San Roque de Manila started as a small, simple Christian community in Blumentritt, Sta. Cruz, Manila under the German priest of the Society of the Divine Word from the Espiritu Santo Parish. It included all the lands bounded by the railways in the north. It boundaries were the Manguit Estate to the left of the railways and the farmlands through Quezon City to the right side of the railways. It also included the lands through the Tambunting cemetery at the Tambunting Estate, the Campo Santo de La Loma and the Cemeterio del Norte.
The very first Chapel of the parish stood in a place where two single ladies, Teresa Burgos and Agregado, saw a couple kneeling with candles on each hand and praying, “We are asking the good Lord to help us build a small hut (dampa) where we can hold Caton Cristiano (catechesis) for the children.” Upon hearing this, the two ladies initiated a campaign to build not only a small hut, but a chapel, in the exact location where the couple were kneeling. Among the very generous donors were Don Eugenio Evangelista, Don Lorenzo Lerma, Dona Roberta Resurreccion and a lot more. Bishop William Finneman, SVD of the Espiritu Santo Parish, gave the permission for the construction of the first chapel. When completed, a 24-inch image of San Roque was the installed in the first chapel.
During this time, the whole place, known as a ‘Mission Territory’, was under the jurisdiction of Congregacion del Verbo Divino (SVD). The care of the chapel was entrusted to Maestro Andoy as encargado, together with Alejandro Ariola and Don Lorenzo Lerma. The chapel was surrounded by water and was fronting a main street, now called Blumentritt. Rizal Ave. was non-existed at that time. However several years after the first chapel built in 1927 was hit by a big fire and was burned, including the image of San Roque.
After the first chapel was burned, a second chapel was immediately constructed and under the stewardship of Fr. Eduardo Buerenkemper, SVD, a 12-inch image of San Roque was an exact replica of the first 24-inch image was installed.
Fear engulfed the Christian community of San Roque Parish during the Second World War, but the German priests continued serving this community. However, another fire hit this time, almost the whole Manila, when the Americans came in 1945.
During the liberation, the lot where the chapel was located and which was always under water was ‘made tambak’ through the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Fernando Uy, then owners of San Roque Grocery.
Right after the Second World War, through (again) the efforts of Fr. Fernando, a temporary chapel made of GI sheets was constructed. It was used by the parishioners for almost three years.
A rich lady, Dely Dionisio, donated the 5-foot image of San Roque, which had then a dog as angel. This image is now installed in the new chapel.
With the progress came the opening of Avenida Rizal and Fr. Eduardo thought of building the church. Through the efforts of the residents of Natividad St., a small alley at the back of the property where the third chapel was situated, was given to the parishioners by then Mayor Manuel de la Fuente to became the site of the new church. Thus, lots 3 and 4 of Consolidated and Subdivision Plan with an area of 551.7 square meters and 532.9 square meters, together with the small alley (with the total of 1084.6 sq. m.) became the new site of the big church.
As in the past, Fr. Eduardo spearheaded the construction of the new church, made of concrete materials, in 1951. Located in the original site of the old chapel, which was built with Gothic architecture, was operational until 1988.
Brought about the construction of the big concrete church, this small community of parishioners was separated as a new parish on August 25 1951 by the Decree of Erection of Archbishop Gabriel Reyes, the first Filipino Archbishop of Manila. Thus San Roque de Manila Parish was born. The new parish was composed of the original community at the other side of the railways occupied by Parroquia de Espiritu Santo, and a part of Parroquia de San Jose de Gagalangin at the other side of the railways from Antipolo street to Obrero.
Such division was approved by Bishop William Dushack, SVD, parish priest of Espiritu Santo and Msgr. Pedro Pajarillo, parish priest of San Jose de Gagalangin. The new parish included the boundaries of Manila and the Province of Rizal in the north, Antipolo street in the south, Dagupan street up to the boundary of Rizal province in the west and Isagani, Blumentritt and A. Bonifacio streets in the east.
In recognition of the many good deeds of Fr. Eduardo Buerenkemper, SVD had done to the parish, the parishioners made a move to install a bronze marker at the entrance of the church on September 18 1951, as a token of their great appreciation to this German priest.
During this period, the new parish had about 30 000 parishioners. With the creation of the new parish, the parochial administration was given up by the SVD priests and was given to the secular priests by the Archdiocese of Manila. The first secular priest assigned in the parish was Fr. Manuel ‘Maning’ del Rosario, whose presence was not immediately accepted by the parishioners. He serves as parish priest for 34 years and 4 months- until January 15 1985. The leaving of the SVD priests was too painful for the parishioners to accept that even the Burgos family took back the images of San Roque in the parish. A new image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was donated by Luisa Pantangco Ramirez.
