San Jose Church
Cited as the first church in Iloilo City, San Jose de Placer Church has witnessed baptisms, weddings, funerals, and other milestones of Ilonggos in the City of Love. Built in 1607 by Jesuits, it houses the replica of Santo Niño de Cebu, the patron saint of the Dinagyang Festival, a known festival celebrated every January in Iloilo City. The church is nestled within Plaza Libertad, once known as Plaza Alfonso XII. Prior to its name, the church was once known as the La Punta. La Punta was built by the Jesuits in 1607 as a support for the military men in the area. In 1617, meanwhile, the Augustinians established a house of the order which they named as ‘San Jose’. The Augustinians took stewardship of San Jose Church until 1775, when the church was handed over to a secular clergy. Moreover, in the Order of Saint Augustine website (www.augustiniansphilippines.com), the San Jose Parish was given to them in 1868 in exchange for Jaro which was chosen to be the cathedral of the then established Diocese (now Archdiocese) of Jaro. Moreover, during World War II, the church was saved from destruction when the Americans learned that the Japanese were not holed up in the church. From 1980 to 1982, the church continued on with its renovations and a marble floor was laid. The changes were directed by writer and poet, Fr. Gilbert Centina. In terms of architecture, the church highlights a Renaissance design, with Helenic elements. Inside are Corinthian pillars and mosaic representations of different saints. Overall, the structure is designed to resemble the Latin cross, with a dome at the center and a mural on the ceiling of the altar. Moreover, an image of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, discovered by Diego Quinnes during the Dutch siege of Iloilo, is found inside the church. “The church’s appeal lies less in ornamentation and more on the rational modulation of forms and spaces. Typically Renaissance in inspiration, the church façade is neatly divided into proportionate vertical modules, pierced by arch and round apertures. The twin bell towers flanking the façade uses composite capitals and has a balustrade running above the fourth floor. The church interior has an arcade of Corinthian columns supporting a faux barrel vault over the nave and groin vaults over the aisle. The main altar has some Gothic touches. A precious treasure of the church is an image of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario discovered by Diego Quiñones during the Dutch siege of Iloilo on 29 September 1614. The statue was brought by Frs. Jerónimo Alvarado and Juan de Morales to the fort, where a cofradía (confraternity) to the Virgin was established. Damaged by a fire which gutted the church ca. 1850, the image was restored in 1873 and 1907,” excerpts from an article entitled San Jose Church in Iloilo published on the website, Philippine Tour Guide. To date, San Jose Church is one of the few parishes still under the Augustinians. The Augustinian Community of San Jose ministers to two institutions, namely the San Jose Church and the San Jose Catholic School (behind the church). During Dinagyang season, a solemn mass is held at the San Jose Church. Although festivities from different sectors and industries begin days or even a week prior to the main event, the highlight of Dinagyang always rests on the last day with a solemn mass at San Jose Church then followed by the official tribe competition. Tribe competition showcases colorful performances and interpretation of local history and culture. “San Jose Parish as the focal point of the religious activities for the grand Dinagyang Festival that honors Señor Santo Niño de Cebu. It likewise houses the venerable image of Nuestra Señora del Santo Rosario which was miraculously recovered in Fort San Pedro in 1616,” excerpts from the Order of Saint Augustine website detailing the relevance of San Jose Parish to Iloilo City.