San Diego de Alcala Pro-Cathedral of Silay City: Of Prominence and The Secluded
I have seen the grand Pro-Cathedral of San Diego de Alcala or simply known as Silay City Pro-Cathedral, for so many times. It’s a landmark within the city center of Silay in Negros Occidental province. Dominating the plaza complex and sits beside the City Hall, for most passers-by, tourists, or even I, it catches their attention. One of the clear manifestations of the opulence of the by-gone sugar economy that once (and still is) the major propelling force of the province’s economy and society. For most Catholic Silaynons nowadays, this is where they go to church every Sundays and other special religious days.
Claimed as the only pro-cathedral outside Metropolitan Manila nowadays, the Silay Pro-Cathedral was designed by an Italian named Lucio Bernasconi, as commissioned by Don José Ledesma—one of the wealthy sugar hacienderos or sugar barons. Among all of the Catholic churches in Negros Occidental province, the said church is unique because it has a big dome or cupola. A lot have thought that this was built during the Spanish colonial era—they were wrong. It was built during the American colonial era, a time when most of the significant edifices echo the neo-classical architecture of the imperial United States.
Bernasconi drew his inspiration from his native Italy. Built with Romanesque architecture in mind, the church façade is a bit squat with low rising twin belfries. However, the dome seems to dominate the church itself with its awesome size seemingly floating behind the façade. It’s quite reminiscent to that of Saint Peter’s Church and the one at Florence. The paintings in the cupola were done by Freddie Ledesma. Don José Ledesma was reported to have shouldered 70 percent of the construction of the church. The church was completed in 1927.
It became a pro-cathedral in 1994.
However, it was only at that day of MassKara 2010 when I saw the ruins of the old church behind the grand church that we see now – thanks to the church’s caretaker who referred us there. Eric Dee of Byahilo.com, a true-blue Negrense, was even amazed when he saw the ruins for the first time! Most of us bloggers were drawn by its enigmatic charm. It was indeed a discovery for most of us since we thought before that Silay was void of an old masonry of Spanish-colonial Catholic churches unlike Bacolod.
Because the Spaniards left the Philippines after the war for independence, the church was incomplete and fell into disrepair. It has been once said that the said old church was displeasing to the “elite” eyes of Silay residents. With the need to create a place of worship, worthy for the posh lifestyle of the sugar economy, Don José Ledesma volunteered to shoulder the construction of the next pro-cathedral. The rest is history. Good thing though, Good thing though. Silaynons still have safeguarded the old Spanish-colonial church ruins and made it as a grotto and a chapel with an open courtyard. Amazed, we took our own souvenir photos of the ruins.
There was a Filipino belief that a sign of prosperity and progress in a Philippine city or pueblo is judged by the size and opulence of its Catholic Church in its plaza complex has been clearly defined in Silay City. The beauty of Silay’s San Diego del Alcala Pro-Cathedral not only represents the demography of the Silaynon majority, but also a reminder of the prosperity the sugar industry has brought to the Silaynons and to the Negrenses as a whole.
Where’s Silay City’s San Diego de Alcala Pro-Cathedral?
View San Diego Pro-Cathedral in a larger map