On September 16 1951, Teresita Saludes, resident of 2663 Calle Lico, became the first child to be baptized.
During the term of Fr Maning, he was able to construct a small convent which served as his residence and a small parish hall at the back of the church. In February 1970, the parish also became smaller in size caused by the separation of the portion of the Manuguit Subdivision at the left side Abad Santos street and Barrio Obrero, which then became part of a new parish San Jose de Manuguit.
Prior to the coming of Fr. Maning to the parish, there were already three organizations existing in the parish: Fatima Crusada, Knights of Christ the King and Ladies of the Court of Christ. He combined last two organizations and called it San Roque Parish Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). Then he formed the following: Catholic Women’s League, Legion of Mary, Altar Boys Society and Young Christian Workers. The Samahang Magkakapitbahay kay Birhen Maria which later became a popular devotion to the Blessed Mother was founded By Tomas Ruy, a volunteer church worker.
During his time, he was able to found 12 organizations. He retired on January 15 1985 and died on September 25 1987.
On January 3 1985, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, awarded the nombrimiento to Msgr. Tomas Gonzales as the new parish priest of San Roque de Manila. He arrived in the parish on the evening of January 15 and was installed second Filipino parish priest by His Eminence on January 16. He started his term with an initial fund of P11 885.89
During the first month of his term, Msgr. Tom initiated the painting of the church, elevating and cementing the patio, cleaning of its surroundings and widening of the church. He likewise was able to visit all the areas covered by the parish. He also introduced the ‘new traditions’ of the Lenten Season and Holy Week: Via Crucis along the streets, procession during Holy Wednesday and Good Friday, the Easter Salubong, Palm Sunday with on horses, the washing of the feet of the apostles, the Siete Palabras and the Black Saturday rites.
On the feast of the Patron Saint, he started the dog Festival, Dog Show and the Angelita projects (Angels of St. Roche). He also organized the Lectors-Commentators Group, the Pontifical Bible Mission (PBM), the PBM Study section and Evangelization Seminar.
On December 10 1985, there was a change on the boundaries of the parish, and the areas of Vision which used to be a part of Espiritu Santo: in the north, the Boundaries of Manila and Caloocan City,; in the south Antipolo Street at the side of the railways; in the east, Dimasalang and A. Bonifacio Streets; and in the west, Abad Santos Ave and Rizal Ext.
In 1986, two programs were formed: Evangelization Seminar given by the members of the Holy Name Society to the people in the barangays, and the ‘fusion’ of all different organizations in honor of the Blessed Mother into a Rosary Federation. Started also was the Loan Assistance Program.
In 1987, Labor Desk was formed. During the patron saint’s feast day, the ‘dream’ to construct a bigger church was announced. The Carong Bangka for San Roque, the Patron, which is made of bronze, was personally designed and made by Msgr. Tom.
On May 11 1988, the construction of the 5th church was started. It was much bigger, much taller than the previous ones. By the end of 1988, Phase I was completed. It consisted of a three-storey building on the left side of the original church: a balcony on the second floor and the convent on the third. It was inaugurated and blessed during the Sacerdotal Anniversary of Msgr. Tom on December 21 1988.
The old convent was demolished to give way to the construction of Phase 2. The original plan included a three story facility which would house the auditorium cum parish hall occupying the second and third floors.
On November 18 1989, Msgr. Tom went on leave and was sent to Vanimo, Papua New Guinea as a missionary. Thus on November 30, Msgr. Rogelio Abasolo was assigned as the parish priest of San Roque, replacing Msgr. Tom. He was briefed by Atty. Cayetano (Anong) Mopas, then president of the Parish Pastoral Council, of the programs and activities of the parish. Since Msgr. Roger was coming in as a parish priest towards the end of the year, he decided to simply continue the programs and projects of his predecessor until 1990.
During Msgr. Roger’s four-year term in the parish, he was able to provide a steel casement for the roofings connecting Phase 1 and 2 of the main church. He likewise was able to provide a steel gate in the front entrance of the church.
He led the launching of the Parish-Based Labor Organization (PABLO) which aims to provide financial assistance to the small fish vendors of San Roque through Caritas Manila.
He died on October 21 1993, because of heart attack. Fr. Adriano Gaddi, one of his assistant priests, while waiting for the assignment of the new parish priest.
