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Negros Oriental

St. Thomas of Villanueva Parish Church

Bayawan started out as a mission established by Royal Decree of 1868 along with San Sebastian and Inayauan. It was then known as “New Tolong” and served as the seat of government from which the poblacion and Sta. Catalina (Old Tolong) was administered.

The mission supervised the town center and the barrios of Pangadban, Camayan, and Basay.

Fr. Valentin Casamayor, the priest who administered the place before the arrival of the resident Recollect parish priest, was responsible for constructing the first albeit temporary church and convent, according the book “Handurawan: Visita Iglesia Negros Y Recoletos” published by Tolle et Lege.

First parish priest

When Bayawan became an independent parish in 1876, Fr. Eusebio Baztan was appointed the first parish priest. Fr. Angel Maestro, who served from 1882-1889, was credited as building a more solid church and convent. He was said to have mobilized the town for the construction of the municipal hall, barracks, roads, and an artesian well so the people would have potable drinking water.

Inaugurated on July 25, 1890, Maestro’s church of wood and stone was destroyed in 1907.

Recollect priests abandoned Bayawan when the revolt against Spanish forces broke out in 1898. It was ceded to the parish of Siaton which took over its spiritual administration. Fathers Tiburcio Fernandez and Juan Lorenzo were the first Recollect priests to come back when the situation returned to normal.

Current church

The current church traces its origin to Fr. Juan Rodriguez, who started construction in 1925. His successor, Fr. Jesus Garcia, added a small convent but it was destroyed during the Second World War.

It was during the tenure of Fr. Leandro Palacios that the convent was reconstructed. He was also responsible for establishing the first Catholic School, the St. Augustine Academy, in Bayawan and throughout Southern Negros. To this day, the school is being run by the Augustinian Recollect sisters.

Before the parochial administration was turned over to the secular clergy in 1961, the last Recollect parish priest to administer it was Fr. Jose Lizarraga.

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