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A Spanish Prince in Laguna

A quick Facebook query led to a historical chapter in the town of Pañgil



WOODWORK A relieve from Pañgil, Laguna, Coronation of the Virgin Mary

WOODWORK A relieve from Pañgil, Laguna, Coronation of the Virgin Mary

I repeatedly go on rehab but routinely relapse each time. Facebook addiction seems therapy-resistant. Anyway, last month on the Feast of the Coronation of the Virgin Mary, I posted the photo of a relieve depicting the event witnessed by San Vicente Ferrer and San Antonio de Padua.

With it I addressed a query to the internet universe: Who could be the man below the heavenly host in 18th century clothes in a wig, seated between two posts at a table on which lay sword and scepter? I added that my guess was that he was a newly appointed official, and the relieve was a chest-pounding announcement, “I’ve made it!”

Ron Ron Allanigue replied that the posts could be the Pillars of Hercules. Michael H. Rodriguez wrote that judging from the Pillars, the man’s costume, and probable age of the object, he could be Spanish kings Carlos III or Carlos IV. Baltazar Ilog linked it to something I hadn’t known, a tradition among Pañgil, Laguna townspeople that says a Spanish infante once stayed there.

In 1724, so goes the story, Prince Carlos, a son of King Felipe V, was banished and sent as far from Spain as possible, to Filipinas and to the far shores of Laguna de Bay for good measure. The young prince stayed with Pañgil’s Franciscan friars, enjoying hunting in the Sierra Madre and cooling off in a creek still called Bambáng Harì or King’s Canal.

LONG LIVE THE KING The future Carlos III of Spain, age nine

LONG LIVE THE KING The future Carlos III of Spain, age nine

The Prince was allowed to return to Europe, where in 1731 he became Duke of Parma (an inheritance from his mother Elizabetta Farnese), King of Naples and Sicily, and eventually of Spain in 1759. Pañgil church’s images of Nuestra Señora de la O and of Santo Niño de la O are said to be the King’s gifts.

No documents record the princely sojourn. On the other hand, one never knows how palace intrigues play out. Carlos, then eight years old, was the child of Felipe V’s second wife and had four older half-brothers. Someone may have wanted him out of the way, or he could have been sent off for his safety. The official announcement was that in 1724, Carlos was dispatched to Naples, but in reality—why not?—could have been secreted in the sleepy town of Pañgil that no one knew, and where no one would even think of looking. Considered one of Spain’s most enlightened monarchs, Carlos’ 29-year-reign was marked by economic progress and political stability. He promoted science and university research, facilitated trade and commerce, modernized agriculture and the military. He tried to reduce the Church’s influence, among other things by expelling the Jesuits from Spain and Spanish colonies. Carlos III was succeeded by his son of the same name, Carlos IV, who introduced vaccination in the Philippines against the dreaded smallpox (bulutong). In gratitude, a monument to the King was erected in 1824 in Intramuros’ Plaza Mayor, where it still stands.

Thanks to social media, I now know about Pañgil and Carlos III. Facebook addiction has its rewards.

Notes: (a) The relieve was owned by the family of a Franciscan priest from Pañgil, Laguna; (b) A Spanish Prince is called Infante; (c) The last Habsburg King of Spain had died and the throne passed to Felipe V, grandson of Louis XIV. Carlos III (1716-1788) was the son of Felipe V and his second wife Elizabetta Farnese to whom the Philippines gave as a wedding gift, a 6.16 carat blue diamond; (d) The University of Santo Tomas was designated a Royal University under Carlos III, hence its formal appellation “Pontifical and Royal University”; (e) The Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines in 1768 following Carlos III’s decree; and (f) Intramuros’ Plaza Mayor is now Plaza de Roma.

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