Bastion of History: Saint Anne Parish Church

The present day church in inner Taguig celebrates occasions as colorful as its past

December 10, 2015 by Rome Jorge

Just a few kilometers away yet a world apart from the gleaming trendy shops of High Street is a small old parish church nestled in the quaint narrow street of General Luna across Plaza Quezon and tucked just behind the Taguig River. Merely brushing against its moss covered adobe walls causes the delicate surface to crumble into calcite dust and gravel. Yet these thick buttressed walls have withstood wars, revolutions and earthquakes. Its steps have been graced by first President Emilio Aguinaldo during the country's struggle for independence and its secret tunnels part of the city's lore. Its facade of stone may be as gray as the mane of its silver-haired devotees and war veterans, but from its gates usher colorful fluvial parades and processions of saints.

Named after Saint Anne—the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ curiously never once mentioned in the Bible and the patroness of the childless and lost articles—the Santa Ana Church is a bastion of history in Taguig that harkens to the city's colonial history.

Storied past

Augustinian friars first established the parish on April 25, 1587 after Taguig was decreed a pueblo of the province of Manila and placed under Kapitan Juan Basi. Conquistadors most often built their churches on top of the indigenous pagan temples they demolished, their modus operandi of subjugation in all their colonies, though there is currently no archaeological or archival evidence of such in Santa Ana. But it is easy to see why either Babaylan priestesses or Spanish friars would choose a riverside knoll as their place of worship.

As old as the present church is, having been built in 1883, it is but the latest structure among several that have stood on that very same spot. The first church built in 1609 was ruined in the earthquake of 1645. The church was rebuilt in 1848, only to be destroyed by an earthquake once again in 1882. According to oral tradition, the original structure was an impressive sight to behold with a bell tower that soared and that its humongous church bell is now somewhere hidden beneath the river. [According to stories of our forefathers passed down through generations, at the time, the church bell was of the Saint Anne's Parish was enormous and its bell tower was very tall. Their aim was to spread the faith and to make the parish the center worship around Laguna Bay. The bell was said to have into the river during an earthquake and was never recovered.]

This according to the chapter entitled Maikling Kasaysayan ni Santa Ana of the book A Gift of Faith 400 Years: Quadricentinial (1587-1987) of St. Anne Parish.

The account goes on to claim, “Marami rin ang nagsasabing may mahiwagang balon at lungga sa kinaroroonan ng kumbento. [Many say there is a supernatural well and tunnel on the site of the convent.]”

The Simboryo, literally meaning “dome” in Filipino, is an elevated mortuary chapel at the heart of Santa Ana Church's cemetery that is crowned by a cupola 12 meter in diameter, hemmed by a balustrade, and highlighted by a flaring staircase. Built in 1700, it is older than the present day church, having survived the earthquake the prior church has not, but has undergone minor repairs in 1980 and in 1993.

During the revolutionary war of Philippine Independence, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, first President of the Republic, set foot at Santa Ana Church. This according to one of the enemies themselves, Augustinian Friar Tomas Espejo, who on New Year's Day, 1897 wrote about encountering the general as he and his band of freedom fighters reconnoitered the towns along Laguna de Bay.

The Apuntes Historicos de la Provincia Agustiniana reads: “The first group of rebels arrived. They seemed to be peaceful. As soon as they saw the group in the tower, they told them to remain calm and hastened to assure them that no one would molest them, that their chief General Aguinaldo, ordered that they be respectful and not cause anyone any harm... Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo accepted the invitation proffered by Fr. Tomas Espejo, the parish priest of Taguig, and appeared that evening at the convent accompanied by his generals, brigadiers and colonels. He is said to have greeted them affably and courteously. They offered him a seat which he accepted and they talked for more than an hour regarding certain matters.”

The Santa Ana Church has gained recognition by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the National Museum of the Philippines, and National Historical Commission of the Philippines for its for its importance in Philippine history and culture earning a plaque on the site July 25, 1987 from the Historical Commission no less.

Pageantry today

Having survived earthquakes, revolution, and war, the present day church of Santa Ana now celebrates occasions as colorful as its history.

Sister Nena Ochoa from Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Anne, Bukluran coordinator of San Juan de Sahagun, explains that Santa Ana Parish is composed of five communities or buklurans, each with its own patron saint. “Five buklurans have different saints: bukluran of San Juan de Sahagun, in St. John de Sahagun, bukluran of San Bartolome, Tuktukan, bukluran of San Felipe in Sta. Ana, bukluran of San Sebastian in Wawa, and bukluran of Sto. Nino, in Sto. Nino.”

Ochoa notes, “The most number of people come here during the Feast Day of St. Anne. The day before the feast day, July 25, we have a procession of the five bukluran. On the feast day, July 26 of the year ,we have a ceremony inside the church and after that we have a 'pagoda' or fluvial parade.”

Also celebrated on either February or March is the Piyesta ng Pasasalamat or Feast of Thanksgiving. “We have nine days of novena and every night we have shows. Then on the feast day itself there's a mass and even many more shows. The shows include fireworks and guest appearances of celebrities. This is done with the help of various organizations and the municipal government,” she reveals.

A church tested by time and celebrated by faith, Saint Anne's Church in Taguig continues to anchor the city to its rich history and serves as the focal point for its many colorful traditions.

Trivia and lore of Santa Ana Church

  • Santa Ana Church is located on General Luna across Plaza Quezon behind the Taguig River.
  • Augustinian friars first established the parish on April 25, 1587.
  • The church has rebuilt several times due to the earthquakes of 1645 and 1882
  • According to legend, the church bell is now somewhere hidden beneath the Taguig River after the earthquake of 1882 felled the belltower.
  • The Simboryo,“dome” in Filipino, was built in 1700 and is older than the present day church.
  • According to lore, a secret tunnel leads from the Church to a convent and a magical well.
  • President Emilio Aguinaldo visited the church during the Philippine War for Independence New Year's Day, 1897 as his freedom fighters reconnoitered Laguna de Bay.
  • Saint Anne is the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ, patroness of the childless and lost articles.
  • The Feast Day of St. Anne happens on July 26 and is marked by a fluvial parade of “pagodas” (floats) as well as a regatta of fishing boats on Taguig River.

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