History of the ST. JOSEPH PARISH CHURCH in San Jose, Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines
HISTORY OF THE ST. JOSEPH PARISH CHURCH in SAN JOSE, TACLOBAN CITY Antonio C. Separa The history is now spacious, airy and comfortable church with the residents of San Joseare supremely blessed with, is a story of people’s continued and unceasing struggle for a decentplace where to commune with Almighty , sans doubt, fear no despair. It is a story of a peopledream comes true. The old church built sometime in 1904 under the inspiring leadership of Fr. Jose de laPena, was located near the present main gate. It was simply structure of first class round timberposts and corrugated GI roof and walls. Its mains door which faced the serene and untroubledCancabato byways 5 meters from the narrow street traversing the center of the lot whereusually passed the Letranco, the only passenger vehicles which the people ride in going to“sawang”, now “downtown”. At the middle of the right side when facing the altar, was thepulpet about 8feet above the floor on durable round post with winding stairs where the priestwould climb up to deliver his sermon. To the right stood the lonely kampanaryo where hang tobells, big and small, everyday to be pealed loudly and sonorously on tistive celebrations, or tobe tolled when a barriohanon pass away. At the left end was a hut where lived an old couple,Baltazar Costudio and Regina Alonzo, the church caretakers from whom the priest would getthe vestment for the mass tidily kept on ba-ol mundo. During fiestas children in their “bos-ogs”would gaily around munching roscas with enviable appetite while their mothers’ lamenly swingback and forth their abanikos inside. Beit “Bonafonte” or “La Invention”, the well rehearsedchoir would always be on the watch for the strokes of the batonof the conductor. Afterconscretion, immediately fallows the successive hissing and soaring of the kwetes and burstingof the bombas while the band briskly plays the Philippines National Anthe. This could be signalfor the “Ginang may bahay” to already prepare the table as the mass is about to end. To the front of the church would usually be erected by law abiding and God-fearing menin pintakasi, the entablado where the colorful and action-packed Hadi- Hadi, a drama depictingthe tribal wars between the Christian and the Moros of old, would be staged. The show wouldlast up to the wee hours of morning specially when thefellowin the giant’s garb would not liedown defeated as was in the plot because the prince hit him hard and he wanted to retaliate.For variation dramas like”Diri Daraga, Diri Balo, Diri Inasaw-an”, written by Dadoy Lucente andproduced and directed by Pedro Separa would be shown. Lighting was supplied just by pressurelamps, but, there were no “brown outs” Early in 1944, the Japanese Imperial Navy ordered the evacuation of San Jose inpreparation for the battled against the forces of Gen. Douglas MacArthur which was already
nearing the Philippines in fulfilment of his historic promise,”I shall return”. Houses weredemolished, including of the San Jose church. Trenches were dug around the barrio. The Japswere bent to drive back the Liberation Forces their fighting slogan being “Stand back forces ofevil or perish in combat”. After the smoke of the bursting shells of the cannons of giant battleship and bombs ofthe Hellcat dive bombers of the American Liberation Forces cleared, San Jose was pocked withdeep craters, the church site included. The situation was aggravated when the power shovels ofthe occupation troops dug up the place to use the coral sand to surface the muddy roadsdestroyed by the chained wheels of vehicles of wars of all sorts and types. The church site wasleft about 2 fathoms deep under water. In trickle, the barrio residents began returning from evacuation. Upon seeing the actualpicture, upon foreseeing the seeming impossibility of restoring San Jose to normal shape in theleast, because a mountain had to levelled down to fill the excavation a job which thegovernment would not undertake because the lots involved were private properties, thecommon question realadable from their faces was”Quo Vadis”? In May 1945’San Jose celebrated its first postwar fiesta. Churchless, the HermanoMayor, Flaviano Bato, had the mass said at the chapel of the Replacement Battalion of theOccupation Forces at sitio Cogon. In 1946, a son of San Jose, Hermogenes Daantos, who became Vice Mayor of Tacloban,initiated the construction of temporary church on a lot owned by Alejandro Pretencio.Theremasses were said by turns by the priest of Redemptorist Missionary and Sto. Niño Parish. Thepeople wanted to build a permanent church on Pretencio’s lot in exchange for the lot still underwater, swapping did not push through. Alejndro Pretencio wanted as condition, to collect thewar damage payment for the church lot to which the people did not agree. In 1956, Pedro D. Separa, PAL Manager and City Councillor of Tacloban City, was able tosway his colleagues to have the garbage of Tacloban City dumped at San Jose with priority atthe churches’ site. In the process, the whole bario was swarmed with flies. An epidemicoutbreak was likely, but the people were steadfast in their conviction that Saint Joseph won’tlet them down. After 5 years of patience, the bottom at last came up to the surface. Separa wasmade Hermano Mayor for 1961. A stage was constructed at the newly reclaimed area surfacewith truckloads of sea sand and a drama produced and directed by the Hermano Mayor himselfwas stage. Plans were then made to start construction of the church but, they were ended evenbefore they were begun. Reason? No sufficient funds.
