San Lorenzo de Ruiz Shrine


The Legend

The San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine stands all alone by the towns cemetery in an area known as Camposanto. The red brick building is too grand to have been built as the cemetery’s chapel.
Not much information is available about the San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine and why it was built.
With two bell towers, and the detailed brick work on its facade, there has to be another explanation why it was built here in the first place.


On my visit to the Gabriela Silang Museum of Fine Arts in Tayum I heard an Ilocano story about a Lady by the name of Francesca Vasquez and this small church’s construction at the beginning of the 1900s. The story which has now worked its way into local folklore involves A Lady, A Chinese Merchant, A Carpet, and of course, lots of money.

With those ingredients how could it not be interesting and perhaps true?

Read on and make up your own mind. Leave a comment at the bottom on your verdict and the Jury will decide  🙂

Frontview San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine, Bangued, Abra


Bangued, Abra

So, at the beginning of the 1900’s, there was a woman by the name of Franchesca Vasquez, She was a trades woman and pious spinster, living in Bangued,. She would go to Vigan, buy rolls of cloth from a Chinese merchant, return and sell the cloth here in Bangued. The Chinese merchant that she bought the cloth from, also used to send rolls of cloth to his family in China.

The rolls of cloth he sent to his family had a hidden secret inside. He would unroll the cloth, place paper money on it and furl it again.

San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine, Bangued, Abra signage
San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine, Bangued, Abra hanging bell close up

One day the Chinaman made a mistake and unwittingly sold the cloth with money rolled inside to Francesca Vasquez. Suddenly she had a lot, a lot of money.

How much money? Her blanket was made of money. Her mattress was made of money. Her pillows were made of money.

Despite everything that the Chinese trader tried to do to get it back, she denied that she had found any money in the cloth telling him “No I never saw anything”.
But she had qualms of conscience so she went to see the priest. And the priest said “Oh it’s a gift from God. But don’t forget to thank God.”  So she built the church.
Usually a town only has one church but this town had two churches because she built one near the cemetery as a way of saying thank you to God.

With so much money of course other people developed an interest in her and lured her to the church under false pretences and they killed her. So the criminals went to hide in Hongkong. And when somebody told them that it was safe to come back, they came back. Except that the police were already waiting at the port for them. They were imprisoned. They were sent to Palawan, to the Iwahig Penal Colony.

San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine, Bangued, Abra sideview
San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine, Bangued, Abra front view from right side

Now, one of those who were sent there had children. The wife went with him there and they stayed there. And one of the children became the wife of our Deputy Minister for Defense, Carmelo Barbero. Nobody knew that (she had a) her family had a criminal background all this time. No but the wife,  Mary Barbero whom we named a park after her  before there, admits that she was born there. She admits that her father was imprisoned there. It’s nothing that.. it wasn’t something that she kept. Because when my father asked her about certain things that came from there, that the father had built as a investment, if you call it that, those were worth a lot of money as collectibles, she said no, we don’t have any of them anymore. She was very honest about that fact That’s the reason why there are two churches here. But later on during the time of San Lorenzo Ruiz they renamed the chapel the San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine, but before that it had a different name. Watch the original San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine story telling Video Here

Bangued, Abra

San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine, Bangued, Abra

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