A parish in the central Philippines is trying to build its collection of religious artifacts to prove its claim as one of the oldest, if not the first parish, to be established in the country.
The parish of St. James the Greater in the city of Tanjay in Negros Oriental province was established on June 11, 1580, by Augustinian missionaries.
The parish was the first mission station on the island of Negros after Spanish missionaries arrived in the nearby island of Cebu 59 years earlier with Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.
“The parish has a lot of artifacts,” said Monsignor Glenn Corsiga, vicar general of Dumaguete Diocese, who started the project in 2014.
“It’s an opportune time that we can exhibit all of these artifacts to tell everyone that we are the first parish,” said the priest who is a native of Tanjay.
He said the artifacts — lectionaries, baptismal certificates, altar vessels, and vestments of early missionaries — were gathering dust through the years in the parish’s old convent.
The collection is now being kept in the diocese’s Museo Eclesiastico de Tanjay, which was inaugurated by Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, papal nuncio to the Philippines, in October.
“The museum means keeping the roots alive,” the archbishop told the faithful during the ceremony. “It’s not just about the past,” he said. “It is where you find the history that will continue.”
The parish of St. James the Greater Parish is the “Mother Church” of the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria in the city of Dumaguete whose prelate, Bishop Julito Cortes, is chairman of the Episcopal Commission on the Cultural Heritage of the Church.
The bishop said the museum is a reminder of the diocese’s “religious history and heritage” even as most of the artifacts are still to be documented.
The city of Tanjay is known for its “Sinulog,” a religious devotional festive dance with a mock battle depicting the war between the Moors and the Christians in Spain.
The tradition is based on the legend that St. James miraculously aided the Christians by riding on a white horse from the heavens to defeat the Moors.
The annual “Sinulog” festival aims to honor St. James, the patron saint of Tanjay, and of Spain, every 25th of July.