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The rich history of a road’s name

Archival map showing San Francisco del Monte. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FACETS OF FAITH

Recently, Senator Lito Lapid filed Senate Bill 1822, seeking to rename Del Monte Avenue in Quezon City to honor National Artist Fernando Poe Jr., known as the “Action King” (or simply FPJ) of Philippine cinema. It was approved at the Senate public works committee level through a move by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla,

seconded by Sen. Imee Marcos and afterwards approved by the Senate panel chairman Manny Pacquiao. The bill seeks to recognize the legacy of the actor whose FPJ Productions was located on Del Monte Avenue.

This move, however, was met with criticisms from netizens, heritage advocates and the Order of Friars Minor or the Franciscans themselves, who said the name should remain as it reflects the history of the area.

In an open letter addressed to Sen. Lapid, the OFM Province of San Pedro Bautista Philippines said the Order is opposing the move since the street has “tremendous historical, religious and cultural significance.” The Order added that the street is important since it “refers to the very origins of Quezon City.”

This area of the city is the nucleus of the Franciscan religious community founded in 1590 by then Fr. Pedro Bautista in honor of San Francisco with the phrase “del Monte” referring to the its hilly topography.

The OFM said the 250-hectare San Francisco del Monte was given to the Order by then Governor General Santiago de Vera and was the first Christian community in Quezon City. It is also the place where the first church in Quezon City was constructed in the late 17th century. This church, now the Minor Basilica of San Pedro Bautista, still exists although expanded in the 1970s to address the growing parishioners. Its convent and perimeter walls also still exist at present.

Portions of the enclosed convent and inner courtyard.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EDGAR ALLAN M. SEMBRANO

Sacred ground

The Order, represented in the letter by Fr. Cielo Almazan, OFM, the Minister Provincial, stressed that the area is a sacred ground.

“This area and their historical names are sacred to the civic and religious history of Quezon City because saints such as San Pedro Bautista and the early Franciscan missionaries who stayed, prayed, reflected, and served in San Francisco del Monte,” reads a portion of the OFM open letter.

However, it acknowledged the contribution of FPJ in the country particularly in the film industry but suggested that other streets be named after him — those that are not historically and religiously important such as the Del Monte Avenue.

“We plead for the preservation of San Pedro Bautista’s legacy that bestowed rich historical, religious, and cultural values attached for the name del Monte Avenue,” the Order said.

It notes that among San Pedro Bautista’s legacy in the country are the study of the Tagalog language amongst friars, the use of liturgical music in Tagalog and establishment of choirs, production of musical instruments, and the discovery of native plants as traditional medicines and hot springs in the town of Los Baños in Laguna.

CLOISTER

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EDGAR ALLAN M. SEMBRANO

Road renaming

In the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ Revised Guidelines on the Naming and Renaming of Streets, Public Schools, Plazas, Buildings and other Public Structures, primary roads can either be named or renamed after presidents and national heroes, senators and congressmen for secondary roads, and local officials for tertiary roads.

Del Monte Avenue is a national road which means it could only be renamed after presidents and national heroes.

The renaming of national roads may only be done either by the Office of the President or the Philippine Congress and “must have historical and cultural significance and must contribute to the positive development of national pride through the good example exhibited by the name being used.”

The guideline also notes, “Hispanized and foreign terms should be retained if they have attained a degree of historical significance and have been sanctified by usage.”

San Pedro Bautista Church.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EDGAR ALLAN M. SEMBRANO

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