Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Philanthropic General and the Indefatigable Friar

The Carriedo Water Fountain
Our misanthropic sentiments against Spain's colonial rule in general, and the friars and lame Spanish officials in particular, may be justified, but there were notable ones worth our praise.  Two of them were General Francisco Carriedo y Peredo and Father Felix Huertas (Fr. Huerta).

More than two hundred years ago, General Francisco Carriedo y Peredo — the Spaniard in which the popular street was named after (where the original ShoeMart Store once stood) and the water fountain that adorns Plaza de Sta. Cruz — bequeathed P10,000 in 1743 as an initial endowment for the creation of the first water system in Manila.  The intention was to provide free water supply in perpetuity for the poor of Manila.

Entrusted to the Obras Pias, this sum of money was to accumulate in the Galleon Trade until it should grow by way of profits and interest into a sufficient fund to build a water system.

Unfortunately, in 1762, an iron chest with P250,000 and labeled Fondo de Carriedo was among the spoils carted off by the invading British forces when it looted the city. Consequently, buried under tons of governmental archival documents, General Carriedo’s will was forgotten until a Franciscan friar, Fr. Felix Huerta began the search, found the documents and calculated that by 1878, the sum had grown to P177,853.44. Fr. Huerta spearheaded the efforts in actualizing the wish of General Carriedo, and within four years the water system was completed at a total cost of P742,509. With 153 hydrants, the system was inaugurated on August 23, 1882.

Incidentally, with the reputation and integrity of the friars in the 19th century Philippines suffering a severe blow from the outright scandalous wrongdoings by some members of the frock, almost buried under such heap were the valuable contributions of Fr. Felix Huerta. He was close to being forgotten despite the honor he brought to both his order and to the priesthood.

Fr. Huerta, as administrator of San Lazaro Hospital in 1859, worked tirelessly to have this charitable institution for lepers reconstructed when it was threatened with closure. It was also during this time that Fr. Huerta was said to have searched 300 government records (government archives existed since the beginning of the Spanish regime, for which we owe the existence of the 11 million documents in the National Archives) and discovered the Carriedo fund for the construction of a water system to provide free water for the poor of Manila.

It was also Fr. Huerta who managed to convince the Archbishop of Manila and the government to establish Monte de Piedad. The friar’s intention was to provide a savings bank for the city’s poor that would charge moderate interest rates.

A street in Sta. Cruz, Manila, was named in honor of this indefatigable Franciscan friar whose integrity was unblemished and beyond reproach.

The Carriedo Fountain in Plaza de Sta. Cruz

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  1. musta na tito eric. i'm back to blogging. hope all's well with you.

    1. I'm ok ... can't wait to see some pics from your trans-Pacific journeys :)