Monday, December 22, 2014

CHURCHES IN ISABELA: Ilagan, Tumauini, Cabagan and San Pablo


        In May 4, 1686, Ilagan was founded and missionaries converted the natives to Christianity. Ilagan was made the capital of Cagayan Valley when Brig. Manuel Sanchez Mira was then the governor of the whole territory. Ilagan was the scene of the 1763 revolt in Isabela led by Dabo and Marayag against the collection of tribute, the enforcement of tobacco monopoly committed by the friars during the Spanish occupation. Upon the separation of Isabela in May 1, 1856, Ilagan became the capital of the province.

            The Diocese of Ilagan was created on January 31, 1970. It was canonically erected on May 12, 1970 with the Most Rev. Francisco R. Cruces, D.D as its first Bishop. Its titular patron is St. Ferdinand. It is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. The natives of Isabela are: the Ybanags who inhabit the northern towns; and the Yogads and Gaddangs who are in Echague and Cauayan. Moreover, Ilocanos now comprise majority of the entire population of the province. Before its separation from the Diocese of Tuguegarao, which was one of the four new dioceses created on April 19, 1910, Isabela was part of the Diocese of Tuguegarao.

          The Cathedral Parish of St. Ferdinand comprises 54 barangays. Although the seat of the parish is still the 1870 Church in Centro Ilagan, a new and bigger Cathedral Church (and Bishops’ Residence) was built recently in Upi, Gamu, Isabela.

The new St. Ferdinand Cathedral of Ilagan

The new Cathedral is on a sprawling piece of land which also includes the Bishop's Residence at the back

Inside the Cathedral

Altar table

The Altar with stained glass windows on top

The stained glass above the altar

Baptistery near the main door of the Cathedral

The side aisles of the Cathedral

At the welcome arch of the city of Ilagan


         It was already past four o’clock in the afternoon when we arrived at Tumauini Church. It was just about 28 kilometers away from Ilagan. This was the first church of  Isabela that I visited thirty years ago.

          The first church of Tumuaini made of nipa and other light materials was built by the Dominican priest Francisco Nuñez in 1707, and dedicated to Saint Matthias. Tumauini became an independent parish from Cabagan in 1751.  The current church was built under the auspices of another Dominican, Domingo Forto, in 1783 and later continued by the priest Antonio Herrera in 1788. In constructing the church, Forto hired artisans from as far south as Pampanga. It was completed in 1805. The church was damaged during the Second World War and a faithful reconstruction programme followed, with undamaged parts of the church building retained.

            Tumauini is an ultra-baroque church known for its extensive use of red bricks on its exterior and interior ornamentations. Brick was used due to lack of good quality stones in the area. The church building is made entirely of ornately-designed red bricks in its façade and its interior walls. A closer look at the brick façade shows numbers and dates for the correct sequence of the bricks in Forto's design. The façade is flanked by two pseudo-Corinthian columns and niches, one located above the entrance and the two remaining larger niches on each side of the columns. The church's circular pediment is unique relative to all other churches built during the Spanish Era. Attached to the church's façade is a unique cylindrical belfry built in 1805. It is the only known Spanish colonial era cylindrical tower in the country. The tiered belfry notably resembles a wedding cake. The bell housed within has bullet holes but was never recast. The ruins of the church's convento  are located on the gospel side of the church.

Church facade with its weding cake-like belfry

The statue of St. Matthias stands in front the of church plaza

Interior of the church

The church altar

A detailed look of the apse of the altar with the crucifix

Various decorative pieces adorn the facade of the church


The town of Cabagan was founded in 1877 when the Spaniards decided to transfer the seat of the town to this present site which is just three kilometers from the original site. When the old abandoned Cabagan was resurrected as a town in 1888, it came to be known as Cabagan Viejo and the new town as  Cabagan Nuevo. During the American occupation, Cabagan Nuevo came to be called just as Cabagan and Cabagan Viejo was named as San Pablo. Both towns have the saint patron saint: St. Paul. 

Fronting the church is the public plaza with a carousel in the middle. 

SAN PABLO (Old St. Paul Church)

San Pablo was known before as Cabagan from 1646 to 1877 when the town was suppressed and transferred to another location. However in 1888, the town was once again resurrected to become known as Cabagan Viejo only to be renamed San Pablo during the American period.   San Pablo used to be the capital of Cagayan province with its church having one of the tallest belfries in the Valley. The church is said to have been constructed between 1706-1766.The church has been ruined and the facade damaged during World War II. At present only about half of the church is being used. 

Abandoned and ruined during the second world war, the facade still remains with its belfry which is one the tallest in the province. 

Upon entering the facade of the old church one finds an enclosed lawn as the present church only uses about half the length of the old church

The present entrance of the church

Part of the walls of the old church

The interior of the present church

The altar. The sacristan was kind enough to switch on  the lights for us to see the church interior.

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