When Cursillo Movement was in bloom in 1964,when practically all big and small shotsalike in government and private entities of Tacloban City, were one in heart and mind singingand shouting “Decolores”, the theme song and password of the movement, the construction ofthe San Jose church was made their pilot project. Without much ado, the cornerstone was laidby Msgr. Lino Gonzaga with a company of priest of the diocese, attended by Gov. NorbertoRomualdez and party, City Mayor Artemio Mate and party, District Engineer Bernardo Apostoland party and several professional and ordinary citizens of Tacloban City and nearby towns. Bythe enthusiasm expressed by the multitude, even a cathedral would not be impossible to build.It was young and energetic Fr. Almendra who was assigned in take charge of the project. All hisproblems about dump trucks to be use in hauling sand and / or gravel donated by constructioncompanies were answered by Antonio C. Separa, a cursilista and Chief of the LandTransportation Commission of Tacloban City. Despite omission after omission which seemed more of a blessing in disguise becausetime was needed really for the garbage to shrink, the church construction was startedDecember 10, 1966 with Engr.Salvador S. Santiago as Chairman of the Committee onconstruction. The plan was drawn by Roger Almaden, a B.S Arch. And the design was sort ofgothic with 3 spires at the front. Inquisitively following up the construction was Flaviano Bato,Hermano Mayor for 1967, a man who was always in a hurry. On April 16, 1967, Msgr.Manuel Salvador issued a decree creating the RedemptoristMissionary a regular parish, making San Jose under its jurisdiction. Active as always, theRedemptorist. Fathers at once started fund raising for the on-going construction. Bingo games,raffles and pledges were initiated. These priest were even content with accepting ten centavo(P0.10) a week from every house. One thing was sure. Every hard earned centavo would go to amaterial bought. No one man could by just his whims and caprices order the release of funds.Legal procedures in handling and disbursement of funds were followed. Not to be forgotten also are the CWL, ladies are though already in their twilight yearsbut are teeners from their looks, who have always uncomplainingly responded to calls for fundraising. It became incumbent upon the shoulders of the succeeding Hermanos to carry onunfalteringly the finishing of the church. Some Hermanos Pasado left visible structures and / orimprovements listed below while the rest just deposited with the Treasurer funds raised duringtheir hermanoship.
1971- Pedro Daantos – filled the church lot mountain soil and sea sand to level of thenational highway and demolished the spires and constructed building. 1973- Juan M. Separa-flooring. 1975- Vicente Ramirez – wall at the back of the altar 1976-Vicente Romualdez – 2 side altars. 1977- Alfredo Romualdez - surveyed and relocated the church lot. 1980- Salvador S. Santiago – facade. 1981- Vicente L. Ramo – concreted the road from the church to the lot and replaced allbroken glasses of the windows. 1982- Vicente Zata – belfry. 1983- Ildefonso Cinco – renewed the whole ceiling and installed round pipe supportalong the center aside. 1984- Napoleon Amor – landscaping. When San Jose was under the Redemptorist Parish, no baptism, wedding, last rites forthe dead, etc., were allowed at the barrio’s church. The reason was lack of priests. It was forthis reason the San Jose people clamored to be a parish. Thus, on November 16, 1986, San Jose was elevated as a quasi-Parish by ArchbishopPedro Dean. First Moises Apostol, a young priest from Burauen who is always on the go.Immediately, a convent was constructed and finished February, 1987. After a little more than ayear, San Jose at last was fully elevated as a parish. Early in 1988, Hermano Mayor Benjamin Goenlarged and reconstructed the belfry to accommodate the big bell donated by BejoRomualdez.The Pastoral Council renovated the altar and it’s ceiling for fiesta celebration.Also, aparish Formation Hall for seminars, meetings and social gatherings was immediately laid byBishop Filomeno Bactol.Intensive fund raising not only locally but also abroad wasconducted.After just little more than year, the parish Formation Hall was at least usable, andinitially blessed November, 1989. Age, salty breeze and current typhoons made disturbing leaks on the roof of the 23 yearold still unfinished church. Plans were immediately drawn and renovation started January,1990.Among others, the telemovie “Ang Pinakamagandang Luha” was a major fund raiser. In the fiesta of 1990, aside from the proceeds from the “Search for the Most PopularMatron”, Hermano Mayores, Atty.Ramon S. Santiago and wife Estrella, brought home P70 000in solicited and personal fund.This went a long way in the church’s roof renovation. The type oftruss used is what is called in the engineering parlance, “inverted truss”. What else could beinverted.
Side by side with the PPC Prexy, Napoleon Amor, in closely supervising the on-goingwork was Engr.Walderio Bonifacio, Hermano Mayor of 1991, who aside from funds raisedduring his hermanoship, donated 2 full span trusses. Everything come to its end, so they say, and when that time comes how we wish it weresooner, gone will be raffle draws, pledges, solicitations, and the like. The very thought alonethat we made it despite myriad odds, will, “make our every yesterday a dream of happiness andevery tomorrow a vision of hope”.