The towering yet “falling” Jaro Belfry will soon be rising from the “ruins.”
This, after the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) has allocated P5million fund for the restoration of the church tower between Jaro Cathedral and plaza.
A TIEZA team already visited to conduct ocular inspections of the tourism site recently. With TIEZA’s assistance, the priority site will soon become one of the top destinations.
Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog said this welcome development will make the Jaro center one of the major tourist attractions in the metropolis.
“This big development will mean a lot to our tourism industry and to our economy. We want more tourists to come to our city and see its many beautiful places,” he stressed.
House Bill No. 4957 seeks to declare the Jaro Cathedral as one of the city’s “legislated tourist sites” along with Molo Church, Central Business District (CBD) and Fort San Pedro, as filed by Lone District Rep. Jerry Treñas.
The famous Jaro Cathedral which draws faithful and devotees to the miraculous Our Lady of Candles has been declared national pilgrimage site by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
The unique Jaro Belfry is one of the few belfries in the country that stands apart from the church.
History accounts noted the belfry of the “New Cathedral” was the former tower of Jaro church built by Fray Ilanos in 1826-1837. However, it was ruined by a 1948 magnitude 8.6 earthquake and restored by the City Government in 1990s.
The creation of the Task Force Restore Jaro Belfry is necessary to jumpstart the project, said City Tourism Officer Ben Jimena.
The present state of the structure needs repair and renovation to restore its stately form as an important heritage attraction, he stressed.
It is recommended that building authorities shall inspect and test the structural strength of the edifice, to certify integrity of the structure, if it is strong and safe.
Engineering works committee shall determine the scope of work and estimate repair cost, undertake repair of the structure, and provide labor and materials for the renovation, Jimena explained.
There is a need to clean up the grounds inside and surrounding area, repair the steel stairs, replace broken window panes, and clear its external walls of growing plants.
Thus, the clearing and cleaning committee shall assign personnel to maintain cleanliness, take charge of clearing, and undertake garbage management.
There’s also a need to beautify the area with ornamental plants, repair the bamboo perimeter fence and replace it with steel.
Likewise, the beautification group shall prepare landscaping design and budget, beautify the area with ornamental plants, and maintain the surrounding area.
To make the built attraction operational, there’s a need to set-up a tourist information center cum souvenir shop. Brochures, flyers and other promotional materials shall be made available in the information counter.
The city tourism office will initiate the set-up of a tourist information and assistance center, coordinate with other departments the operational functions to carry out the project, operate Tourist Assistance Center (TAC) and assign personnel, coordinate administrative tasking for the project, and provide promotional information materials.
Policy direction shall be assigned to the barangay and church partner organizations – by way of setting up guidelines for the operation of enterprise, and by harmonizing and connecting the sector programs and activities with the belfry project, said Jimena.
The Jaro Plaza will have drainage repair and land filling as the war memorial monument, bandstand, miraculous fountain, Graciano Lopez Jaena monument will also have a facelift as planned by the City Government.
There’s an old photo of the original belfry at Isabelita building in Cathedral compound. Observers say that the new structure does not match the proportion of the original and the statues on the four corners are missing.
There are efforts now to locate and bring back the statues of Four Virtues in their original locations. The statues were believed to have been brought to Manila but its specific whereabouts are not immediately known and nobody knows who took them down, said Jimena.