Parish of St. Sebastian through the years
In 1605, Don Diego de Salcedo discovered a community of farmers living in fairly good economic conditions at Lake Bombon, now Tagbakin, Lipa City. The Augustinians among them started a religious mission called “Convent of San Sebastian in Comintang”.
However, the residents noticed that the land area- residential and agricultural-was getting smaller due to the rising waters of Taal Lake, they transferred to Balete. But the site was submerged by the lake in 1754 after the eruption of Taal Volcano. To avoid a similar occurrence, the townsfolk decided to transfer the town to a place far from the lake and the volcano. Legend has it that they agreed to pray the rosary while walking and whenever they may be at the end of the 24th mystery, there the town would be relocated. And they walked upland, away from the lake and the volcano, and at the end of the 24th mystery, they reached what is now called Mataas na Lupa. The temporary poblacion and the church were thus resettled there.
The location benefited everybody since it was along the main road that led to the coastal towns, the ground was high enough and the east winds were hedged in by high mountains. But after some time, the settlers had to seek another location due to the problem of water supple. The “better site” is the present site of the Cathedral. The Augustinians administered the parish until the end of the 19th century.
The first church building was made of light materials. The building of “serious architecture, proven solidity and great proportions” was begun in 1779 and finally completed in 1865, on the first year of Fr. Benito Varas who administered the town until 1894.
The church was made of hewn stone and tiled roof, in accordance with the usual pattern of churches. It was a rectangular structure with artistically painted wooden panelings in lieu of an arch to which were attached support and strong beams which crisscrossed the walls to protect the building from earthquakes, attractive and hade plain and simple altar ornaments without the extravagant carvings that were characteristic of the past century.
During the 19th century, keen competition among Tanauan, Lipa, Batangas, Bauan and Taal for the choice of the seat of new diocese in the Southern Tagalog Region, with Batangas Province at the center, motivated the people to build extraordinary big churches. On April 10, 1910, the historic creation of the new diocese took place and the first bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Petrelli, D.D. selected LIPA as the See because of its cool climate. In later years, there were moves to transfer the See to San Pablo City but the late Bishop Alfredo Versoza turned it down due to poor religious environment of San Pablo during that time.
The church suffered heavily in 1944. Msgr. Alejandro Olalia repaired the façade, the dome, the transept, the roof, the main altar, and the belfry. The interior painting was retouched. Two side aisles were added. The church was awarded the title CATHEDRAL of the Archdiocese incorporating Batangas Province during the administration of the late Rufino Cardinal Santos.
Fr. Pedro G. Galende, ,OSA wrote that “the emphasis (of the edifice)is placed on the mass, which appeals much more to the senses due to its harmonic organization. The three buildings – church, convent and bell tower are so closely associated with each other that they well exemplify the typical mission complex.”
At present, the 220-year old Cathedral and convent is undergoing massive restoration and repairs as an appropriate tibute to the Lord Jesus Christ on His 2000th birthday. Through the concerted efforts of the Parish Priest, Msgr. Alfredo A. Madlangbayan, and the San Sebastian Millenium Restoration Committee, the church façade and the belfry have been beautifully repainted, the pews are newly varnished, the ceiling and the roof of the dome have been repaired, the old and leaking roof of the church and convent are replaced with long span GI sheets, and there is a new altar at the vigil room. On account of the multitude of faithful gathering at the church during liturgical activities, especially for Archdiocesan affairs, the sound system was also upgraded.
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