Friday, June 29, 2012

Feast of San Pedro

San Pedro Cathedral

Today, June 29, 2012 is a BIG day for Davaoeños. Not only is it the Feast of Saint Peter from whom the San Pedro Cathedral, the Street where it now stands, a school, and a hospital were all named after in due honor of the Saint, but also a historical day when Spanish forces led by Conquistador Don Jose Oyanguren subdued Davao chieftain Datu Bago and his men in a battle in 1847. Saint Peter or San Pedro is also the Patron Saint of Davao City. 

It will be remembered that Saint Peter was the chief apostle of Jesus Christ to whom the Keys of Heaven was entrusted and the Roman Catholic Church founded (Matthew 16: 18-19). The Gospel also tells us that Jesus called on Peter to follow him and made him, along with eleven others, "fishers of men." Peter did not hesitate, left everything behind, and embarked on an incredible journey of faith (Matthew 4: 19-20)

San Pedro Street

San Pedro College

San Pedro Hospital

The first settlement in Davao under Datu Bago can be found some 350 meters from where the San Pedro Cathedral now stands. The first settlement was close to the banks of the Davao River where the Bolton Bridge is presently situated. The settlement was, however, burned down by Oyanguren when he succeeded in driving away Datu Bago on June 29, 1847 but the new Christian settlers rebuilt the settlement on the same spot and built the first church made of nipa and bamboo in 1848 in honor of Saint Peter or San Pedro, exactly the same date of the final battle between Oyanguren and Datu Bago. 

Sometime in the late 1950s to early 1960s, some quarters wanted to rename San Pedro Street after one of Davao City's local heroes. However, a big fire conflagrated almost the entire downtown area of Davao and San Pedro Street at that time, but suddenly halted just before reaching San Pedro Cathedral. Davaoeños believed it was San Pedro’s intervention in protesting the proposed change of the street name. Since then, no one has dared to change the name of San Pedro Street again. Since then, San Pedro Street has remained unchanged, and the street itself has gone through many changes over the years. Even the Church itself has gone through several innovations. When the constant threat of flooding near the Davao River inundated the rebuilt settlement, local authorities immediately ordered the relocation of the Christian settlers in 1861. In the mid 1900s, they rebuilt the nipa and bamboo church into wood by the late Architect Ramon Basa until it was finally remodelled in concrete in 1964 by Architect Manuel Chiew. 

This magnificent Spanish-style architecture with its distinctive modern design is reflective of the convergence of Christians and Muslims living in Davao City. The frontal-curved roofing was designed to look like the prow of a vinta gliding over waters carrying a Cross at the helm. The vinta represents the Muslim Mindanao and the Cross representing Christianity - who stand united despite differences in beliefs and perhaps ways of life but points toward the glory of God.

The Vinta is a vessel of ancient heritage used by Muslims in Mindanao in Southern Philippines. The bright colorful sails are representative of the rich and colorful culture of the Muslim community. The boat is usually used for inter-island transport of people and goods. 


The old altar has been preserved and can still be seen at the right wing of the cathedral today which features a unique collection of antique images and relics of Saint Peter and other saints. A new altar has been recently installed -  a replica of the old one.

During Sundays, portion of the San Pedro Street particularly immediately infront of the Cathedral is cordoned off from vehicular traffic due to the huge volume of parishioners who come for Mass. Here, many vendors ply their trade outside the church such as balloons, toys, ukay-ukay, popcorn, and all sorts of street food, etc. There are also photographers who are always ready to take photographs for a fee, of course. Masses in the Cathedral are in both English and the Visayan dialect.

San Pedro Cathedral is not only the oldest church in Davao City, but also the city's premier historical landmark, and is now recognized as a National Cultural Treasure. It is situated at the very heart of the city right across the Sanguniang Panglunsod ng Dabaw (City Council) Building, and is close to several commercial establishments, hotels, shopping centers, universities, parks, a public market, etc. Facing the church, it is bounded at the front by San Pedro Street, the oldest street in the city, Bolton Street on the left, and Claveria Street on the right.
San Pedro - both the church and the street - has been the center stage where every significant event in the history and life of Davao City and the Davaoeños unfolds. It is the seat of religious and  political power where the legislative and executive branches of local government form a right triangle with the Archdiocese of Davao at the center. It is where the three historical parks can be found - the Osmeña Park (formerly Plaza de Oyanguren), the Rizal Park, and the Quezon Park. San Pedro Street is the main venue of all our major festivals and celebrations in the city, and every Davaoeño has, at one time or another, paraded along San Pedro Street for Araw ng Dabaw and danced the "indak-indak" during Kadayawan Festival.

Political rallies along San Pedro Street

In Davao City, it is not really a major citywide event if it does not happen in San Pedro Street. It is where political rallies and religious fellowships are held, and free concerts and street food fiestas are celebrated. It is Davao City’s Kilometer Zero, after all.

June 29 - Feast of Saint Peter or San Pedro, the Patron Saint of Davao City - a most sacred and holy day in the historical calendar of the city that shall remain perpetually cherished in the hearts of every Davaoeño and the many more generations of Davaoeños to come.

San Pedro

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