Historical marker unveiled in region’s oldest church

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Mati, Davao Oriental-- After the long wait, local residents and visitors, flocked to the church facade on July 16, as the 128-year-old San Salvador del Mundo church in the municipality of Caraga, Davao Oriental became the latest addition to the roster of national historic sites in the country.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines, (NHCP), diocese of Mati and the local government unit of Caraga unveiled the national historic marker in the oldest church in the region and probably Mindanao, which was also the parochial feast day of the parish.

It was indeed, a show of force, not separation, between the church and the state.


With 70 percent of the original component still emerging, the old church was an eye delight, adorned with flowers, balloons, and ribbons, the red carpet rolled down from the entrance of the main door of the church.

Inside, the solemnity of the church reverberated in four corners, strengthened with age and undying religiosity of all Caragenos.

Among the stunning features of the church are the two-centuries-old giant seashells where Holy water is available for those who make the sign of the cross before taking a seat and the baptismal font. The baptismal font was reportedly used during the Spanish era and was preserved and now kept at the Holy Door of San Salvador del Mundo Parish.

After the unveiling, Bishop Patricio Alo blessed the historic marker, followed by the turn-over of the certificate of transfer with Badoy reading the content of the certificate.

Highlighting the ceremony was the signing the memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the ownership of the marker and the responsibilities that goes along with attaining the prestige as a national historic site.

Executive Director Luduvico Badoy and Wilkie Deelumen signed the agreement for the NHCP, Mayor William Duma-an for the municipality of Caraga, and Bishop Alo for the Diocese of Mati, Davao Oriental governor Corazon Malanyaon and House Rep. Nelson Dayanghirang of the First District stood as witnesses.

Badoy expressed happiness that finally, the momentous day came for San Salvador del Mundo Parish, for the municipality and the people of Caraga.

"The big day came after the thorough validation of the NHCP because we have to follow the guidelines set by the Commission in declaring national historic sites. Elements of NHCP visited Caraga to verify, look into the church, and interviewed local residents. They submitted their recommendation to the Board, after which, the Board approved the declaration of the old church as a national historic site, as justified with the national historic marker. We recognize the joint efforts of the church and the local government unit of Caraga for declaration, and this is a long dream for them," he said.

He also stressed on the historical significance of San Salvador del Mundo, in Caraga not only for the province of Davao Oriental, but for the country as well, as it is where Christianity started in the eastern part of the country.

Bishop Alo earlier manifested gratitude for the unveiling, as it symbolizes the faith and journey of the people of Caraga, with the guidance of San Salvador del Mundo.

It was learned that for the marker installation and unveiling, the local government unit of Caraga allocated a hefty sum as financial assistance to the Parish for the preparations.

The big day became the reason of convergence of people from all walks of life, of ideas from different educational attainment, and ignited the desire to be back home for Caragenos now in the different parts of the country and the world.

Though they were in hideous longing to be home, but they made their presence felt through their assistance also, and moral support overflowed from the different social networking sites.

San Salvador del Mundo parish priest Fr. Uldarico Toruba was elated to be a part of the celebration, as he was just less than a month appointed as the new parish church. He felt the pride of all Caragenos, and in awe with the mystique of the old composition of the structure.

"With the marker now with us, we now have the responsibility to take care of the church. It is God’s grace that the church stands still with time, where we hold mass and other sacraments, and where people worship God. We really see remnants of the past with the materials, like the woods and the stones used for the edifice. This is the essence of recognizing the church as a national historic site, standing against time, and preserving the remnants of the past," he explained.

With the question raised on the interference of the government to an affair of the church, the local government unit of Caraga was quick to reply.

"As provided in the Constitution, local government units are mandated to take care of its historic sites and tourist attractions. And so we are doing just that. For this occasion, there is no separation of the church and state," Mrs. Sumalinab, municipal local government officer of Caraga, said.

Duma-an is also overwhelmed with the fate that Caraga now enjoys.
"I am blessed and fortunate enough that this thing happened in my incumbency. I am very grateful to the people who made this possible. My humble contributions to the realization of this dream is my legacy for Caraga. May the unveiling of the historic marker sparks the flame of our unity," he added.

For the Provincial Government, the event was a relevant undertaking to emphasize the thrust of the provincial government which is eco-tourism.

"This happened because of the joint effort of the church, and the local government unit of Caraga. In my talk with Fr. Toruba, we discussed on development plans for the church, on preserving and restoring it, without changing the major designs and materials. Then there is this plan to come up, perhaps, with an ecclesiastical museum, where all religious memorabilia will be placed, and all images of the saints," she disclosed.

After the declaration as a national historic site, the next move now is to pursue San Salvador del Mundo Parish as a national landmark.

"But the pursuit needs more justification, more documents. But the church and the local government unit can provide whatever is still missing. We are willing to help," Badoy said.

Fr. Roland Sayman, one of the five-man team organized by the Diocese of Mati as National Historical Committee for the San Salvador del Mundo Parish declaration, disclosed that there are more records to prove and comply with the requirements.

"We have many records with archeological facts already. This will be our next move, from a national historic site, we will pursue San Salvador del Mundo as a national landmark. We have reasons to ask for this," he said.

For now, San Salvador del Mundo church and the local government of Caraga is savoring the recognition, and are in profound gratitude. It will eventually boast of its metamorphosis, from the influence of the Spanish occupation, to the liberty of development it now embraces. (Neela G. Duallo)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 23, 2012.

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