Visita Iglesia: Saint Polycarp Church, the Oldest in Western Laguna

The City of Cabuyao is the second smallest city in the western section of the province of Laguna in terms of land area. The largest city in the area is Calamba, followed by Santa Rosa, and then Biñan. Cabuyao is just almost 2,000 hectares bigger than San Pedro.

However, in the past, Cabuyao is the biggest town in the western part of Laguna. In fact, Cabuyao is the western part of Laguna because the cities of Calamba, Santa Rosa, Biñan, and San Pedro were its former barangays.

In 1570, the conquistador of Manila Miguel Lopez de Legazpi sent his grandson, Juan de Salcedo, to conquer the territories along the lakeshore of Ba-i (now known as Laguna Lake). Salcedo conquered the indio settlements of Taytay and Cainta along the north lakeshore. He then crossed the river and landed in Pagsanjan and conquered the settlements of Nagcarlan and Majayjay. The mountainous terrain in Majayjay forced Salcedo to just attack the lakeshore until he reached the settlement of Tabuco.

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi declared Tabuco as an encomienda or town under Gaspar Ramirez. The Augustinian Recollects were the first missionaries to arrive in Tabuco but they handed their jurisdiction to the Franciscans later on.

Cabuyao got its name when the Franciscans asked the women near port about the name of the place. The women answered “kabuyaw” thinking that the missionaries were asking about the kabuyaw trees growing near the lake. From then on, Tabuco was started to be called as Cabuyao.

According to Reginald Batalla Salcedo in his comment on Pepe Alas’ post, the first church in Cabuyao is located in Barrio North Marinig. This church was destroyed by floods and only the flooring was visible during low tide.

The current church of Cabuyao, which is located at the poblacion, was finished in 1771 and was placed under the patronage of the Saint Polycarp.

St. Polycarp on the church's facade.

St. Polycarp is a disciple of Saint John the Apostle and was a bishop of Smyrna in the 2nd Century. He was martyred in the arena at full view of the crowd, who demands death to the atheists (according to what I read, Christians were considered atheists by Greeks in the past because they refused to worship the Greek gods).

Image of the martyred St. Polycarp at church grounds.

St. Polycarp faced his martyrdom calmly. In fact, when the soldiers arrested him, he offered them food in exchange for an hour of prayer. The proconsul of Smyrna tried to make St. Polycarp deny Christ but the holy man just answered: 

"How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked."

He was tied at stake and was burned. Miraculously, the fire refused to touch St. Polycarp. There were accounts that the fire just formed an arch and the saint glowed like gold. He was finally killed by a spear thrust to his chest.

Aside from St. Polycarp, the parish of Cabuyao has other minor patrons such as Saint Vincent Ferrer and Saint Clare of Assisi.

It was night when I visited the church so the image of St. Clare looks a little scary.

The church is also dedicated to Our Mother.

I can feel the age of Cabuyao Church just by looking at the old adobe blocks comprising its walls. I thought that it was just a simple old church. Little I know that it is an important part of history.

I read in Pepe Alas’ post that the Cabuyao Church had Father Mariano Gómez as its parish priest from 1848 to 1862. Father Gómez is part the famous GomBurZa, who were executed by the Spanish authorities due to their alleged link with the 1872 Cavite Mutiny.

Cabuyao Church was also witness to the Sakdalista uprising during the American Period. The Sakdalista is a movement founded by Senate employee Benigno Ramos that demanded Philippines’ immediate independence from the USA. Cabuyao and thirteen other towns were attacked by the Sakdalistas at the passing of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which mandated the independence of the Philippines after a ten-year period.

They say that bullet marks made during the Sakdalista Uprising are still present on the church walls. I guess I have to look for the bullet marks when I visit the church again.

The church’s altar features our crucified Lord, the Virgin Mary, and St. Polycarp is his bishop robe.

Looking up the ceiling of the dome made me think of our God looking from above.

St. Polycarp Church in Cabuyao is one of the oldest churches in Laguna. It was witness to the town’s rich history and the evolving life of Cabuyeños. I do wish that this church continue to be the town’s witness and a reminder of Cabuyeños’ root and faith.


Prayer to Saint Polycarp:

God of all creation, You gave your bishop Polycarp the privilege of being counted among the saints who gave their lives in faithful witness to the gospel. May his prayers give us the courage to share with him the cup of suffering and to rise to eternal glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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