By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Fr. Dionisio Miranda said there were at least two things Filipinos here could do as far as the heritage churches are concerned – one was to help rebuild these valuable structures and second was to break the stereotype that the Philippines is simply a backward country.
“Pagsulay is a documentation of our rich local histories, artistry and faith. It is our way to break stereotypes, apart from raising funds to rebuild the churches,” said the president of the University of San Carlos during the two launching events in the Big Apple recently.
Pagsulay (Trials) is a 240-page coffee table book which features the 33 churches of Bohol before and after the 2013 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Authored by Dr. Jose Eleazar Bersales, head of the USC Press, this book is easily a collector’s item for it provides local histories of the town, the artistic values of the churches, and the prospects of cultural development each village could take.
The final leg of the US launch of Pagsulay: Churches of Bohol Before and After the 2013 Earthquake” (USC Press, 2014) turned out to be happy and successful, with two launches at the Philippine Center on Friday, May 22 in Manhattan and at the Payag Restaurant in Queens on Saturday, May 23.
Deputy Consul-general Kira Azucena Danganan received a special copy of Pagsulay for the Consulate General of New York.
Both events were well-attended and became an exciting reunion of sorts for Filipinos in north America. Mr. Arnold Carl traveled from Montreal to get a copy of Pagsulay and Dr. Paul Geraldez, based in Boston, decided to attend the launch to meet old friends from Cebu, instead of spending the memorial weekend in Vermont.
Fr. Miranda was with the coffee table book photographer Fr. Generoso Rebayla and Dr. Bersales, who became a reason for the mini-reunion of friends. Dr. Bersales is also an author of a number of heritage coffee table books, including “Salapi: The Numismatic Heritage of the Philippines (BPI Foundation, 2013).
Prior to New York, they toured in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. The launching events in New York were organized by Rena Avendula, CEO of the Payag Restaurant in Queens, and the OSM! online magazine www.justcliqit.com.
Pagsulay was a ‘twist’ from the tragedy of the earthquake, as Fr. Miranda had originally envisioned to create a similar photograph documentary of Cebu’s old churches (titled Balaanong Bahandi, or sacred treasures) in Bohol. The project was appropriate, because Bohol province has the most number of old churches declared as national heritage sites. The earthquake that devastated these churches made the project more compelling, and painful particularly for Fr. Rebayla who took pictures of the rubble together with photographer Estan Cabigas.
Rebayla’s roots are from Maribojoc. As Bersales puts it, “No words can describe the pain driven to Fr. Jun – whose father was born and grew up in Maribojoc – when he saw the first pile of rubble that was once the very church in which he heard masses on those summers of his youth when his parents always sent him and his brothers and only sister to their ancestral home in Maribojoc.”
Maribojoc is the nearest town to the capital city of Tagbilaran. Its parish church, pulverized by the earthquake, is in honor of La Santa Cruz may be founded sometime in 1656 by the Jesuits, based on the writings of Fr. Francisco Colin citing the town as one of three largest settlements in Bohol, the other two being Baclayon and Loboc. However, the Maribojoc parish church’s entry in its canonical books was dated to January 2, 1788.
The fund-raising and cultural awareness program is the USC’s support to the archdioceses of Talibon and Tagbilaran. A limited no. of copies, at $75 each, could be bought at the Payag Restaurant in Woodside.
At the Payag Restaurant, Fr. Miranda inducted into office the first set of officers of the USC Nursing Alumni Association of New York. (Photos by Leani M. Auxilio)
Editor’s Note: The featured photo is the ceiling painting of commissioned Cebu-based artists Raymundo Francia and Canuto Avila and his sons in Maribojoc Church before it was toppled by the 2013 earthquake. It depicted in eight colorful panels some works of mercy and evangelical virtues with a central illustration of God the Father with the banner La Omnipresencia de Dios (the Omnipresence of God).
Contact Payag Restaurant at Tel. No. 347-935-3192 or visit payagrestaurant.com