Manila, September 23, 2019: In a low-key but historic event, the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints (Mormons), through its Family Search arm, recently turned over digitized Philippine Catholic Church records spanning four centuries to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The documents from 1614 to 2014 were received by Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao and Bishop Virgilio David of Caloocan, president and vice president of the episcopal conference, respectively, at the CBCP office in Intramuros, Manila.
Handing the documents which included, birth, marriage and death certificates, as well as canonical decrees, inventory of church objects, were Family Search (formerly called the Genealogical Society of Utah) officials led by the Mormon area manager for the Philippines, Felvir Ordinario.
Ordinario said the files, composed of 14 million images, were collected from different dioceses and parishes in the country—the oldest from Binmaley, Pangasinan, dating back to 1614, and the most recent from Biliran province, in 2014.
He said the documents constituted 400 years of records of the Filipino people that were preserved by Family Search and the files would help historians, researchers, Christians at large, and the Filipino people.
Ordinario said nearly all of the Philippine Catholic Church’s dioceses cooperated in the “massive” Family Search of the Mormons.
He added that archival preservation was being carried out by Family Search because of the belief of the Mormons that family unions extend beyond the present.
“Our ecclesiastical reason for this is our belief in the family,” said Ordinario. “Actually, unions extend beyond the present— (they extend to the) past, future. We believe in the family so we believe that we need to know our family and we need to preserve the information for the future because family is essential to God’s plan. We need to pass on the values and we need to learn the values of our predecessors.”
But some 10 dioceses did not cooperate with the Mormons. Among them was the Archdiocese of Palo in Leyte, which was hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013.
Other dioceses that didn’t cooperate were Capiz (Panay) and Balanga (Bataan) Ordinario stressed the importance of digitization and archival preservation.
In the case of the Philippines, he said conservation was urgent because records would be always at risk due to the punishing tropical climate, as well as natural disasters like “Yolanda.”
With digitization, Ordinario said, “We can assure that the memories of these people are all preserved in the collection.”
Ordinario said the Intranmuros event was “very historic” since “for the first time all Catholic records in the Philippines are now in one place” and could be accessed by everyone.
CBCP president Archbishop Valles expressed elation and gratitude.
“(From) the point of view of safeguarding (important church records), this is of great help to us.”
He said that with digitization, people would have easy access to Church records.
Valles said that the CBCP would hand over the documents to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Archives, which has modern facilities to keep and conserve them.
UST archivist Regalado Trota Jose, who was also present during the Intramuros event, thanked the bishops for reposing their trust on the Pontifical University.
Jose said UST was chosen since it had the proper place, correct system and qualified people to handle the documents and because Family Search had already established relationship with UST through the turnover of microfilm records to UST prefect of libraries Fr. Angel Aparicio in the 1990s.
Jose said the documents would be of great help especially to academics and scholars researching on historical documents.
Jose stressed the importance of digitizing archival documents of the Catholic Church. “Non-Catholics are more concerned with the records rather than the Catholics themselves,” he quipped.