Sto. Domingo Church installs columbarium

QUEZON City, Oct. 1, 2012— Do you want to be a part of the national cultural treasure when you die? Be buried at the Santo Domingo Church.

The shrine got a new addition to its grounds when the Dominicans, administering the church, decided to place a public columbarium there.

The columbarium, a compartmentalized monument for cinerary urns, is available to both church members and nonmembers, said Fr. Gaspar Sigaya, the provincial archivist of the Dominicans. 

Dominican officials announce the declaration of the Sto. Domingo Church as a "National Cultural Treasure" during a press conference in Quezon City, 1 October 2012. Shown from left are: Dominican Province of the Philippines prior provincial Fr. Gerard Timoner; Fr. Gaspar Sigaya, provincial archivist; Fr. Giuseppe Arsciwals, prior of the Sto. Domingo Convent; and Fr. Clarence Marquez, director for Institute of Preaching.

“Everyone is welcome as long as their rituals are not offensive to the Catholic faith like sprinkling chicken blood, etc,” Sigaya said.

The National Museum now considers the Sto. Domingo Church and its liturgical objects as “national cultural treasure” and the official declaration of this status will be made on October 4.

Thus, Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner, Dominican Province of the Philippines prior provincial, said half jokingly that those who would be buried in the columbarium would be part of the recognition.

“I am already thinking that if I die and my ashes is placed in one of the niches, my ashes would be part of the national cultural treasure because it was said that everything inside the church would be part of the national cultural treasure,” Timoner said.

“That is why we could even put as an advertisement, ‘If you want to be treasured by the nation, then be buried in Santo Domingo,’” he said.

The construction of the facility, known as the Sanctuario de Santo Domingo, is still ongoing and is expected to be completed by December this year.

There would be 4,745-niche inside the columbarium complex. Fr. Clarence Victor Marquez, OP, director of the Institute of Preaching, said each niche could accommodate the bones or ashes of four individuals.

The Dominicans pushed for the project because of the growing tradition in the country to erect cemeteries near churches.

“So the priests of Sto. Domingo thought long and hard to put up its own final resting place,” Marquez said.

There is already a burial ground for the Dominican priests adjacent to the church’s main and they wanted to offer the same services to the community.

Marquez added that they would also be allocating space in the columbarium for the less privilege.

‘Priority’

Sigaya has cited the privileges of churches declared as national treasures could get.

National Cultural Treasures, he said, would receive priority in terms of government funding for the restoration and protection of the church, liturgical objects and other properties.

They could also avail of the private conservation fund from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

“This vicinity or complex, in terms of war, terrorist attacks or natural disasters, a certain declared institution is a number one priority of the government,” Sigaya said.

He clarified that they would not be receiving money from the government and would only be provided with experts to attend to the restoration of objects that are considered as national treasures.

“Our Lady of La Naval has a rich collection of jewelry…So far our priorities are the restoration of (the works of National Artist) Carlos Francisco’s paintings and the stained glasses which is very expensive and (can amount to) millions,” he also said.

There are eight colorful murals of Francisco at the dome of the church. Below it are the paintings of the four evangelists made by Antonio Garcia Llamas. The arched windows of the church that frame stained-glass designs were done by Galo Ocampo.

The present edifice of the church, measuring 85 meters in length, 40 meters in width, and 25 meters in height with a total floor area of 3,300 square meters, resembles cultural identity, as its architecture is a unique blend of modern and Spanish colonial style by Jose Zaragosa.  [RL/CBCPNews]