The Christianization of Malolos. After the Spanish -nssionaries evangelized Pampanga, the ans went to Bulacan, starting with Calumpit. Fray Diego Ordoņez de Vivar and his companions landed at Kanalate in 1580 where they built a small chapel. Fray Diego Ordoņez is recorded as having established the first Christian communities. Later they moved further in land and built a bigger chapel in Kaingin. The Augustinian Chapter of June 11, 1580 accepted Malolos as a house of the Order. The parish was established under the advocation of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. In 1673, it was established as parish with Fr. Francisco Lopez as its first parish priest. It was also on that year that the town of Malolos was established. The construction of the stone church was started when the barrios of Atlag and Pinagbakahan were being and bridges connected the barrios of Atlag, Mambog, Santiago and Liyang to each other.
The Construction of the Church. The first convent and church, probably built of light materials, were finished in 1591, as the Catalogo attest. Fr. Roque Barrionuevo reconstructed and enlarged the buildings in 1691. In 1707, the principal of the town petitioned Governor General Domingo Zabalburu de Echevarria to free the inhabitants of Malolos from rendering personal service and to allow them instead to work in the construction of the church. Fr. Fernando Sanchez reconstructed the buildings with strong materials in 1734; Fr. Juan de Meseguer completed the construction in 1740; and Fr. Manuel Baceta applied the finishing touches in 1744.
The church and the convent, therefore are two regularly constructed edifices. But a fire destroyed these edifices in 1813. Fr. Melchor Fernandez started reconstruction work in 1819. He constructed the bridge connecting Malolos with Barasoain. He also restored the convent and added some arches to the front and one more story to the belfry to accommodate the installation of the clock. It was consecrated by Francisco Alban, bishop of Nueva Segovia (Vigan) on October 18, 1826. At that time, it was the only church consecrated in the archipelago. The buildings were severely damaged during the earthquake of 1863; the walls cracked and the church and convent collapsed from the middle downwards. Fr. Ezequiel Merino restored them between the years 1859 to 1872. The convent was damaged again during the earthquake of 1880 and Fr. J. M. Tombo restored it in 1883. Fr. Felipe Garcia completed its restoration.
The Convento becomes the Presidential Palace. It was on the noon of September 10, 1898 when General Emilio Aguinaldo and his men arrived at the town of Malolos. From then on until March 29, 1899, when they forced to evacuate to Gapan, Nueva Ecija, General Aguinaldo used the convent as the Palacio Presidential (presidential palace) of the first Philippine Republic. On March 31, 1899 (Good Friday), while Gen. Aguinaldo - "en were fleeing from the Americans, he ordered Gen. Antonio Luna to set the convent and the church (including its silver altar) on fire as part of their strategy called "scorched-earth policy," where everything will be rendered usless. The town was captured after a bloody fight.
The Church Rises Again. During the American occupation, the cathedral and the convent were rebuilt gradually from 1902 to 1936.
When Msgr. Pedro Abad became parish priest, the cathedral underwent a renovation. The windows were enlarged and lowered, araņas were installed and the patio was spruced up. Through efforts of Ignacio Adriano, the baptistery was built under the supervision of Engr. Alfredo Aldaba and the late Cardinal Rufino Santos, blessed it on February 28, 1954. The pews were acquired through the efforts of Msgr. Marcelino Montemayor in 1957. The roof was replaced and a steel rafter was installed during the time of Msgr. Francisco Domingo (1955-61).
The Church becomes a Cathedral. The church underwent further renovations and repairs in preparation for its inauguration as the Diocesan Cathedral, and the installation of its first Bishop, Most Rev. Manuel del Rosario D. D. on March 11, 1962. In the advent of the reforms brought by Vatican II, the old altar was torn down and Msgr. Virgilio Soriano commissioned a new one in 1967. A statue the Immaculate Conception donated byAmparoBautista-Julian was also placed at the top of the bell tower. Stained glass windows, crafted by Krautt, were also installed in the upper part of the cathedral's facade: the Immaculate Conceptio patterned after Murillo's painting; the driving away of Adam and Eve from Paradise and the Annunciation. The communion rail was also dismantled and the sanctuary was renovated when the cathedral was consecrated during the tenure of its second residential Bishop, Most Rev.Cirilo Almario Jr. D. D. on December 4, 1976. Stained glass windows with the images of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes and the Miraculous Medal were also placed at opposite windows in the sanctuary. Celing Marasigan, a religious painter from nearby Paombong, also improved the paintings of the four evangelists. The old convento, which by this time was only half the size of the original, was reconstructed and expanded to accommodale the Bishop's residence, Chancery office and parish convent. This reconstruction of the historic Malolos convent was chaired by Dr. Johnny Reyes in preparation for the 400 years Christianization of Malolos.
