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Santa Lucia Church, Sasmuan, Pampanga
Part 5 of the Libotero Pampanga and Malolos Heritage Series
Next on my list after the St. Augustine Church in Lubao is the Sasmuan Church. So, while at the Lubao Municipal Hall grounds, I asked around on how I could get to the town of Sasmuan. The ever-friendly locals instructed me to hire a tricycle and not pay more than P30.
The town of Sasmuan is located to the east of Lubao.
Sasmuan (formerly Sexmoan) is a 4th class municipality in the province of Pampanga, Philippines. According to the latest census, it has a population of 26,630 people in 4,343 households. The town’s former name of “Sexmoan” was the mispronunciation by the Spanish friars of “Sasmuan”, the original and current name. It was derived from the Malayo-Polynesian word “pitagmuan” or “meeting place of the datus”.
While on the way to Sasmuan, it felt like I was being transported to another world as the road towards the town was surrounded by what seemed to be lakes. Later on, I learned that those were fish ponds. Sasmuan has a one-of-a-kind geography as it is surrounded by fish ponds. Therefore, the town relies on aquaculture as the main industry to drive their economy.
The tricycle dropped me off by the municipal hall of Sasmuan. When I asked how much the fare was, the driver smiled and said, “trenta po”
Sasmuan Municipal Hall
From the municipal hall, I already saw the church of Sasmuan, and gawd, the place is cramped. The church is surrounded by the public market and a lot of houses by the river. I guess this resulted from neglect and poor planning on the part of the government.
Before this trip, my research about the church informed me that it is the only old structure left standing in the town of Sasmuan. But when I stood in front of the church, I noticed that it appeared quite new. I just found out that the church was renovated in 2003, under the order of Fr. Ted Valencia, former parish priest. Everything, except for the first layer of the facade and the belfry, was destroyed and replaced by a new structure. Disgusting!
The sad fate of the church overshadows it’s unique feature as one of the few, if not the only church in the country where the single belfry is sandwiched in between the church and the convent building.
Look at that gargantuan dome which could be easily mistaken for an unidentified flying object, especially at night. Imagine!
More than the physical damage to the church, it is said that the remains of prominent citizens of Sasmuan that used to be interred at walls of the church were collected and thrown into a common grave, making it almost impossible to identify them anymore.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard stories about churches with great historical value being defaced by ignorant/irresponsible parish priests. Take for example the altar of Argao Church in Cebu whose main retablo was painted over entirely by gold leaf. It could have been a UNESCO World Heritage site by now if not for the destruction of the church’s heritage value. Sigh. Parish priests should be lectured about heritage conservation!
(…to be continued)