Evangelization of Boljo-on Under the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary
By: Warren P. Angliongto
The earliest account of Boljo-on tells us that it began as a small settlement of Nabulho. The settlement grew and prospered. Later on, a Christian mission was set up in the place in 1599 by the Augustinian fray Bartolome De Garcia, OSA. In time, the people were converted to Christianity and a small mission chapel was built to serve the religious needs of the settlers. The mission was placed under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The settlement was however continually subjected to the predation of the slave traders and pirates. But as true advocates of the Virgin Mary, the Augustinians placed the settlement under her care. Accordingly, a chapel of light materials for the community was built and on its altar was placed the image of the Lady of Patrocinio, which Fray de Garcia brought along from Spain . For their part, the people matched devotion and learned the prayers and devotions, which earned for them bountiful merits from the Mother of Christ.
Tradition has it that the Blessed Virgin saved the village of Nabulho from a strange and deadly malady. This special protection of Mary was also felt when raiders come for depredation and laid to waste both homes and crops of the settlers. Faced with this hopeless prospect, the people would always resort to the wellsprings of their faith, trusting in the goodness and mercy of God and in the protection offered by the Blessed Virgin.
The story of the numerous miracles attributed to the Virgin of Patrocinio spread far and wide. People from neighboring settlements heard of it and came to the village to verify it. Those who went home were not only assured in the truth but also felt that their prayers had been answered. The pilgrimages to the Lady later developed into a tradition. People visit the church of Boljo-on to fulfill a vow or make new petitions to Her and offer Her their devotion.
The early pilgrims came from the neighboring settlements. The poor, the wealthy, the educated, the ignoramus. The sinner and near saints all come to the Virgin of Patrocinio to find a favor and consolation. The year 1692 saw the canonical erection of the Parish Church of Boljo-on with fray Nicolas de la Cuadra, OSA, from the Parish of Carcar as the town's first parish priest.
The creation of the parish of Boljo-on was based on a decision taken by the Chapter of October 31, 1690 of the Augustinian congregation on the proposal of the father Provincial, Fray Francisco de Zamora, OSA, for the division of the admiration of the Parish of Carcar due its growth in the number of parishioners and territorial jurisdiction.
The Father Provincial appointed Fray Nicolas de la Cuadra, OSA as Boljo-on's parish priest since the year, he reserved the right to designate and appoint the parish priest of Boljoon and that whomsoever the appointed shall be considered as appointed by the chapter of the Augustinian order. The creation of the Parish of Boljo-on coincided also with the formal establish of Cebu . For lack of priest, the parish, the Parish was turned over to the Jesuits in 1737. It was recovered by the Augustinians in 1747.
Other sources claimed that the Parish was founded in 1599 while others contend that it was in the year 1690. Fray Fabian Rodriguez, OSA, in his list of the Augustinians since the year 1599 in which it was founded until the year 1692. This previous church was destroyed in 1782 by a fire of unknown origin. To date, no evidence corroborates the claim of Fray Rodriguez but the Augustinians admit that a chapel or a the custom of the missionaries. Furthermore, no documents also exist to refute the claim of the foundation of the Boljo-on Parish in 1599.
The first buildings were probably destroyed during the frequent Muslim raids. The present church was began by Fray Ambrosio Otero, OSA in 1783 and took a long time complete, due to suspension of work, renovation and expansion. The main entrance for instance was completed in 1801 but a side door near the belfry indicates a completion date of that part of the Church in 1829. Both the church and convent were restored by Fray Leandro Moran, OSA, Boljo-on's last Augustinian friar from 1920 to 1948.
Throughout the turbulent period of Boljo-on's history, its church has always retained its precious treasure of the image of the Virgin of Patrocinio, which survived the onslaught of time and men seeking its destruction.
The faith and devotion of the people of Boljo-on have very frequently been rewarded with great favors from heaven. And or not only the people of Boljo-on but also many others who have come from varied and remote places to venerate in this church of the Blessed Virgin under the title of Our lady of Patrocinio.
The annual fiesta and procession of our Lady of Patrocinio is a rite so dear to the people of Boljo-on that not even the modern times can antiquate its traditional magnificence. The turbulent periods of Boljo-on's history sometimes held these rites in abeyance, yet whenever it is possible to do so, these ancient ceremonies are celebrated as a patronal observance by the town of Boljo-on .
Every second Friday and Saturday of November each year, hundreds of people converge in the town to attend mass in the Church. The center of devotion is the Lady of Patrocinio, otherwise also known during the Spanish period as La Patrocinio. The wood and ivory image of the virgin which is enshrined in the high altar of the church is several centuries old and is said to possess miraculous powers. Numerous miracles were attributed to the Virgin such as a sick person restored to health; a wayward husband finding his way home again; a student who passed the board examinations and fortunes lost and restored. Miraculous or not, they are a testimony to the faith arising from simple hearts.
The history of Boljo-on is never complete without a mention of the town's patroness and of her intercession. Tradition has it that she saved the then Village of Nabulho in 1615 annihilation when invaders from Bohol burned both the church and the homes of the inhabitants. A mysterious lighting struck the invaders and forced them to flee. This account has passed into legend as one of the greatest miracles of the Virgin of Patrocinio.
Today, the pilgrims continue to come in both and bad times. Numerous blessings are told with each visit and supplication addressed to the Virgin of Patrocinio. Time and again, miracles are reported and visions occurred. People brought their problems to her. They asked for water on dry seasons and food when it was scarce. The people's piety has not waned even with the passage of time and grows as freshly as in the past when, the first Christian community rose on the then old Village of Nabulho .