Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph



Facade of Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph

Until its establishment as a parish on April 26, 1765, San Jose belonged to the Parish of Bauan, administered by Spanish friars of the Order of St. Augustine. Bauan was originally on the shores of Bombon Lake (Taal Lake) at the foot of Mt. Makulot. Submerged by the rising waters of the lake due to the periodic eruption of the volcano, Bauan relocated at least three times until 1692 when it moved to its present site.

At the time of its foundation, San Jose was called Malaquing Tubig after the river of clear water running through it. Its area included, besides its present one, the town of Cuenca, and therefore Mt. Makulot and a stretch of Taal Lake shore. It later became known as San Jose de Malaquing Tubig.

The Augustinian friars that presided over the town until 1898 supervised the planning of the town, laying out the streets, cemetery, drainage, digging of wells for water, and building bridges. They taught the people how to build stone houses. Most of all they looked into the construction of the church and convent.

In the early years, the church was a temporary structure of cogon and bamboo. This was replaced by one with stone walls and cogon roofing. In 1812, the parish priest, the famous botanist Fr. Manuel Blanco, OSA, built the present church with roofing of galvanized iron, but only up to the present transept.

Interior of Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph

The 1898 revolution expelled the Spanish friars from the Philippines. A page in a Book of Baptisms preserved in the parish archives bears the last entry signed by the Spanish parish priest, Fray Manuel de Arostegui of the Order of St. Augustine. Its date was May 28, 1898. On the same page, an entry dated June 1, 1898 bears the signature of a Filipino secular priest, Fr. Vicente Jose Romero, with the title of Parish Priest of San Jose.

On April 1, 1899, the Filipino secular priest Juan Geronimo Luna, a native of the town, was appointed parish priest. Padre Imo is now remembered for the waterworks and the site of San Jose Elementary School, which his heirs donated to the town in his memory.

Filipino secular priests administered the parish until 1911. However, there were so few of them that Bishop Joseph Petrelli, Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines and first Bishop of Lipa, had to assign his secretary, Fr. Raymundo Esquinet, as parish priest of San Jose, with responsibility for surrounding parishes. During a home leave in Italy, Bishop Petrelli looked for a religious congregation willing to send missionaries to the Philippines. He found them in the Oblates of St. Joseph, the head and protector of the Holy Family. The Oblates were the first Italian congregation to send missionaries to the Philippines. San Jose became their first foreign mission.

Altar of Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph

The first Oblates (three priests and two brothers) arrived in Manila by ship on August 25, 1915. That same night they took the train to San Jose where they were welcomed by the prolonged ringing of bells. Since then, they have been in charge of the parish. Their superior, Fr. Jose Anfossi, became the parish priest of San Jose, with the responsibility also for Cuenca, until his death in August 1912.

Fr. Eugenio Gherlone succeeded Fr. Jose Anfossi and immediately began reconstruction of the church, which was beautified by paintings of St. Joseph, Guardian of Virgins, Patron of the Dying, Model of Laborers and Protector of the Holy Church, with an altar in which was carved the death of St. Joseph between the arms of the Virgin Mary and of Jesus.

After the expulsion of the Spanish friars, the people miraculously preserved their Catholic faith, keeping the traditional external practices of processions, novenas, May floral offerings to the Virgin, home visits of the Image of St. Joseph, Christmas, Holy Week, and March 19 festivities. However, during the rest of the year, Sunday Masses were attended mostly by women and children. The few men who attended developed the habit of leaving the church during sermons to smoke or gossip, returning inside for more gossip after the sermons.

The Second World War revived the religiosity of the people who endured untold suffering and death. On different occasions during the war, the Japanese murdered at least 27 civilians from the town. On January 27, 1945 they murdered the Italian parish priest, Fr. Vicente Prandi, together with Mayor Venancio Remo and Jose Talag whom he had promised the townspeople he would not abandon. Fr. Vicente's cause of beatification is now being worked out and it is hoped that the town will soon have the joy of seeing one of its parish priest given the honors of the altar.

Altar of Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph

In 1968 during the time of Fr. Lucio Aguilar and his parochial vicar, Fr. Raymundo G. dela Cruz, a major reconstruction of the church began, concluded by its blessing on April 26, 1970. The leaking roof was repaired, the windows lowered for more ventilation, the altar area and communion rails redecorated and new murals were painted.

Recently, the parish has taken possession of the convent which had long been used by the Cursillo Movement as a venue for its retreats. The parish priest, Fr. Ronnie Alkonga, has began the much-needed repair of the roof and ceiling as well as a redesigning of the area to accommodate, among others, a parish museum.

From the very beginning of the parish, the people of San Jose have contributed personal labor, expertise and money for the building and beautification of their church and convent. Testimonies of our elders narrate how barangays took turns carrying stones, sand, mortar and other materials to the site and fashioning out of them the beautiful church, convent and patio that we have today. Their simple faith inspires us to contribute whatever we can so that our church and convent will be worthy of the Lord and our Patron St. Joseph.

More valuable than the church is the Christian Faith and the devotion to St. Joseph bequeathed to us by our ancestors. According to the testimony of our elders, every March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, hundreds of pilgrims from neighboring towns journeyed on foot or on horseback to San Jose to pay homage to the foster father of Jesus. Townspeople traditionally gave them shelter for the night. Modern means of transportation have done away with the tradition of panunuluyan, with the result that during the fiesta the streets are barely passable to vehicles in the morning when masses, baptism and confirmation are being celebrated.

The Archdiocese of Lipa has recently declared the Parish Church of San Jose as the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph. The priests of the Oblates of St. Joseph presently administer this one hundred and ninety year old Church and Parish. At the instigation of Fr. Ronnie Alkonga, some parishioners have formed an association called Knights of Joseph whose objective is to make known the Saint and promote his veneration.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from flickr.com.

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