By Kassie Gormley
Built in 1576, the San Guillermo Parish Church in Bacolor, Pampanga followed a tragedy-riddled history that has made the institution so storied. After an earthquake-caused destruction way back in the late 19th century, the church suffered another blow in 1991 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. The church became submerged in lahar flow following the catastrophe, later undergoing extensive renovations. It was never the same again for San Guillermo.
In 2009, though, the institution entered a new dawn. The hit primetime drama May Bukas Pa, starring Zaijan Jaranilla as Santino with his "Bro," used the heritage church as its main location. The show, which centered on family and faith, revolved around San Guillermo as its setting. Then finishing 38 chapters in almost exactly a year, May Bukas Pa translated the message of optimism and salvation beyond everyone's TV sets. More important, the show shed some glimmer of hope over the church and the believers nearby.
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San Guillermo's Fr. Jesus Garcia Manabat Jr. is one of those who've witnessed how the now-defunct show breathed change to the area. He recalls, “Because of May Bukas Pa, yung pang araw-araw na nakikita nila sa TV, nagbigay ng lakas ng loob sa maraming tao. Hindi lang sa mga taga-Bacolor, kundi sa mga Kapampangan na mayroon pala siyang maidudulot."
The show's inspirational ways allowed the city to flourish in ways more than what was felt. Uring Ocampo, who owns a small business in Bacolor that became one of May Bukas Pa's shoot locations, knows this all too well. “Isang simpleng karinderya, pero mas lumago na ito dahil sa May Bukas Pa," he recalls.
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Beyond the gratification, it's how May Bukas Pa touched the lives of parents and children audiences that has further made it and the location one to remember. Narrates avid viewer Rowena Roado, “Kasulukuyang nagbubuntis ako noon. Inspirasyon sa akin na sana kapag nanganak ako—lalaki man o babae—gusto ko ganoon siya, na malapit siya sa Diyos—kay Bro."
Adds Kristian Rei Cayanan, who worked as the show's extra and now enterting the seminary, “Naging way din yung May Bukas Pa na magsipag kami sa simbahan, sa Diyos, at yung mas lumalim pa yung faith namin sa Panginoon. Ginaya ko nga yung pagdadasal niya eh. Kapag may problema ako, pagpapasalamat, tawag ko na kay God—Bro. ‘Thank you, Bro!’"
Despite the tragedies, San Guillermo's history has indeed been rewritten for the better.
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Banner image courtesy of ABS-CBN Project 65 Team