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“Fort Pilar”

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(Enlightenment—Passage of the Day)

Q.) IS OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ONLY A MAN, AND NOT GOD AT ALL?

A.) OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS NOT ONLY A MAN, BUT GOD, AS WELL. JESUS IS A MAN, BECAUSE HIS MOTHER MARY IS A HUMAN BEING. HE IS ALSO GOD BECAUSE HIS FATHER (NOT JOSEPH AS HE EVEN DENIED BEING JESUS’S BIOLOGICAL FATHER) IS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  LISTEN AS TO WHAT THE HOLY BIBLE HAS REVEALED TO ALL HUMANKIND: “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD..AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELLETH AMONGST US.” (John1:1-14).

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TODAY, Oct. 12, is the city’s biggest annualfiesta celebration—in honor of Nuestra Señora La Virgen del Pilar. It’ll be solemn, as always,in honor of the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Traditionally, everything will be done religiously: like its procession from the Immaculate Conception church to its renowned ancient shrine at Fort Pilar, built during the Spanish era in the 17THcentury.

LET’s go back to its rich historical background as aptly researched by this corner for the benefit of our readers.

Our Fort Pilar was originally known as Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza (Royal Fort of our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza). It was purposely built as a military defense fortress by the Spanish colonial gov’t in ZC, and became its major landmark and symbol of its cultural heritage.

In 1635, upon the request of the Jesuit missionaries and Bishop Fray Pedro of Cebu, Spanish governor of the Philippines Juan Cerezo de Salamanca (1633-1635) approved the building of the fort in defense against the pirates and raiders from the south. Its cornerstone was laid by Melchor de Vera (a Jesuit priest-engineer) on June 23, 1635 which marked also the founding of Zamboanga as a city—then known as Jambangan.

It continued its construction under its new Governor Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera (ex-Governor of Panama) in 1635 till 1644.

Because of the lack of manpower, they (Spaniards and Mexicans) imported laborers from Cavite, Cebu, Bohol and Panay. This marked the beginning of the Zamboangueño-chavacano as their pidgin. It eventually developed into a full-fledged creole language of the Zamboangueños.

The fort was attacked by different nations, like the Netherlands (Dutch) in 1646. It was rebuilt in 1669 by the Jesuits after it came under attack from the pirates that caused its destruction again. In 1718, upon orders of Spanish Governor General Fernado Manuel de Bustillo Bustamante y Rueda, it was reconstructed anew under Spanish Engr. Juan Sicarra, and was renamed as Real Fuerza de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza (Royal Fort of our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza) in honor of the patron virgin of Spain—our Lady of the Pillar. A year later, Dalasi, King of Bulig, invaded the fort, but was repelled by its defenders.

In 1798, the British Royal Navy bombarded the fort, but again was repulsed by its defending troops. Fort Pilar was also the scene of a mutiny staged by 70 prisoners in  1872.

Now, the Marian apparitions as recounted based on its own history. One evening on December of 1734, the Virgin appeared to a Spanish sentinel. The soldier first ordered her to stop. Then, upon recognizing her, he suddenly fell down on his knees.

On Sept. 21, 1897, at 1:14 p.m. of that day, a strong earthquake struck, then, a tsunami was about to follow next. According to accounts, the Virgin appeared standing midair over the Basilan strait, and with her right hand raised to signal the onrushing waves to stop, thus, saving the city from such a horrible catastrophe.

AFTER the Spanish-American war, Fort Pilar and the Spanish troops surrendered to the revolutionary gov’t of Zamboanga under Gen. Vicente Alvarez, a Zamboangueño, on May 21, 1898 at the onset of the Philippine revolution against Spain. It was also the period when Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in 1898 through the Treaty of Paris on Nov. 19,1899.

During World War 2 in 1942, Japanese forces captured and took control of the fort. It was recaptured by the US and Filipino troops on March 1945, and was finally and officially turned over to the gov’t of the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946.

Its restoration came on August of 1973 by virtue of Presidential Decree # 260, though with major ruins as a result of WW 2. It began in the early of 1980 when the national museum of the Philippines decided to rebuild it to what it’s today.

After six years of rehabilitation works, the museum branch opened its doors to the public with a special exhibit on Philippine contemporary arts. On Oct. 1987, a permanent exhibit on marine life of Zamboanga, Basilan and Sulu, was opened at 2ND Floor of its newly-renovated structure. It showed 400 species of marine life specimens in their dioramas. Also opened was the special exhibit of the 18THcentury relics on the Griffin shipwreck at its ground-floor that coincided with the formal inauguration of its newly-repaired structure. The rest forms part and parcel of its own rich cultural heritage. Happy Fiesta everyone! (By Jun Feliciano)(30)




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