by Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna
The melodious voices of about 700 churchgoers and choir members envelope the air which resonate through the walls and columns of the magnificent San Agustin Church. A middle-aged male tourist puts his camera aside and curiously listens to the song being sung by both children and adults alike. He can’t help but ask one of the Pinoy attendees who is standing by the door of the church.
“What language is this?”
“It’s Tagalog. Philippines.”
The tourist nods and smiles. “It sounds sweet and very lively.”
After the mass, the sweet and lively sound of the songs that were sang a while ago is now replaced by happy and yes, very lively sound of chatters of Pinoy churchgoers who are now heading towards the two exit doors of the church like bees going out of their beehive.
When you ask a Pinoy where to find a Filipino parish church in Barcelona, there is only one answer to this question–no other than–the San Agustin Church along Calle Hospital.
It is not just an ordinary church though. With its long and memorable journey with history, San Agustin Church can be considered as one of the most important churches in Barcelona. Historical records show that it was in 1728 that the Agustinian friars constructed the Convent of San Agustin in Calle Hospital. The project was spearheaded by the architect and director Pere Bertran. Built as a minor basilica with a dome and three naves, the facade is baroque. Inside the church is a baroque fresco painted by the Italian maestro Claudio Lorenzale. In 1750 saw the inauguration of the new convent of San Agustin. It had two cloisters but the facade was left unfinished due to unspecified reason. The San Agustin square was part of the convent and served as the front patio.
During the French invasion in 1808, the convent served as military barracks shared by both soldiers and monks. Six years of war and due to the imminent danger and recurring attacks from different forces, the convent was left without a single religious person running the place. The following year, the troops abandoned it and the convent was recovered by the friars who immediately took the initiative for its restoration and reconstruction. Twenty years later, in 1835, the place was set ablazed together with other convents of the city. After its restoration, the convent was converted into a parish church and still holds the same status as of today.
During the Spanish war in 1936, the place was again set on fire and was ransacked by looters. More than four decades later, the San Agustin Church was the place where the Asamblea de Catalunya was founded.
In 1999, the church became the official personal parish of the Filipino community in Barcelona. Headed by Fr. Avelino Sapida, the church easily and immediately became a spiritual refuge for Pinoys especially at Sunday morning and evening masses.
Fr. Avelino Sapida delivers the Good News
As a personal parish, San Agustin church has a pastoral council and its own parish records of sacraments: baptism, confirmation and marriage. The church has long played a unifying force among Pinoys in Barcelona, both spiritual and cultural.
Our group, the association of Filipino writers and researchers in Spain has chosen the church to be the venue of a very special concert especially organized by Pinoys not only for Pinoys but also for our non-Pinoy friends as well. On Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 8:30 in the evening, the church will witness another milestone in showcasing our appreciation for our heritage. Come and share with us in this moment of paying tribute to our cultural roots and admire the beauty of our Filipino love songs.
Come and let yourself be serenaded by Filipina opera singer Michelle Sullera with Kundiman songs accompanied by another Filipina, Marina in piano and Russian violinist, Eugenie.
The same sweet and harmonious sound, though this time not coming from the 700 voices of Pinoy churchgoers but from a Pinay opera singer, will envelope the air and resonate through the walls and columns of San Agustin Church and deep into our hearts as we celebrate the splendor of our rich culture.