Monday, August 09, 2010

August 15, 1733 - Fr. Olalde is Assigned to Argao

(The church of Argao as it may have appeared in the late 1800s)

August 15 is the the 277th anniversary of Fr. Ignacio de Olalde's appointment as the first Cura Parroco of the parish of Argao, Cebu.

To this very day, Fr. de Olalde remains almost a mystery. Local historians cannot even agree on his very name: was he surname OLALDE or OLAVE? Both are Spanish surnames, although Olalde has a much better claim as it is an old Basque family name. Olalde means "side" or the "cabin area", where ola refers to foundry or cabin while alde stands for side or region. The surname first appeared in the Arrasate-Mondragon region of Guipuzcoa, Spain in the fifteenth century.

On the other hand, Olave as a surname has a more difficult history to trace. Although is believed to also be of Basque origin, its meaning and origin remains a mystery to this day. As Olalde appears more frequently compared to Olave, it is very highly probable that Argao's first parish priest was an Olalde.

Before Fr. de Olalde was appointed as Argao's founding spiritual father, he was probably one of the priests assigned to the Carcar mission tasked to minister to the various vicarias or vice-parishes of the parish of Carcar, Argao being one of them. Although Argao was established as a separate town in 1608, it remained a vice-parish until 1733, a scenario that is not clearly explained in old Spanish records. However, in 1733, the prominent men of Carcar petitioned the Augustinian fathers of Cebu to return the priests assigned to Carcar who were, apparently, spending more time in Argao than in their mother parish. And so, on August 15, 1733, Fr. Ignacio de Olalde was appointed to take control of the newly created parish of St. Michael the Archangel. However, from 1733 until about October of 1735, Fr. Olalde did not stay for long in Argao.

This was, of course, understandable as there was no church in Argao yet. So Fr. Olalde probably stayed in the house of one of the principalia of Argao while overseeing the construction of the church. Stories passed from generation to generation state that the making of the Argawanon delicacy torta dates to this time, when the demand for eggs was high due to the need for a cement-type of component that the white in the egg produced. It is most probable that Fr. Olalde was the one who insisted that the yolk from the eggs not be thrown away and instead be used as an ingredient for the new pastry, torta de Argao.

Other stories from the time of Fr. Ignacio de Olalde include the carving of the first ever San Miguel statue from one of the older trunks of the Sali-Argaw tree, which remained in the possession of the people of Argao until the 1970s when it was allegedly stolen by the goons of Imelda Marcos. Another story states that before the Argawanon natives were allowed to hear mass, they first had to present a block of coral stone to be used as a building material for the church.

It is not known when Fr. Olalde died, but his term of office was listed as having ended on June 22, 1737, barely four years after he was assigned to Argao. As most parish priests in those times served for life, it is very possible that he died in the town of Argao.

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