Bishop scraps plan to lease historic church

Plan for convenience store caused outcry

Bishop scraps plan to lease historic church

The 250-year-old Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Balayan (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

Roy Lagarde, Manila, Philippines

October 31, 2013

An archdiocese in the southern Philippine province of Batangas has been forced scrap plans to lease part of a centuries-old church to a grocery chain following a public outcry.

The 250-year old Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Balayan town is considered a national historical landmark and one of the country’s most beautiful churches.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles admitted on Wednesday that the Lipa archdiocese finance administrator had toyed with the idea of leasing the property to a grocery chain.

He said the idea, however, triggered protests, online campaigns and expressions of concern.

“Allow me to clearly declare to everyone: it is not the intention of the Archdiocese of Lipa to lease a portion of the building for a commercial end,” Arguelles said.

He said the archdiocese intends to preserve and to propagate the historical and cultural importance of its churches.

Balayan town was founded in 1578 and has been the capital of the province of Batangas for 151 years.

The town also holds the appellation of being the cradle of Christianity in the southern Luzon region after Spanish friars planted the first cross in the town in 1572.

The Immaculate Conception Parish Church traces its origin from a church built out of light materials by the Franciscan friars in 1579.

Construction of the present stone church began in 1749 under the supervision of the Jesuits and was completed 10 years later.

The government has listed it as a "cultural heritage site." The interior of the church has not changed much since the 1870s.