Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Excommunication in Boac

The Outlook Magazine, New York City on August 18, 1900, ran an article entitled "The Occupation of Marinduque" by Phelps Whitmarsh, Special Commissioner for The Outlook in the Philippines.

Coming for the first time to the Philippines that included a visit to Boac shortly after the first American landing in the shores of Laylay four months earlier, Whitmarsh romanticized about Boac's "glossy mangoes and nangkas, cocoa and betel palms, bread-fruit, cacao, coffee, pomegranate, a species of citrus laden with large green spheres, and other profitable fruit-trees, with occasional glimpses of rice-flats and hills of foliage, and sundry bursts of color from the poincianas and hibiscus".

But speaking of friars, excommunications, and forgetfullness (see my yesterday's blog), Whitmarsh's account told about an actual excommunication of a whole Marinduque parish for abuses committed to the flock by a priest, that, when it came to pass did not make the Catholic souls despair but so overjoyed the people. Traces of Rizal's Padre Damaso, which according to Rizal's description was the "self-righteous curate of the fictional San Diego church and town; used his power to get what he desired; notorious and deceitful; judgmental, malicious minded, etc"*

Excerpts from Whitmarsh's article:

"In the way of architecture, the most interesting thing in Marinduque is the old
fortified church and convento at Boac, which occupies the summit of a small hill in the center of the town, It was built about 1690, under the direction of the friars, as a protection against the piratical Moros, who until within almost recent years looked upon these outlying islands as their lawful prey. It is less than thirty years in fact, since these sea-robbers last landed in Marinduque and looted the town of Santa Cruz.

"Within the massive walls of this island fort, which was intended to be both cannon and earthquake proof, the entire population of the town can be gathered. It is one of the most picturesque structures in the Philippines, thoroughly medieval in design as well as in appearance; for the ravages of a moist, tropical climate have clothed it with a growth of parasites, mellowed and aged it far beyond its years.

(The Boac Cathedral today, so different now from what Whitmarsh saw).

"The church within the walls is a fine large building in excellent repair. Twice during my stay in Boac I slept on its fine hardwood floor, with the gaudy pyramid of
wooden images that backed the altar in front of me, a famous black Christ to my left, and on my right, done in wax, a veritable chamber of horrors.

"In spite of its well-appointed church, however, Boac had been without a priest for several months. The last incumbent, a native, had robbed the people to such an extent that they had forcibly ejected him. Not content with the usual church fees, which in such a parish must have been large, he instituted a system of fines, one, for instance, for coming into church late, and forced payment by refusing to confess, absolve, or perform any religious rite until the fines were paid. He was
worse, the people said, even than the friar before him.

"As a punishment for this wickedness, the Archbishop of Manila had excommunicated the whole parish; and the people, overjoyed at the freedom thus given, then declared themselves in favor of an American minister. They said freely that they did not care whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant or anything else so long as he could perform the baptismal, marriage, and burial ceremonies. All whom I talked with stated that they were willing to welcome anyone but a "fraile." To this one thing, if to nothing else, the Filipino is constant - his hatred of the friars."

Courtesy: Curt Shepard; www.ulongbeach.com (for the Whitmarsh article); *Wikifilipinas (Damaso)

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Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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