APALIT - In a bid to preserve the centuries-old parish church in this municipality, the Parish Pastoral Council and local government here are meeting with renowned a preservations group which will be leading the million-worth project.

The St. Peter the Apostle Parish is a Neo-Renaissance-style church built in 1597 and is known as the home of “Apung Iru,” a moniker given by Kapampangans to St. Peter the Apostle.

More than five centuries since it was built, the Church has undergone various architectural rehabilitation and renovation to protect its structural integrity as well as improve its features.

One of the Church's major renovations was done between 1886 to 1890 under Rev. Antonio Redondo after it experienced a major earthquake in 1863.

However, due to antiquity, some devotees and parishioners are worried about the integrity of the structure after small debris fell recently and minor cracks became visible at the brick walls.

With this, the Parish Pastoral Council led by Rev. Fr. Emiliano Dizon and local government led by Mayor Peter Nucom immediately consulted experts to work on the concern as well as preserve the history and heritage of the Church.

According to Municipal Administrator Glenn Danting, the working committee has already met with Escuela Taller which is known in conserving some of the oldest churches in the country including Our Lady of Abandoned Church in Sta. Ana, Manila and Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church in Malate, Manila and parts of the historic Fort Santiago.

He stressed that the group will be in-charge of conducting a study on the condition of the structure, both physical features and its stability for safety and security of parishioners.

Danting said that Escuela Taller will initially gather evidence from soil testing which will examine the integrity and capability of the structure especially when hit by earthquakes.

An engineering design system will also be conducted to check the renovations and other alterations made from the original features of the building, added Danting.

"From the study, ika-classify kung ano dapat at kailangan gawin sa simbahan to preserve its heritage as well secure the safety of devotees and parishioners," he said.

Danting stressed that if the building passed the soil test, the rehabilitation will take less time as it will indicate if the structure can withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake and if only minor works will be needed.

He added that the Parish Pastoral Council and the local government will also deliberate if they will retain the present look of the church or restore it to its original form.

"It is for the working committee to decide especially that the National Historical Commission is contemplating to declare it as national treasure," he disclosed.

He added that funds collected by the Fiesta Executive Committee from 2015 to 2016 which sums up to some P5-million to P6-million will be used for the said project.

Meanwhile, Danting said that the parish church may be closed for the celebration of the nine-day Christmas mass novena to give way for the rehabilitation inside the building.

He stressed that the measure will be done for the security of parishioners and to avoid any untoward incidents if falling of debris will recur.

"This is just a precautionary measure at wala naman dapat ika-panic. This is just to protect parishioners and devotees of Apung Iru, especially that Simbang Gabi is coming," he noted.

Danting said that the Church may celebrate masses for the meantime outside the building or other safer place for the benefit of the public.

"Ang Church naman, physical structure lang. Yung faith ng tao nasa puso natin and it can be brought anywhere, kahit sa ilalim lang ng puno makakapag-celebrate tayo ng mass," he added.

Danting also expressed his hope that the result of the study will be positive so as not to affect the annual three-day celebration of Apung Iru festivity where thousands of devotees flock to the parish church.