a new construction on an adjacent site with a mere fund of 37 pesos and two reales. He begged for money from the town of Majayjay and Manila. He completed construction a decade later, 1783. The church and convento were made of stone, quarried in Tanay, because de Huerta (1865) reports that about one legua (between 4 and 7 km) from the poblacion, there was a stone quarry whose quality could not be matched in the whole archipelago. This is the church of Tanay that still stands today. In 1851, the convento was repaired and improved. Huerta, 1865, reports that in the town there was a casa tribunal, an escuela, and a camarin or storehouse of nipa. There were about 700 houses—a good three-fourths was of wood.
The present Tanay Church follows the cruciform plan with a shortened transept. Like the other Franciscan churches along the eastern shores of Laguna Lake, its gray-adobe facade is ornamented with floral insets, cherubs, foliage, and niches containing saintly images. The church’s plain interior contrasts with the six retablos decorated with rococo elements, which first appeared in the 1770s. Ornaments divide the twisted columns in the middle. The main retablo, completed in 1785 and installed in 1786, contains the patronal image of San Ildefonso, which is lit from a window behind the retablo. This halo effect is unique to Tanay, but reminiscent of baroque churches in Central Europe. A semicircular wooden tabernacle emblazoned with the symbol of the Eucharist replaces a silver one, 1.5 m tall, with a dome which was stolen in the 1970s. The three other retablos are found in the left transept, with the Angustias surmounted by angels carrying symbols of Christ’s passion; the right transept, with San Pedro de Alcantara; and the baptistry, with an image of San Juan Bautista baptizing Jesus. The pediment has a niche containing a saint, possibly San Francisco Javier since Tanay was once under the Jesuits. The nave has an outstanding Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) carved by an unknown master, popularly called “Maestro de Tanay.” The first 12 stations seem to have come from one artist, and the last two from two others. Craftsmen from Paete, which is near Tanay, may have worked on the church. The adobe convento, to the right side of the nave, is built in the atrial style favored by the Franciscans in the area. The church altars have been retouched and gilded in recent restorations. A massive stone font with rococo touches, formerly in the baptistery, was moved outdoors. An angel from the altar of the Angustias has disappeared. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts included Tanay in the initial list of colonial churches designated as National Cultural Treasures (31 July 2001).
SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer (1991)
Originally posted 2001-11-23 01:14:32.