The Order of Friars Minor in the Philippines, popularly known as the Franciscans, expressed opposition to a proposal in Congress to rename a historical landmark in the national capital.
Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid, a former movie actor, earlier filed a bill renaming San Francisco del Monte Avenue in the capital’s Quezon City to Fernando Poe Jr. Avenue.
Lapid said the move was to honor the late Poe, dubbed “King of Philippines Movies,” whose production company is located on the said avenue.
Father Cielo Almazan, minister provincial of the Franciscans, said the congregation believes the name Del Monte Avenue should be preserved because of its “great historical value.”
Del Monte Avenue is derived from the place’s full name San Francisco Del Monte, a secluded place founded on Feb. 17, 1590, by Saint Pedro Bautista, a Franciscan missionary.
The place has been referred to as San Francisco del Monte to honor Saint Francis.
Del Monte was added to its name because it sits on a hilly area and to distinguish it from San Francisco de Manila, then the Franciscan Church in Intramuros.
Saint Pedro Bautista lived and served in the area for more than a decade before he was sent to Japan where he was martyred.
“The profound religious significance lies in the fact that the first Christian community in this area (from which Quezon City emerged in 1939) was established in San Francisco del Monte,” said Father Almazan.
The Santuario de San Pedro Bautista, which is now a minor basilica, is the oldest church in Quezon City.
“Therefore, this area – and its historical names – are sacred to the civic and religious history of Quezon City because saints, such as San Pedro Bautista, and early Franciscan missionaries stayed, prayed, reflected, and served in San Francisco del Monte,” said Father Almazan.
The priest said the valuable achievements of San Pedro Bautista “were not only religious and historical but also cultural in the line of music, public health, and architecture.”
He said San Pedro Bautista instructed the friars to study the Filipino language.
“He initiated the singing of liturgical music in Filipino, established choirs of Filipinos, and produced native musical instruments,” said Father Almazan.
“He discovered the medicinal values of native plants and hot springs in Los Baños, He built the first stone churches outside Manila. He defended the natives from the abuses of our Spanish colonizers. Truly, he accomplished these and so much more for our people,” said the priest.
The Franciscan order said that there is “no doubt” that Poe, an actor who ran and lost in the 2004 presidential elections, “has done great things to the movie industry.”
The congregation, however, said Poe “can be honored via a street renamed after him” without discrediting the significance of San Francisco del Monte.
The religious order appealed to the Philippine Senate to “please choose another street,” which is “not named after anybody, without any historical or religious significance, or constructed in its present state only after World War II.”
“We plead for the preservation of San Pedro Bautista’s legacy that bestowed rich historical, religious, and cultural values attached to the name Del Monte Avenue,” said Father Almazan.