A chapel’s survival

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014


THIS is the second summer that my two sons are spending their weekday mornings at the old Inayawan St. Augustine de Hippo chapel along F. Jaca St. At times, I would sit on the bench inside the chapel to watch teenagers provide catechesis to young children.

The teaching was loose and there seemed to be a balance of frolic and learning.

I am happy that despite the adversities the officers running the chapel’s affairs are currently facing, they are continuing to plod on by holding activities handed down to them by their elders. These ensure that the chapel, which is already more than a century old, will survive.

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On the walls of the chapel are frames that the Inayawan St. Augustine de Hippo Chapel Association hung obviously to remind those who enter the structure of the chapel’s glorious past.

One of these is an enlarged reprint of a photo already yellowing with age. It shows people posing for the camera with the front façade of the old chapel as background. A handwritten note says, “Ulida 1952.” Also scribbled on the photo are names of the group’s officers.

“Ulida,” based on my little knowledge of Barangay Inayawan history (my wife Edizza is from there), means “Ulitawo ug Daga,” a chapel organization that exists until today.

I don’t know the people in the list scribbled on the photo but these include a “Eugenio Gabuya,” probably the father of Cebu City Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr.

A closer look at the photo in that frame would show coconut palms growing at the sides of the old chapel. Meaning that, in 1952, the land surrounding the chapel was mainly agricultural.

It reminded me of the time in the early ‘80s when we used as a safe house a hut that stood in the middle of a rice field near the adjacent Sitio Laray, Barangay San Roque in Talisay City (formerly a town). I was surprised at that time because I always thought Cebu City was urban.

That photo depicted people and the chapel circa 1952. Note that last year, the chapel celebrated the 117th feast of its patron, St. Augustine of Hippo. Imagine the look of the chapel when Enrique Jaca initiated its construction in 1896.

We can say that the chapel and the veneration of St. Augustine have survived history’s ups and downs. Unfortunately, these are currently being tested on two fronts.

One, priests of the Our Lady of Consolation Parish-Recoletos parish where Inayawan belongs, and by extension the entire Archdiocese of Cebu, still has refused to hold masses in the chapel following a conflict many years ago. Ironically, priests sometimes hold masses at the mortuary at the Inayawan Barangay Hall just across the street fronting the chapel.

Two, barangay officials reportedly conducted an inspection inside the premises of the chapel because portions of the structure, including its arch-decorated gate, would be affected by a road-widening project. I don’t know how true the report is, but the idea of demolishing portions of the structures within the chapel compound has worried some people.

I don’t know how things will pan out from here on, but I am confident that the chapel will survive. I know some of the officers of the Inayawan St. Augustine de Hippo Chapel Association led by Dr. Librado Macaraya and know them to be determined in their goal of ensuring that the chapel will continue to be the focal point of the veneration of St. Augustine of Hippo in the barangay and its environs.

I am also confident that the Archdiocese of Cebu and the priests of the Our Lady of Consolation Parish-Recoletos will see the light and won’t let minor conflicts affect the strengthening of the Catholic faith in Inayawan. For a model, they can look Pope Francis’s way.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 21, 2014.

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