Many accounts of the iconic history and amusing development of Lipa City had been detailed throughout the years. Yet, not too many people knew about these a hundred percent.
Everytime I read about other people’s work, I try to imagine the things that ran in his/her mind as he/she strive to weave the facts, with an ample injection of emotional value. When I read this contributed article from Renz Marion Katigbak, I realized there are still a lot to learn about Lipa City.
If you’re good in memorizing dates and names in your History subject back when you were still in school, then maybe you would dig this article. Plus, if you want to be reminded of other notable sites in Lipa City, this could be a refresher for you, our dear readers.
Lipa City, a Religious Haven and a Heritage Destination
By: Renz Marion Katigbak
Despite Lipa’s state of progress and commercialization, the city still preserves its religious and cultural traditions.
A heavenly rapture
Lipa City is the renowned “Little Rome of the Philippines” and the seat of the Archdiocese. What’s more, it is a pilgrim’s paradise – home to a plentiful number of religious congregations and an abundance of beautiful Catholic chapels and churches. Notable churches are:
Metropolitan Cathedral of San Sebastian
This turn of the century consecrated edifice began its construction through the concerted efforts of Augustinians who administered the Parish of San Sebastian: in 1779, Fray Ignacio Pallares, later on continued by Fray Manuel Galiana in 1787, and its spacious transept completed in 1865 by Fray Manuel Diez Gonzalez.
The church was totally completed from 1865 to 1894 during the administration of Fray Benito Varas to whom Lipeños attribute their religiosity. He was also responsible for the erection of the Catholic Cemetery in Antipolo and, without any aid from the state, the bridge at Sabang and the road that served as a national highway to Manila and Laguna.
To protect the big and attractive church from earthquakes, it was made of hewn stone and tiled roof. Before, it had plain and simple altar ornaments without the extravagant carvings characteristic of the past. During the 19th century, intense competition among the towns of Batangas, Bauan, Lipa, Taal and Tanauan, for the selection of the seat of the new diocese in the Southern Tagalog Region, motivated the people to build extraordinary big churches. However on April 10, 1910, when the historic foundation of the new diocese took place, its first bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Petrelli, D.D, chose LIPA as the SEE because of its cool climate. For this reason, the San Sebastian church automatically became the Cathedral of the Diocese of LIPA.
The church suffered massive damages during the Second World War. Msgr. Alejandro Olalia had it repaired – the interior painting retouched and two-sided aisles were added. In the year 2000, to prevent the Cathedral’s complete deterioration, immense refurbishments and adornment were lead by then parish priest, Msgr. Alfredo Madlangbayan. The church also features an attracting grand baroque designed pipe organ which is the only one in Batangas Province and one of only 59 units in the Philippines.
Carmel of Our Lady Mary Mediatrix of All Grace
Remembering, those glorious moments in 1948, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Teresita Castillo, a former Carmelite postulant. Inexplicable phenomena of conversion, physical cures, and showers of rose petals bearing holy images (when these petals were examined by experts, they were found to be of Russian cultivation) had authenticated the heavenly apparition.
Yet, during the 1950s, the local Catholic Church declared the alleged apparition as a hoax and ordered the Carmelite nuns to destroy everything that was connected with it. In the 1990s, after 40 years of public silence, the late Archbishop Mariano Gaviola re-opened the case and ordered that the statue of Mary Mediatrix of All Grace be again exposed for public veneration.
In 1991, rose petals from the sky began to fall again in the grounds of the Carmelite convent and it was said that the statue of Our Lady came to life. With all these, on September 12, 2005, present Archbishop Ramon Arguelles restored the devotion to Our Lady and declared the date as a yearly National Pilgrimage.
Thousands of faithful all over the country are participating in this momentous event. September 12 is a special holiday privilege given only to Lipa. Last November 12, 2009, Archbishop Arguelles totally lifted the ban and formed a new commission to reinvestigate the apparition and the miracles in Lipa.
