Monday, March 25, 2013

How Zambales towns celebrated Pope Pius VIII's election in 1829 a year later

The solemn drama and pageantry at the Vatican City came to a jubilant culmination on St. Joseph’s feast day with the installation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.  All the events that led to this celebration were brought to all corners of the world, Catholic and non-, through the digital eyes and ears of instant media on real time. 

Sound and image bytes from live media coverage brought the electoral process in the Sistine Chapel to public viewing globally.  Catholics were somehow participating in the making of their church history as they held prayer vigils for the election of the 266th Supreme Pontiff from among the 115 multi-racial cardinals gathered under the canopy of Michaelangelo paintings of the Sistine Chapel; waited in front of their television screens for the white smoke, the clangour of the St. Peter’s Basilica bells, the Habeamus Papam announcement, and the appearance of the Pope-elect at the balcony.   In synch, the faithful worldwide cheered with those gathered at the Square when Pope Francis, first Jesuit and first non-European head of the church, emerged for his greetings, message and prayer for the city and the world, urbi et orbi.

This real time jubilation was impossible before telegraphy and the Morse Code.  Submarine communication cables linked America and Europe for the first time in 1867.  That same year, the Spanish authorities laid down the telegraph lines in the country.  However, the submarine cables to Hongkong, our link to the outside world, were completed only in 1880. 

There were no direct news feed from the Vatican during all those years that the Philippines was a Spanish colony.  In the ecclesiastical timeline, those were under the papacy of Pius IV to Leo XIII, the 225th and 256th pope, respectively.  News came stamped with the royal seal from Madrid to the Governor Superior or Capitan-General, who was also Vice-Patron of the country when it came to church matters.  Whether these seeped down to the faithful in the towns depended on him, the Archbishop, the Corregidor or  Alcalde Mayor (provincial governor) and the parish priests.   The Filipinos then had only the Doctrina Christiana, the Scriptures in the words of the priests and customary religious rituals to moor their Christian faith.   Their church was the visible priest and religious structures and the audible bells signifying births, weddings, deaths and divine rites of Sundays and other days of obligation.   They could have known of an archbishop above their cura parocco; but the deaths and succession of popes could have been odd intrusions into their comfortable understanding of church affairs.

Strangely, there was a late celebration of the installation of Cardinal Francesco Xaverio Castiglione as Pius VIII, the 253rd in the papacy, on 31 March 1829, upon the death of his predecessor Leo XII in February. 

It was already history when the royal order of King Ferdinand VII dated 16 May 1829 reached the Capitan-General in Manila either by the end of that year or in early January 1830.  The Archbishopric of Manila, the See of the dioceses of Cebu, Nueva Caceres (Naga) and Nueva Segovia (Vigan), was vacant ever since Hilarion Diez, OSA, died on 07 May 1829, and a cabildo or cathedral chapter was in charge of ecclesiastical matters. 

The king called for the exaltation of the new pope.  Capitan-General Mariano Ricafort issued a superior decree to the local governments on 18 January 1830 echoing the royal instructions, and asking for the submission of compliance reports from the gobernadorcillos.  

We saw the compliance reports from several towns of Zambales at the National Archives. We suppose that similar documents might have been submitted from other provinces esp. those under the archdiocese of Manila.  

The gobernadorcillos* first cited in their ‘certified and true testimony’ the regulatory bases of their reports: the royal order from Madrid and the superior decree from Manila, copy of the latter coming into their hands from the Corregidor on 17 February, stemming from the ‘pontification of Cardinal Castiglione who chose the name Pius VIII’, which they disseminated to their people through the usual bandillo or town crier for three days in the last week of that month.

The report of Don Nicolas Sison, gobernadorcillo of Masinloc.
Finally, from the short compliance reports, we gather that all the streets and windows of houses in the towns of Cabangan, Masinloc, Sta. Cruz, Subic and Uguit (now Castillejos) were illuminated for three consecutive nights, from the first to the third day of March. On the last day, the solemn Te Deum was sung in the church with the principalia and the common people in attendance.   In the capital town of Iba, the Corregidor attended the church service together with his minor officials of justice.  In Uguit, being a visita of Subic, there was no priest to say the mass; hence, the people prayed the rosary.

One line said that they have stopped mourning, which could have meant for Leo XII.    The lights and the Te Deum were for Pius VIII, but his was a short reign; he died at the end of the year on 31 December 1830. 

We have not seen any documented jubilation event afterwards.  If ever the Filipino catholic was ordered to celebrate the installation of Pope Gregory XVI on 06 February 1831, that could not have happened until late in the year or in early 1832.

It would be very interesting to see how the Filipino catholics got their news of a papal election when this was first carried by submarine cables and then the radio waves.


*  Gobernadorcillos in 1830:
  1. Sta. Cruz:  Don Juan de San Antonio
  2. Masinloc:  Don Nicolas Sison
  3. Palauig:  Don Andres de San Juan
  4. Iba:  Don Vicente Fernandez
  5. Botolan:  Don Domingo Felix
  6. Cabangan:  Don Miguel Sto. Tomas
  7. Uguit:  Don Theodorico Perez
  8. Subic:  Don Clemente Mendigoren


Ereccion de Pueblos, Zambales (1826-1862).  National Archives of the Philippines. 

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