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The Archdiocesan Shrine of Apung Mamacalulu of Angeles City, Pampanga


Just few meters away from the Holy Rosary Parish in Angeles City, Pampanga is another popular shrine dedicated under the patronage of Santo Entierro which is popularly known to the city as “Apung Mamacalulu” or simply “Apu.” Apung Mamacalulu is a Kapampangan term which means “Merciful Lord, Our Lord of Great Mercy”. The image depicts dead Christ in the Holy Sepulcher.

Interestingly, there are two venerated images of Apung Mamacalulu in Angeles City and both are known to be miraculous. The first image is enshrined in Holy Rosary Parish and the other one is venerated in its own Shrine in Barangay Lourdes Sur. Despite the remarkable devotion to the two images, their history is also surrounded with controversies. The first image of Apu was from Rev. Father Macario Paras, the parish priest of Angeles between 1829 to 1849. He commissioned a sculptor named Buenaventura to build an image of Santo Entierro. This was first installed in the sanctuary he built in Paras-Dizon estate which is now known as Brgy. Lourdes Sur.

The image was given as a gift by Fr. Paras to the church which also comes along with a carriage and other adornments. The image of Apu and the carriage were transferred to the church in 1872. However, due to the Philippine revolution in 1896, the image was transferred to another place in Pampanga for safekeeping. Then it was kept for the duration of the war in Sapangbato, until it was taken back to the church in 1904. The image was put out in procession on Good Friday and during the October fiesta of Angeles town.

Controversy of the Two Images of Apung Mamacalulu in Angeles

On Good Friday of 1928, however, a camarero named Eriberto Navarro forcibly took the image after the procession ended. Navarro was acting for his aunt Alvara Fajardo, an heiress to the Paras estate that time. This santo-snatching incident resulted not only from an ownership dispute but also from a long-standing political quarrel between the then Nacionalistas and Democratas. This also resulted to a lawsuit in 1929 between the Catholic Archbishop of Manila vs Fajardo and Navarro.

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A bas relief in Apung Mamacalulu shrine showing the two identical images of Apung Mamacalulu

Fajardo claimed that when Padre Paras died in 1876, the image was inherited by Mariano V. Henson who soon transferred the ownership to Fernanda Sanchez which soon inherited by her son Crispulo Bundoc, the husband of Alvara Fajardo. The church records, however, claim otherwise. The record states that Padre Paras gave the image as a gift to the church before his death.

Due to lack of supporting documents and evidences, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the church and ordered the Fajardos to return the image of Apung Mamacalulu. While it was not proven that the ownership of the image was transferred to the Fajardos, the record states that Fernanda Sanchez acted out as “recamadera” after Padre Paras’ death. Traditionally, the recamadera was a matriarch who spends for decorations and the feeding and temporary lodging of those who will join the procession. Images are entrusted to the recamadera who is in-charge of the cleaning and the dressing of the statue and its carroza for the procession. This duty was passed on to Alvara Fajardo.

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The Image of Apung Mamacalulu in Brgy Lourdes Sur (formerly Dayrit estate)

When the original image was returned to the church of Angeles, apparently, an identical image of Apung surfaced
at the chapel of the Dayrit estate about the same time. This resulted to a far more conflict between the church and the Dayrits. The two images were taken out in separate processions and as time passed by, the devotion to the image of Apung in the Dayrit estate has become more popular.

Due to the growing conflict between the two parties, there was time when the request for masses in the Dayrit chapel was denied by the Archbishop of Manila. They managed to have masses in the Shrine of Apu in Dayrit estate by by inviting priests from faraway stations and even by non-Catholic priests. Several talks between the Angeles Church and the Dayrit Chapel were done to remedy the situation but none of them pushed through. There was even a time when the church asked the Dayrits to sell the their Chapel to the Church so that it may be canonically recognized. The conflict even resulted to the issuance of an interdict in 1985, prohibiting liturgical and para-liturgical celebrations in the Apu Chapel.

After nearly 3 decades, the interdict was lifted in 2010 by Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, recognizing the significance of the devotion to Apung Mamacalulu at the Apu Chapel. The Apu Chapel was soon declared an Archdiocesan Shrine in 2012.

Last July 2023, the shrine faced yet another controversy. The crown of Apung Mamacalulu was stolen. Luckily, with the combined efforts of Angeles City Tourism Auxiliary and Angeles City Emergency Disaster Command Center, immediately tracked the whereabouts of the alleged suspect thru CCTV cameras and managed to retrieve the stolen crown.

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Apung Mamacalulu Shrine facade

Appearance-wise, the shrine went through various renovations. The current church seemingly features Neoclassical inspired style due to its simplicity and symmetry. It features few ornamentations with notable two niches on the first layer. There are metal-framed stained glass windows and one rose-window on its pediment.

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One of the niches features the image of Saint Francis of Assisi
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Another niche featuring the image of Saint Dominic
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Shrine’s Pediment

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Church Corridor
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Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto beside the church
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Beside the church is the Dayrit Ancestral House
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The interior of the church is equally simple yet beautiful.
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The main altar features a large stone niche that enshrines the image of Apung Mamacalulu. It also features a huge cross above and a small tabernacle below.
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There is also an Altar Rail that separates the nave to the sanctuary or main altar
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Devotees can get an up-close look of Apu by heading to the back of the church.

This Post is part of my Pampanga Pilgrimage series. Feel free to revisit my previous articles here

References: And All the Angels and Saint / Pintakasi / Inquirer /



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