On November 5 1983, Fr. Victor Allan Dichoso was assigned as the new parish priest replacing Msgr. Roger. Known as singing priest, he was installed by Cardinal Sin on November 18. He immediately purchased a Technics organ and monobloc chairs for church’s use. He also installed a new sound system in the church.
For almost one year, the church construction was stalled because the Construction Committee wanted for a more careful planning and that new members were included in the committee. When construction resumed, new rooms for Ushers-Collectors Group (UCP) and Lay Ministers at the second floor of the left side of the church were provided. The old room was converted into a clinic. He also provided for a conference room at the third floor while the sacristy was transferred at the second floor. The old sacristy at the ground floor became a stockroom.
Little by little, the main church was moved to the second floor, and the ground floor became a multi-purpose hall and parking area. The new retablo and the altar table made of narra were permanently placed, while the floors and the posts were granite finished. Construction of a four-storey building in front of the main church was also in place.
At the ground floor is the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel (PEA), made of pure narra, while the main door and the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is placed have glass etching. Adjacent to the PEA chapel are the bookstore and security guard quarters.
Located at the second floor is the new parish office on the right side of the parish foundation room on the left side. The center portion served as the balcony.
The third floor houses the office of the parish priest and priest’s room. The last room serves as the office of Parish Youth Center. The remaining area serves a parish hall. Planned to be located in the fourth floor is the rectory while the fifth floor is the roof deck.
For the construction of the church, the parish got a three-million-peso (P3 000 000.00) loan from the Arzobispado de Manila. In addition, a number of fund raising activities were held through the efforts of the various church organizations.
After almost seven years of service in the parish, Fr. Allan was replaced by Fr. Sanny de Claro on June 4 2001. With him were fr. Alex Yap and Fr. Stephen Punnakal as guest priests.
During his first month in the parish, Fr. Sanny launched the Barangay or Street Masses on Wednesdays and Fridays. He inducted the new members of the Family Rosary Federation and Lectors-Commentators’ Group (LCG) and assigned them to hold a 30-minute lessons on the Catholic Doctrine before the start of the masses in the barangays. He also emphasized the ‘misa pro populo’ every 9:15am on Sundays.
Fr. Sanny suggested to the Construction Committee that the third floor of the new building be the permanent convent and the fourth floor be the parish hall.The construction of the roof deck, where two belltowers and a small bungalow for the parish helpers were completed.
The term of Fr. Sanny was short-lived as he was transferred to San Jose de Navotas Parish on New Year’s Day of 2002.
Msgr. Jesus-Norriel Bandojo, former professor and formator in San Carlos Seminary, replaced Fr. Sanny effective January 1 2002. He moved to San Roque on January 12. Known as the hard-working person, Msgr. Jay immediately met with the PPC on his first day in the parish, and requested the members to brief him of the parish activities and plans. He likewise informed the members of his short-term plans for the parish.
Before completing his first month of stay, Msgr. Jay instituted the following improvements in the parish: installation of an intercom system and purchase of a vault for the mass collections and donations. He likewise restructured and upgraded the office operations- on the job descriptions of personnel and their classifications. He also made initial steps of computerization of operations and filing system in the office, by lending his personal computer set parish office’s use. In addition, he made the creation of the website, and the Rochean Nexus as the official newsletter of the parish with Bro. Gersam Lopez as the project head.
He continued the construction projects of the parish and reviewed the construction plans, met regularly with the members of the Construction Committee, checked the status of the funding of the projects, and involved an external architect to make sure the architect/design of the church is consistent with the original plan.
With the theme Towards a Participative Evangelizing Community, Msgr. Jay has been devoting his time preparing the parish to become a formation community center for evangelization and pastoral care. The preparation includes conducting a research on the life, charism and spirituality of San Roque, and the healing miracles of San Roque through the testimonies of those who experienced it. He also emphasized the importance of increasing the parishioner’s devotions to San Roque, active participation on worship, liturgy and fellowship, and increased involvement in outreach activities to make the Church center for evangelization.
He also gets the assistance of religious sisters in the parish ministry and apostolate, particularly in counseling and visitation to the sick, the aged and the disabled. To address this, he initiated the construction of Bahay Madre located at the fourth floor to serve as residence of sisters of religious congregations namely, Sisters of the Holy Face of Jesus.
(Reference: San Roque de Manila Parish Resource Book @ 55 Souvenir Program, 2011)
Parish priests of San Roque de Manila Parish