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GMANetwork News, LUCENA CITY -Stepping into the controversy involving the change in name of one of Lucena City’s longest streets, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has officially objected to the city council’s decision, citing historical and practical reasons.
Ordinance No. 2517, which the city council approved in a special session on May 6, renamed a portion of Granja Street into Felix Y. Manalo Street after the founder of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), one of the country’s influential Christian denominations.
Letter to councilor
The street was originally named after Fr. Mariano Granja, OFM, the first Catholic parish priest of the city.
In a letter to Councilor Benito Brizuela, chair of the city council’s committee on tourism and cultural affairs, Maria Sereno Diokno, the NHCP head, said Granja Street was appropriately named after the priest based on an 1879 document titled “Guia de Forastero,” which made first reference to Lucena.
Diokno said the integrity of the street, which includes the portion proposed to be renamed, “has been sanctified by usage and therefore has attained a degree of historical association and importance in the community.”
The NHCP, which is the government agency responsible for the conservation and preservation of the country’s historical legacies, does not allow such renaming “if it would tend to disrupt the continuity of the street name,” she said.
Diokno noted that a pioneer English writer in the country, Paz Marquez Benitez, who was born in Lucena in 1894, also “makes special mention of Granja Street in her memoirs.”
The NCHP letter to Brizuela, dated May 12, was received by the city council on May 30, according to a staff of Councilor Rhaetia Marie Abcede-Llaga, who gave a copy to the Inquirer. Llaga, who was the lone opposition to Ordinance 2517 among 11 councilors was also furnished a copy.
Brizuela, one of the main authors of the ordinance, told the Inquirer that he and the other city officials would revise the measure to instead just “name” a portion of the street.
But this would be “the same thing,” Llaga said. “I will still oppose it. I will stick to my original stand that it is still renaming because there is already a name of the street and that is Granja Street,” she told the Inquirer.
Brizuela, 68, insisted that the 170-meter stretch of Granja from Lagos Street to the back gate of the INC chapel is just an “extension” and not part of the original Granja Street. “I should know because we used to live there when I was a small boy,” he said.
Longtime residents of the middle-class neighborhood, however, belied the claim.
“My parents were natives of this street, I was born in this place and this street had long been named and identified as Granja Street and not Granja Extension,” said a 70-year-old man, who introduced himself as a member of the Alzaga family, one of Lucena’s pioneer clans.
Diokno debunked Brizuela’s argument in his letter to the NHCP dated April 3 that the portion proposed to be renamed was opened only in the 1960s. “It still is considered as having been sanctified by usage,” she explained.
Lucena Bishop Emilio Marquez, one of the fiercest critics of Ordinance 2517, said by phone that he was happy with Diokno’s decision. He had earlier branded the proponents as “Judases” out to earn “pogi points” from the INC for their reelection.
Brizuela and another author, Councilor Rey Oliver Alejandrino, reacted by asking the bishop who between the two Judases in the Bible they had been likened to: “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, or Judas Thaddeus, patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes?”
But Marquez said: “I will leave the interpretation to them.”
Brizuela stressed that despite the bitter exchange of words, he would continue to remain a Catholic and loyal to the bishop.
Diokno suggested to the councilor that Manalo could still be honored by naming a structure after the INC founder.