San Sebastian Cathedral (Bacolod City)

The imposing Cathedral of San Sebastian…was the work of Fr. Mauricio Ferrero, O.A.R., and the parish priest of Bacolod City (1871-1898; 1902-1910). The original church was constructed in 1825 under the leadership of Fr. Julian Gonzaga (parish priest in 1818-1836). The old church was made of wood and galvanizes roofing. It had one medium-sized bell, until Father Roman Manuel Locsin donated a huge bell and later Fr. Mariano de Avila donated another one when he became the parish priest in 1863 after the death of Fr. Locsin, Fr. De Avila’s bell was installed in the tower when the Cathedral was constructed in 1876, but lowered in 1969 when the towers were reconstructed. It was never returned there, but in 1976 the Sugarlandia Lions Club of Bacolod constructed a special belfrey where it hangs today with the small bell purchased by Fr. Ferrero.

When Fr. Ferrero took over in 1871, he started plans for the construction of a bigger church made of coral stone. The plan was submitted to Bishop Mariano Cuartero,O.P. the first Bishop of the diocese of Jaro. On April 27, 1876, the foundation stone was laid. Fr. Mauricio made an agreement with the politico-Military Governor, Roman Pastor (1875-1877), for the use of prisoners in the construction of the church of San Sebastian. Recognizing the engineering and architectural skill of Fr. Mauricio, the Governor agreed, on the condition that Fr. Mauricio also design and supervise the construction of a stone prison. The coral stones from the cathedral were cuts from the deposits of Guimaras and brought by barge and lorchas to Bacolod. The wooden parts were made from hardwood cut in Paragua (Palawan).

On the eve of the feast of San Sebastian, January 19, 1882, Bishop Cuartero blessed the biggest church in the province. The following day, the Bishop celebrated a Pontifical Mass before a packed audience composed of government and church officials of the province and Iloilo. Parish Priest and leading citizens of the other towns also joined the festivities. It is an interesting note that the celebration coincided with the one hundred anniversary of the separation of Bacolod from Binalbagan.

The two towers in the cathedral were set up three years later. The tower to the right (of the church) was the first constructed. Don Luis Ruiz de Luzurriaga, a donated huge clock that became the main time keeper of the town. The other tower (to the left) was constructed later. The two towers were made of aluminum sheet and with hardwood framings. It was also in 1885 that the big organ was installed on a nave just above the entrance of the church. This organ was disassembled during the reconstruction of the church in 1969 and never back to its proper form.

It was not until 1969 that the two towers were demolished as a public hazard upon order of Bacolod City Engineer’s Office. Fr. Antonio Santes, Rector of the Catherdral, mobilized the laity in raising the funds to build the towers. A Cathedral Tower Reconstruction Committee, first headed by Ildefonso Coscolluella, Jr. engaged in fund raising activities. Mr. Coscolluella, however, he died before the tower was completed and paid for. Mr. Irving Villasor, the vice-chairman, took the over as chairman and completed the project.

The San Sebastian Cathedral was declared the cathedral church in 1933 when Bacolod City became a Diocese. In 1956, Bishop Manuel Yap, second bishop of Bacolod increased the prestige  of the church when consecrated it in solemn ceremonies after it was reconstructed. The main altar was simplified-the over-decorated altar that was common sight during the Spanish times was removed, and a larger than life statue of San Sebastian was enshrined. In the bosom of the Cathedral lie in the rest of Bishop Casimiro Lladoc, first bishop of Bacolod, and Manuel Yap, the second bishop, as well as the remains of generous benefactors of the past decades.

The parish rectory now, the Bishop’s House was also constructed by Fr. Ferrero. The construction started on May 21, 1891 and was finished in 1894. The wooden materials were taken from Palawan, while the coral stones from Guimaras. Some of the bricks were locally made; masonry was mostly by Chinese artisans.

In May of that year just after the convent was finished Fr. Ferrero left for Barcelona, via Marseilles, to assume the proffesorhip in the university there. Fr.Florencio Aranda replaced Fr. Ferrero, but in 1898, Fr. Ferrero came back as parish priest of Bacolod.

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