Sta. Maria Street, Daraga
Province of Albay
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As mythical as the tale that the Daraga church was built by young maidens or Daraga is the common belief that it was built after and on account of the eruption of Mayon Volcano that buried the town of Cagsawa in 1814. The historical truth is that it began to be built more than 40 years earlier, in 1773 to be exact.
Historical records show that way back in 1772 some people from Cagsawa asked permission from the National Government to transfer their town and church to a nearly settlement known as Daraga, then a sitio of the town of Albay.
The request was granted by the Spanish Governor General, Don Simon de Anda y Salazar in a letter dated June 12, 1772, wherein he instructed the Alcade Mayor of the Province of Camarines to supervise the transfer of the town of Cagsawa to the place of Daraga so that the town be formed with streets near the church that is to serve as the center for the benefit of the natives.
The order must have been implemented right away. There is no better proof that the official seal of the municipality of Daraga that bears 1772 as the year engraved on it.
The church was still under construction and on its way to completion in 1777, as can be gathered from a letter written by the Franciscan Provincial to the Governor General, asking that it be finished and the latters letter of instruction to the Alcalde Mayor to find our whether the construction of the church is finished and in case it is not, to promote its completion with the greatest vigor. Whether it was completed before the fateful eruption of 1814 has not yet been ascertained.
The next thing we here about Daraga church is that it was finally consecrated in 1854, the year Pope Pius 1X declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The American forces bombed the church during the World War II. The roof was completely blown up and the right wing and wall partially destroyed. Right after the war, it was hurriedly reconstructed. Then, it deteriorated very fast. In 1971 it underwent another complete reconstruction and remodeling of the interior especially the altar to make it conform to the norms of the celebration of the Liturgy as renewed by Council Vatican 11. The reconstruction was happily finished before the bicentennial celebration on December 8, 1973.
Eighteen years later in 1991, to be faithful to its structural design, the altar was returned to its original position.
And why is the Daraga Church named after Our Lady of the Gate? The story stems from the life of the Fray Luis de San Jose, a simple Franciscan lay brother who lived in the 18th century and spend most of his life in the Franciscan convent in the city of Avila, Spain where he worked as a gardener and porter.
Allegedly, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him during the flood and saved his life. There upon he had a picture of the Virgin drawn by an artist and put it in the lobby of the convent where he often paid respect to his Lady. Not only did he venerate the picture of the Virgin Mary, but he also spread the devotion to the Immaculate Conception among the simple people who used to flock around the lobby of the convent to venerate her picture.
Now, the lobby of receiving room of the convent is called the Spanish porteria. That is why that picture came to be called Nuestra Señora de la Porteria. And since Fray Luis had led a saintly life, the Franciscan Friars who built the Daraga church put it in his memory under the protection of the Blessed Virgin mary, under the title of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria or Our Lady of the Gate and had the feast celebrated on the Nativity of Our Lady on September 8th. – http://daragaparish.tripod.com