Tales about the Baguio Cathedral

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By Evangeline Murillo

Tea For Two

Thursday, May 1, 2014


THIS is the most impressive religious structure in the heart of Baguio. As it stands majestic, what stories can it tell? What experiences has this place undergone, and what do many of us know or not know about it? Allow me to call this "our" Baguio Cathedral. Indeed, being born in Baguio gives one the privilege of virtually owning every public place within the city, if not the whole city itself!

Of course, the history of our Baguio Cathedral dates back to 1919 when the pioneer CICM missionary, Fr. Florimond Carlu started a campaign to build a cathedral on the present site. Church goers then were growing in number and a bigger place was needed to accommodate people comfortably. Funds were raised but they were not enough so Fr. Carlu had to request help from the Graymoor monks of New York. The Head of the congregation, Fr. Paul Wattson was the Superior and founder of the Society of the Atonement and of the Church Unity Octave of New York. He started gathering donations through his group's publication, The Lamp. Soon the amount to finish the cathedral was sent and construction went on till the beautiful symbol of Baguio's catholic diocese stood majestically in the heart of the city.

Fr. Paul Wattson, the most significant donor to its construction, requested that our Baguio Cathedral be dedicated to Our Lady of the Atonement, and our cathedral carries this name to this day.

Fr. Wattson himself had a very fascinating spiritual journey before the founding of his congregation in New York. He grew up as Lewis Thomas Wattson, the third son to an impoverished Episcopalian minister named Rev. Joseph Newton Wattson and his wife, Mary Electa. The elder Wattson, a convert from Presbyterianism to the American branch of the Anglican Church, was close to his son and told him many stories about the church. He believed that there should be more preaching in the church like the Paulists. Lewis Thomas Wattson put his father's words into his heart and that was the beginning of his spiritual journey. He became a very good preacher in the Anglican Church but through the years, grew more enamored into the Roman Catholic Church. Finally he became a catholic priest, changed his name to Paul after St. Paul who got converted, then, he founded his congregation. The story branches into many interesting developments in Fr. Wattson's life. His group reaches out to Catholics all over the world and helps out in their difficulties.

Did you know that the Cathedral bells have names, and that they were donated by two men who were non-catholics?

Our Baguio Cathedral during its process towards completion was gifted with four church bells by two of Fr. Carlu's friends, both non-catholics: Messrs. Johannes Haussermann and Walterius Beam. The first bell's name is St. John, after its donor, Mr. Johannes Haussermann. The second bell's name is St. Walter after the second donor, Mr. Walterius Beam, and the third bell is St. Patrick, after the patron saint of Baguio City. The fourth bell was donated to one of the churches of the diocese but this needs another research to find it! Perhaps we can start searching. Please let me know when you have found the fourth bell, Baguio!

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 02, 2014.

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