Other well-known churches are the following: the Monastery of Saint Benedict, the Archdiocesan Shrine of San Vicente Ferrer, and the Redemptorist Chapel of Divino Amor (home to Our Lady of Perpetual Help). A couple of different religious congregations are also living and doing their missionary works in Lipa: the Missionary Catechists of the Sacred Heart (founded by Bishop Alfredo Versoza and Madre Laura Mendoza, a holy Lipeña), the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese (founded by the servant of God Alfredo Aranda Obviar, a Lipeño priest, first bishop of Lucena, he is now being petitioned for sainthood), the Brothers of the Christian Schools (well known as the LaSalle brothers), the Oblates of St. Joseph (OSJ), the Clarissas Capuchinas Sacramentarias (Capuchin Sisters), the Capuchin Friars, the Missionary Sisters of Catechism, Benedictine Sisters, Carmelite nuns, and the Redemptorist Fathers.
An amiable and a tragic history
Lipa is a place very proud of its history of prosperity and magnificence. The city’s beautiful past is an enchantingly captivating saga one might ever hear.
Approaching the end of the 19th century, Lipa became known as the world’s center of coffee trade. Just because of the said industry, it happened to be the richest town in the country with an annual income of P4,000,000.00. This occurrence brought wealth to Lipeños and later on they built stone mansions and lived in aristocratic hispanized lifestyles. Lipa’s social atmosphere then was an importation from Spain. Women were said to be wearing “zapatillas” – footwear encrusted with real shimmering diamonds.
It was this splendored affluence which elated the Queen Maria Cristina of Spain (acting regent for the young King Alfonso XIII) to pass a royal decree converting the tiny municipality into “Villa de Lipa” in October 21, 1887. The city was given the privilege using a “coat of arms”. However, these fabulous days abruptly ended when the Lipa coffee industry collapsed due to the “bagombong” pest.
The complete demise of the lucrative town came during the Second World War. Lipa crumbled down and was considered as one of the most devastated cities, in the Southeast, that were affected by the rage of war. The splendid homes of landowners, furnished with the best from Europe were reduced to ashes. Still, faint traces of the extravagance can be gazed in the few old stone houses that survived. Famous among them are:
The Luz-Katigbak Ancestral House (Casa de Segunda)
A National Historical Institute declared Heritage House, Casa de Segunda was named after Segunda Solis Catigbac, the grand matriarch of the prominent and prolific Katigbak clan of Lipa. She had been linked to Dr. Jose Rizal as his young lady of interest. The ancestral house is one of the surviving stone mansions of the glorious Lipa. Built in the 1880’s, the dramatic arrangements of space, use of masonry and sense of grandeur and solidity are practical response to environment and charming record of history.
Partly damaged by the Second World War in 1942, the house was remodeled in 1956 by Segunda Katigbak’s daughter, Paz Luz Dimayuga. The grandchildren of Paz, who were born and raised here, restored the house in 1996 to its original form and grandeur, its fountain, fishponds, and orchards. In that same year also, it was opened to the public and today it is a repository, a hint to the fine and rich lifestyle of the Lipeños during its bygone era.
The Luz-Bautista Ancestral Home
Built by the patriarch of the Luz Family, Jose Luz, the stone mansion was completed in 1881 after ten years of construction. It is of Babylonian architecture with furnishings from Europe, curtains from Paris, mirrors from Austria, pieces of furniture from Vienna, chandeliers, plates from Germany and fine porcelain from China.
This is one of the very few “Bahay na Bato” (stone house) spared from devastation when Lipa was razed to the ground by World War II. Though it is not open to the public, it still stands as a reminder, a testimony to Lipa’s grandeur and one of city’s cultural treasures.
Other structures, like the Museo de Lipa and Museo ng Katipunan of Bulakalan, possess old relics and memorabilia of history.
A diverse haven
Aside from being a religious and heritage destination, Lipa is blessed with breathtaking places to see. It is home to different lush eco-tourism delights such as: the Farm at San Benito, Mt. Malarayat, a good place for a hiking adventure, Bluroze Farms Parks and Wildlife, and the Anihan Botanical Garden. Relaxation and leisure can be obtained with the resorts, spas, parks, and malls that sprung in the city.
Educational institutions and commercial areas are almost everywhere. Indeed, it is a good place to live, to invest, to work, to study, and to raise a family. Triumphs and turmoil might have landed Lipa but the continuous struggle and resiliency had formed it to be the city that we recognize today.