Celebrating its 425 years as a parish in Cavite, the Silang Parish Council for Culture and Heritage gave a fitting tribute to the Silang Church through the publication and release of In Nomine, Iconographical and Historical Study of Silang Church.
Declared in 2016 as a National Culture Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines, its great age, integrity, distinction, value, purpose and representations, the church, its old convent and retablos are truly worthy of such honor. It is Silang’s greatest heritage treasure now shared with the whole nation.
The Latin phrase In Nómine (“in the name of”), which is an apt title for the book, as we are familiar to the introduction of the Sign of the Cross, “In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Santis, Amen.” Beyond the locution, its symbolism and utterance distinctively mark the Catholic fide et praxis. One can attribute the powerful phrase from the Scriptures. Written in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” the passage is a pronouncement of evangelization and baptism in the Trinitarian power of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Parallel to the study, the exposition of history and art was presented in the name of faith. Its rich local historical data and its architectural aesthetics particularly to Silang church were accounted in great detail. Iconographical symbols are named and identified giving the readers a sense of catechism but in the line of art appreciation.
Thematic with the title, the five chapters of the book were named after the Order of the Holy Mass in Latin: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
The first section Kyrie: Blessings on Native Land acknowledges God’s omnipresence and omnipotence over all dominions. The section sets the tone for the early accounts about Silang by the Jesuits in the turn of the 17th century. From the early missionary works of the Franciscans, Silang was entrusted to the Jesuit fathers upon the request of its encomendero, Capt. Diego Jorge de Villalobos in 1599. Various archival sources are presented as part of Silang’s rich historical foundation.
In the second chapter, Gloria: Created for God’s Greater Glory, the book focuses on the construction of a sturdy church commendable to the strength and fervor of the missionaries. They built a structure that withstood seismic and volcanic calamities and even the depredations of times past caused by man. It discusses how the Jesuits made a triumphant design for God’s great glory. A photo gallery of the church is also a highlight of this chapter.
Silang’s Marian devotion has played a major part in the local religious traditions. As discussed in the section of Credo: Inculcation and Devotion, Mother Mary serves as an inspiration for most Catholics. Particular to Silang, active devotion started as early as 1640 with its roots written in Murillo’s account on the wandering image. Devotion was further heightened by acquiring valuable statuaries related to the Marian cult. Based on a 1768 church inventory, the church had three images of Our Lady. Today, it is in honor of Our Lady of Candelaria, a model of simplicity, obedience, and motherly love.
The weight of the study focuses on the exposition presented in Sanctus: The Sacred Treasures. Silang’s retablos in the altar mayor and altar menores are considered as its greatest ecclesiastical heritage. Preserved in time and in great condition, the retablos were catalogued part by part, at every level, and saint per saint. Hagiographical and iconographical studies are presented as part of the study and appreciation for this more than 300-year-old work of art. The study serves as a catalogue of images and though I am not an architect by expertise, architectural references will be presented as part of this multidisciplinary study.
The last chapter is dedicated to the general assessment of the structure, inventory, and circumstances encountered by the church and its community. Much like a sacrificial lamb, most church properties were sold, looted, or stolen by scrupulous antique dealers and rich collectors. Silang was not spared. The final chapter, Agnus Dei: Issues and Sacrifices, deals with current account of property, renovation, conservation, and security issues.
The book also discusses current and future plans for the conservation and protection of the Silang Church. Active involvement of the parish administration, the local government, the academe, and the private sector is highly necessary to mobilize heritage programs. Through the Silang Parish Council for Culture and Heritage, various community sectors are gathered to discuss, plan, and implement projects and programs for the church, its retablos, and for the further deepening of devotion to the Blessed Mother through a dynamic cofradia.
Silang Church is also known at the Our Lady of Candelaria Parish that celebrates its annual fiesta every February 1 to 3. Built-in the 17th century, it is considered as the oldest extant church in Cavite and its retablos as the oldest collection of colonial art in the country. The book was published through a grant from the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, Inc., the first limited edition 100 copies were released last September.
Copies are available at the Parish Office that opens from Tuesday to Sunday every morning.