The Present. During the lime ol Msgr. Macario Manahan from 1990-92, the adoration chapel was built in coordination with the Handugan Foundation. The social hall at the sacristy was erected. The old baptistery was turned into a mortuary chapel and a crypt below the main altar was constructed. When Bishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, D.D. became Bishop and Moderator of the Team Ministry, renovations and repairs were also done in the cathedral church and the patio. The adoration chapel and the parish hall were refurbished. The patio underwent renewed repairs and re-painting. The lampposts were fixed and rehabilitated. Since it was the Centennial Year celebration, Bulacan Gardens offered to landscape the garden surrounding the patio.
Style of the Church. The predominant feature of the Cathedral church is semi-circular arch in its lower part that somehow suggests a Baroque influence. The ornamentation is moderate; the massing is well balanced and the symmetrical movement of the columns and openings almost Neo-Classic. The facade is divided by single and coupled Doric columns in three segments, and is dominated by the large semi- circular arches of the openings of the first level, and the smaller ones superimposed on the second level which are alternately semi-circular and segmented. The triangular pediment strongly outlined by heavily projecting broken cornices is topped by a sort of acroteria in the center and by torchlike finials. A statued niche flanked by fluted pilasters topped by a segmented canopy crowns the stilted frame of the center window. Triglyphs decorate the frieze and a stylized Augustinian emblem decorates the center of the pediment. The over-all impression is one of the neatness of line, counterbalanced by the dramatic circular depthless of the openings.
In Commemoration of the Centennial Year. One of the tangible remembrances that remain of the Philippine revolution of 1898 is a century-old tree named Kalayaan Tree (Siar or Peltrophorum pterocarpum). On Septembel 13, 1975, it was fenced and an inscription was placed to honor it as a historic relic through the efforts of the Rotary, Club of Malolos, the Bulacan Historical Society and the Del Pilar Foundation, Inc. On its marker is written: This centuries-old tree has been a living witness to many historic events that transpired on this hallowed plaza. For instance when General Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy used the nearby convent as Palacio Presidencial from September 10, 1899 to March 29, 1899, he transacted many affairs ofstate u nil' the shade of this tree.
Location. The town ofMalolos is situated by one of the estuaries of the same name, whose waters often flood the surrounding areas reaching as far as Paombong. Paombong bounds it on the north; Sta. Isabel and Barasoain on the south; Bulacan on the west.
Pope Leo XIII's courageous statement on May 15, 1891 prophesied the role of the Malolos Church as site of the First Philippine Republic's capital towards becoming a Cathedral and now a Basilica Minore: "Once the passion for revolutionary change was aroused, it was bound to follow sooner or later that eagerness for change would pass from political sphere over into the related field of economics."
Revolution exorcised the intimate association of the church building the Augustinian friars' oppressive maltreatment of the natives. When the edifice was consumed by flames on March 31, 1899, it had the chance to be raised up by native people's cooperative work turning the whole enterprise into community's solidarity project. Solidarity, in the words of Pope John Paul II on his 1987 encyclical on the social concern of the Church, is the supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God and what we Christians mean by the word communion. As sacrament of the peoples' solidarity, the church as building and community is now bound with the economic life of the natives. Having been freed from the stifling and dehumanizing Spanish Royal Patronage, the natives of the site of the First Philippine Republic rose up to the call of nobility to join hands in attaining self-sufficiency in obtaining food, housing, education, and political governance.
