(Feature) Dagupan produced 2 Catholic icons in its 400-year history

December 1, 2014 9:31 am 

By Leonardo V. Micua

DAGUPAN CITY, Dec. 1 (PNA) — Unknown to many, Dagupan — in its 400 years as a parish — produced two martyrs who are now being recognized all over the world as among the icons of the Catholic Church.

The old enlarged black and white photographs of the two were posted conspicuously inside the St. John Metropolitan Cathedral on November 30 for all to see, right at the start of the 400th jubilee celebration of Dagupan as a parish, which old church records showed traced its humble beginning in 1614.

The thousands of faithful who gathered in the cathedral for the Sunday mass would not have known these two men had not the priest who read the homily written by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas entitled "We have seen a great light!" not gestured his hands and introduced the two.

The two are Blessed Jose Garcia Diaz and Beato Candido Fernandez Garcia, who both served Dagupan as pastors but when later reassigned in Spain to continue their ministry, were martyred in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War persecution.

They ministered in Dagupan as teachers in the Colegio de San Alberto Magno, the first sectarian school in Dagupan once located in Calmay when it was still connected with downtown Dagupan by a bridge that spanned across the Calmay River till it was swept away by a big flood in 1934 and never reopened.

Both Beato Diaz and Beato Garcia are now raised among the blessed in the Catholic Church.

Archbishjop Villegas, in his homily calling the two as "the blessed among us", said "both did not use fishing nets to catch fish but instead used their golden tongues and sterling lives to win souls for the Lord."

The 400th year of Dagupan with John the Evangelist as the patron saint "beckons us to follow the path of the saints because indeed that is who we are," said Archbishop Villegas in that homily.

At the time of its founding as a parish by the Dominican, Dagupan which was still known as Bagnotan, was placed under the patronage of Saint John the Evangelist, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ and the younger brother of another apostle James. The two were sons of Zebeede and Salome.

John and James were fishermen like their father. They were mending their nets near the Gazareth River when the Lord called them to follow Him, the bible said.

Historical records showed it was the Agustianian friars who planted the first cross in Bagnotan when they made it as a "visita" in the year 1590. Not long after in 1613, the Augustinians passed on the spiritual care of Bagnotan to the Dominicans who formally accepted it as a "domus" in the Dominican Chapter of 1614 under the patronage of Saint John the Evangelist.

At the time of its founding as a "domus", Bagnotan was still mostly a swampy area teeming with an aquatic palm called "nipa" whose leaves when dried can be used as roofing of houses and from whose sap or fluid was made by the natives into a fine vinegar and ultimately into a concoction that tastes like today's gin.

Historians said it was from its estuaries connected to the Lingayen Gulf where Spanish Captain Juan de Salcedo, nephew of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, traveled by boats while he and his men were hunting down the Chinese corsair Limahong who fled up north after his defeat in the epic Battle of Manila, which also marked the start of the colonization of the province known at that time as "Luyag na Caboloan" in the name of the Spanish crown.

There was no account of the patronage of Bagnotan in 1590 when it was still a "visita" under the Agustinians. It was only in the Dominican chapter of 1614 that the name San Juan Evangelista de Bagnotan appeared for the first time.

But as a domus in 1614, Bagnotan was still dependent on the bigger church Calasiao, a town in the south. From being a simple domus of the Dominican Fathers in 1614, Dagupan metamorphosed to become the melting pot of Pangasinan and a city in 1947.

It is now the seat of the Metropolitan See of Lingayen Dagupan headed by Archbishop Villegas, also president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The homily of Archbishop Villegas recounts the historic events that Dagupan went through in its 400- year struggle when it said:: "Washed away by floods and shaken by earthquakes; burned by revolutionaries and razed by war, Dagupan stands like a living proof of the fidelity of the Lord who promised His people".

In that homily, the Archbishop said, although Dagupan through the years has become the hub of business and industry in Pangasinan, "our city is still known by our Dagupan bangus and our best industry is still fishing". As a fishing community, "we are called like Saint John our patron to follow Him, no longer by abandoning our nets but this time by using our nets to become saints."

"We can write the Gospel not with pen on paper but through fidelity of life and courageous witnessing in the midst of society. We can be saints from the river and the fish market by keeping in mind that the fruits of our rivers are not ours to devour but to care for and nurture so that future generations may enjoy them even more'" the archbishop said.

He continued: " We can become saints as we invest in the packaging and marketing of bangus by allowing the tenets of social justice and business ethics to prevail in all our transactions. We can become saints like John the fisherman by keeping our rivers clean and free from pollution as responsible stewards of God’s creation. Saint John is not just a patron who prays for us; he is also a model." (PNA)



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