A Visit to San Juan de Dios Church and Parochial Museum

San Juan de Dios Church and Parochial Museum, Barangay Poblacion ,  San Rafael – Bulacan province

San Rafael Poblacion Church is also known as San Juan De Dios Parish

The town of San Rafael had its humble beginning as part of the Hacienda de Buenavista ( now part of San Ildefonso )  under the San Juan de Dios brothers. Though belonging to that religious group, the place was however administered by the Augustinian friars who established the mission in 1750.

curve facade

The church architecture is a classic example of Partido Baroque architecture in the Philippines. The style, popular from the early to mid-19th century, boasts of a curved facade as opposed to the flat ones typically found in other Baroque churches in the country.

historical marker

interior of the church

church altar

The church facade and interiors were painted in pastel colors,  looks bright and pleasing to the eyes, but it had a grim and sad story to tell behind those pastel colored walls and facade . The church and the nearby parochial college tells a different story .

Colegio de San Juan de Dios with century- old acacia trees

We also took some photos of Colegio de San Juan de Dios ( the college used to be known as Saint Paul’s School) .The school premises had several large acacia trees with dischidias or manaog ka irog which cling to their massive trunks.   When some of us took the first glanced at the structure, we felt some eerie  feelings and felt that someone is looking at us . According to one of the locals , parts of the present school used to be part of the public cemetery .

 artist depiction  of battle of San Rafael inside the church 

Local historian and town folks  said that bodies of those people which numbered from 800 to more than 1,000 people were killed on November 30, 1896 . There was a town fiesta and people were at the church premises when the massacre took place, they are mostly innocent civilians , children and people who came for the fiesta .

church bell cast from Hilario Sunico foundry in Binondo

San Juan de Dios Parish Museum / San Rafael Parochial Museum or Museo San Rafael

The Museo San Rafael was officially opened on September 29, 2006 during the feast of San Rafael, coinciding with the 256th founding anniversary of the town. Besides the main hall of the convent, three rooms now house different exhibits.

 saint images and ecclesiastical items used by the church 

We took some time exploring the church and also the parish museum.  Mr. Chael Santos had negotiated prior hand  with the parish priest , Our tour group was allowed entry at the parish museum .

church vestments

There is also a place where the parish museum had an interesting display of church vestments .

period costumes on display

There were some period costumes on display reflecting a gentle era of the town

old retablo

sala set made from wood

The public can visit the parish museum during office hours but the staffs and parish priest must be inform several days prior to the visit. One must also be very careful in their steps,  since parts of the wood flooring is weak and were eaten by termites .

Our group was allowed to enter another exhibit are which they call museo ng bayan exhibit , only 3 to 4 people were allowed to enter since the floor is not that stable .

Story of Crispin , Basilio and Noli Me Tangere :

People from the town believes that Dr. Jose P. Rizal  was inspired to create the characters Sisa, Basilio and Crispin (in his novel Noli Me Tangere)  published in Berlin in 1887. Noli Me Tangere and its sequel, El Filibusterismo, exposed abuses of the Spanish friars and earned for Rizal the ire of the Spanish authorities.  The novel was said to have been adapted to the real-life story in San Rafael during the late 19th century . Recalling the story from Rizal’s novel, the two brothers were serving as bell ringers in the church to help their mother ( Sisa)  by earning money.

life-sized mannequin  of Dr. Jose P. Rizal and painting of crispin , basilio and sacristan mayor

The Rizal mannequin sits behind a desk, writing. He faces the well where Crispin’s body was supposedly dumped.

On one occasion, the sacristan mayor accused Crispin of stealing an amount of money. Crispin was punished by the sacristan mayor and was believed to have died inside the church premises. On the day the loss was discovered ( 2 gold coins ) , He was not permitted to leave the convent, while his elder brother was allowed to leave only after 10 p.m., which was past the 9 p.m. curfew.

painting showed the physical abuse of Crispin and Basilio

As proof of the local legend, locals point to a blood-stained wall off the side of the convent in a small room where supposedly the young “Crispin” was tortured to death today their soul are present in convent.

hand stained portion of the wall believed to be that of Crispin

The head sacristan dragged Crispin down the stairs from the bell tower and into the shadows. That was the last time Basilio saw his younger brother.

church belfry

Some stories would tell of the revolutionary period where hundreds and even thousand of people perished.  the hand marks used to be in darker and more reddish in color several years ago , before this portion of the church was renovated in the late 1990’s .

This is the area where locals believed that Crispin was push to his death and Basilio escaped .

well

Fray Antonio Piernavieja was the friar that Dr. Jose Rizal took his character inspiration for Padre Salvi . It was widely believed that he was the said priest in the novel. He was transferred to Cavite in the middle part of 1896 when the revolution broke out . He was taken as a prisoner and made as a bishop by the Filipino insurgents  .

group photo

Fray Antonio Piernavieja took the advantage of his new position and gave vital information and tactical plans of the insurgents to the Spanish authorities that were based in Manila. Upon the discovery of the plan , the insurgents tied the friar in an open field and left him to die from hunger and thirst.

group photo

People would also claim the cemetery mentioned in Rizal’s novel is the Pasong Instik area.

We got to have a group photo before we bid farewell to the local priest and gave our donation to the museum .  Some of us had still some questions in our mind , if the stories are true , was it based on a true story or urban legend that refuses to die .

 References and Bibliographies :

Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo books

San Rafael Website: http://www.sanrafael.gov.ph

Official Website of the Municipal Government of San Rafael. “San Rafael Festivals”. sanrafael.gov.ph. Retrieved May 24, 2014.

Official Website of the Provincial Government of Bulacan. http://bulacan.gov.ph/sanrafael/history.php

Philippine Star : http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2014/05/15/1323160/haunting-san-rafael-church

Zamora, F. “Sisa, Crispin and Basilio lived here, say Bulacan townsfolk”. inquirer.net. Retrieved May 24, 2014.

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