This was, in fact what Pope Leo XIII's successor, Pope St. Pius X, stimulated in his program of fighting the French Jansenistic elitism that only the nobility could be fully active members of Christ's body because they had the leisure to pray the whole day before the receiving the communion by way of preparation and to pray for another whole day in thanksgiving for the reception of the Bridegroom of Christian soul. It was not a matter of mere care for soul but for the whole human personality in rapport with the people that early and frequent access to communion was prescribed for all baptized people. In building up their solidarity, it was Pope St. Pius X's fervent desire that Catholic workers will show the fulfillment of what his predecessor envisioned: the unity of the laborers as the grains coalesced to bring forth one bread to be shared at the banquet table of life. In response to this invitation, the parishioners of Malolos in 1910 published the first Catechism in Tagalog to help the people to frequently share in Holy Communion. While in the same year, the Catholic workers of Belgium begun to hold Dialogue Masses with the officiating priests facing the people on a free standing altar table, it will take fifty five years for the parish community of Malolos to experience that manner of celebrating the Holy Mass. Thus, on March 7, 1965, ahead of the Archdiocese of Manila, Bishop Manuel del Rosano ordered that in the Malolos Cathedral and all churches of Bulacan, there should be a free standing altar table for the community Mass prescribed by Pope Paul VI. This move was further given its booster by the Pope when, in 1967, he commanded that the National Congress Rural Development be held in the Philippines so that bishops such as Msgr.Manuel P. del Rosario, who understood the Second Vatican Council as socio- economic program may be able to convert the conservatives like Rufino Cardinal Santos, who were still maitaining the feudalistic notion of the Church solely concerned with the salvation of souls.
While still delaying the full implememtation of the socio-economic renewal of the Church, Cardinal Santos chose to ignore the Commission for Tagalog Translation organized by Bishop Alfredo Obviar and his trusted worker Msgr. Ricardo Vidal by letting Msgr. Jose Abriol to sabotage the democratic process of coming up with suitable Tagalog liturgical texts which incorporate the appropriate expression of the people's aspiration for socio-economic development. This was precisely the point of Msgr. Vidal when he became the coadjutor-bishop of Malolos from 1971-1973. He followed-up Bishop del Rosario's struggle against the unwillingness of the Archdiocese of Manila to go beyond the asomatic and transcendental view of Christian life. Up to now, the struggle goes on, because the clergy of Malolos are fully convinced that the same sacraments are not mere devotions like the novenas in Baclaran and Quiapo but embodiments of the Christian socio-economic and political agenda of the Church in the service of Christ's care for the welfare of the world.
What Bishop Cirilo Almario did in July 1993 when he started the move towards the designation of the Malolos Cathedral as Basilica Minore was to crown the historical event which set the process of the role of Malolos Church to be the ferment of the revolutionary transformation of Catholicism into what it was envisioned by St. Paul in his canonical letters to the early Christians who were to live not just as devoted admirers of Christ but as active members of his one body performing his works of service and love.
Bishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, O.C.D., D.D., faithfully tries to implement the mandte of Pope John Paul II in the fulfillment of what Malolos Cathedral Church always stood for, namely, revolution against inhumanity, union to stand for the divine dignity of the natives, and communion in serving Christ in the poor and the needy. In raising funds for the Malolos Basilica's work of serving the people, Bishop Tirona challenges the generosity of everyone and the ethusiasm of the youth. He is intent on making the new evangelization, which Pope John Paul II sees as the task now in the forthcoming Third Millennium, become the collaborative enterprise of all who are now motivated by the awareness of being participants in the royal dignity as dwellers in the noble edifice of the Basilica. New evangelization is the continuation of what our patrioin forebears undertook To experience that we are no longer vassals of foreign colonizers but as dignified bearers of Christ's character in all that we do in planting and harvesting, in building and fostering our homes, in organizing and governing our Filipino society, we are presenting ourselves to the Father in our status as Christ's Body imbued by His Spirit of love. This, as St. Augustine said in his book City of Cod, is the sacrifice we offer at the altar of our Malolos Basilica.
FORMER PARISH PRIESTS
OF THE PARISH OF OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
(Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception)