The Silent Sentinel

I just finished your book and wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed it. Your extensive research made it part text book,  part biography of the Philippine people, and also a powerful acknowledgement of your passionate personal crusade to save the church! I believe you eloquently captured the rich history of the Cagayan Valley and I hope the Cagayan Valley Association of Chicago keeps their vigil alive.

Kudos on the impressive undertaking of your book!

Patricia Saldaña Natke, AIA 

Founding Partner


213 W. Institute Place 
Suite 710 
Chicago, IL 60610 

The Silent Sentinel, winner of the 2008 Pinnacle Award for History
The subject of the Pinnacle Award-winning book The Silent Sentinel is the Church of San Pablo Apostol de Cabagan. Located in the Philippines, built by Filipino laborers under Spanish guidance, this church has been at the crossroads of many major developments in Philippine history.
Co-winner in the History Category, 2008 North American Retail Booksellers Association


James Edward Cleland


The Silent Sentinel

San Pablo Apostol de Cabagan Church reveals 300 years of secrets of the Philippines published by AuthorHouse

The Silent Sentinel breathes life back into the church’s legendary stone walls. The author highlights the current struggle to restore the San Pablo Apostol de Cabagan Church back to its original glory. Natives, as well as others from around the world, have joined forces to rescue the church from ruin. Cleland unfolds the significance of the San Pablo Apostol de Cabagan Church and its impact on the residents of the Philippine Islands. Cleland’s book showcases the church’s role in the protection of the people of the Cagayan Valley, the story of its occupiers: the Iraya people who first built it, the Ibanags who expanded it and the Ilocanos who have since maintained it.

 “The San Pablo de Cabagan Church has a remarkable history,” Cleland said. “The people of the Philippines have been trying to preserve that history by restoring it to its original splendor. In doing so, they have been able to attract worldwide attention but they still need assistance.

Cleland’s journey to uncover the past of the San Pablo Apostol de Cabagan Church left him intrigued by the Filipino culture. His encounters lead to a deeper understanding of the church’s importance. He now works to bring notice and advance the church’s renovation efforts. The Silent Sentinel reveals that an architectural structure is more than just an assembly of stones. It is the history of a people and a place.

 Trade soft cover

Approximately 289 pages

ISBN:  978-1-4343-5968-1

$16.98 retail price

Available at and

AuthorHouse is the premier book publisher for emerging, self-published authors. 



The bell tower, built in the 1730's, has warned its parishioners of the approaching Spanish army in the 1800's and the Imperial Japanese army in the 1940's.

Critics Endorsements

Critics Endorsements

"Cleland's extensive research process for his book began in 2000 with his reading everything he could locate in English on Philippine history. After three years, he hired a Spanish language expert to assist him in culling data from literature in that language.'Then several of my friends and associates who are Filipino would do the Philippine translations' " "...The scholarly book contains over 50 pages of sources and bibliographic details." 

Myrna Petlicki, Pioneer Press

"Makes me want to travel to the Philippines to experience the culture first hand." 

Sgt. Tony Meldahl, US Army, (Retired) military historian for the late author, Iris Chang

"I have finished reading it and appreciated the interest and the enthusiasm for preserving such a monument. I know its value because I have also lived in Europe and in Spain and in Italy and saw their concern for preservation of historical structures." 

Bishop Joseph Nacua, Catholic Bishop of Ilagan and Isabela Dioceses in the Philippines  

"Congratulations on your big accomplishment."

Veronica Leighton, editor of Via Times

23rd Philippine-American Expo Leadership Award given to James Edward Cleland
"For Outstanding service to the Philippine-American Community"
Aurora "Awee" Abayari, Executive Vice-President/Project Director
The First Tri-Media Group of Companies
"Cleland sets forth justification for a complete renovation of St. Paul the Apostle as a landmark church. He reveals how the church has impacted the formation of the Philippine nation. He pays tribute to the architectural design and originality of the Spanish friars and Filipino craftsmen. He points out the impact and influence of the clergy on government and the people of the Philippines during the colonial period...
In the midst of poverty the people of the Cagayan Valley have begun the process of rebuilding their church, one of the largest, oldest, and most significant churches influential in establishing Catholicism in the Philippines and other countries of Asia...
Cleland's writing is highly readable, interesting, informative, and inspirational.
"The Silent Sentinel" will be of keen interest to historians, to students of architecture, to seminarians, and to concerned lay Christians who want to be a part of preserving their heritage."
Richard R. Blake for Reader Views (10/09)
The Alamo of Asia. Read The Silent Sentinel to find out the story of the brave parish priest who gave his life to save thousands of Isabelinos.

8 Years of Research; thousands of miles of travel...

About the Author

James Edward Cleland entered Loyola University Chicago and in June, 1977 received the Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Studio Art. His senior project was a Proposed Plan For Expansion and Renovation of Loyola University Fine Arts Facilities. With assistance from Loyola Academy's Sister Institution Program, Mr. Cleland was able to complete coursework leading to the Master of Arts degree in the Graduate School of Loyola University Chicago in January,1993.

Teaching has been the occupation of Mr. Cleland since 1981, while architectural history has been a special interest--ever since he scaled the eighty-story Standard Oil Building in Chicago (then uncompleted) as a student accompanied by his father, Laurence Cleland and architect Edward Durrell Stone. As Assistant Principal of Notre Dame de Chicago Academy, a Roman Catholic elementary school located in Chicago near the West Side Medical Center Complex, Mr. Cleland saw firsthand a major architectural restoration. This restoration was for the historic church of Notre Dame de Chicago, a French Catholic church destroyed by lightning a few years previously. It was wonderfully restored by William L. Lavika. Notre Dame de Chicago Church is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture.

Mr. Cleland completes his thirty-sixth year of teaching while currently teaching at Loyola Academy, a Jesuit College-Preparatory school in north suburban Chicago. Mr. Cleland moderates the American Institute of Architecture Students chapter at Loyola Academy, gives tours of Chicago area masterpieces to area high school students and maintains membership in the Society of Architectural Historians. He is married to wife, Natividad, whose childhood parish was St. Paul the Apostle in San Pablo, Philippines. He has two sons, Scott and Craig. The family resides in Lincolnwood, Illinois.

San Pablo Church has been the sentinel protecting the people of the Cagayan Valley throughout all of the tumultuous and sanguinary history of the Philippines. As one of the oldest churches in the entire Philippines archipelago it has faithfully served its people for close to three hundred years going back to the days of the Spanish friars. Now it lies in a near ruinous state watching silently as other more-celebrated Philippine churches undergo highly-publicized renovations.

Despite crushing poverty the people of the Cagayan Valley have begun the monumental process of rebuilding their church-certainly the largest from the Spanish colonial days and one of the most significant in terms of the establishment of Catholicism in all of Asia. This reconstruction has been guided by a handful of dedicated priests, concerned parishioners, and friends from all provinces of the Philippines as well as all corners of the world.

James E. Cleland has set out to justify a complete renovation of this landmark church which currently enjoys no assistance from any governmental or private agency. Parallels are drawn with successful American restoration efforts.

The Silent Sentinel reveals a three-hundred year history of this historic adobe-and-stone church: the forced migrations of its people, droughts, earthquakes, epidemics, and vicious typhoons, fighting between the people and the Spanish, a violent war for independence, the Second World War with the painful occupation of the Imperial Japanese Army. It has lived to see the early days of freedom as the Philippines became a sovereign nation.

This book, as well, alerts the reader to the remarkable story of the design of San Pablo Church- the unique architectural innovations used by the Spanish friars and their Filipino craftsmen-which justifies a complete and faithful renovation in and of itself.

The toral arch; one single reason why the San Pablo Church must be saved as this is the first engineered arch in the Philippines.

300 Years of History...and this magnificent shrine has seen every minute of it!




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A Call to Save a Sentinel of World History

Author Explores Remarkable Past, Architecture of 300-Year-Old Church in Need of Restoration

LINCOLNWOOD, Ill.–Physically, it is built of adobe and stone. Looking deeper, however, one can see that it is made of much more, crafted of droughts, epidemics and vicious typhoons, composed of violent fighting, painful occupations and the glories of freedom. It is the Saint Paul the Apostle Church in the Phillipines’ Cagayan Valley, and it is the vessel of over almost 300 years of world history.Its amazing life story, along with the story of those fighting today to keep it from crumbling into the ruins of memory, is told in James Edward Cleland’s new book, The Silent Sentinel: San Pablo Apostol de Cabagan Church Reveals 300 Years of Secrets of the Philippines (published by AuthorHouse).

Despite its pivotal role in helping to establish Catholicism in Asia, the church, which is located in San Pablo in the province of Isabela, lies in a near-ruinous state today as other more celebrated churches in the country undergo highly publicized renovations.

“Despite crushing poverty, the people of the Cagayan Valley have begun the monumental process of rebuilding their church,” says Cleland, a teacher of architecture and design at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., who became interested in the church’s history, design and plight through his wife, a former parishioner. “This reconstruction has been guided by a handful of dedicated priests, concerned parishioners and friends from all provinces of the Philippines, as well as all corners of the world.”

According to Cleland, this grassroots effort at renovation enjoys no assistance from any governmental or private agency. It is his hope that The Silent Sentinel will help to justify a complete renovation of this landmark, this sentinel that has been protecting the people of the Cagayan Valley throughout the Philippines’ rich and turbulent history.  

In addition to the church’s vibrant 300-year history, Cleland also shares with readers the remarkable story of the design of San Pablo Church – the unique architectural innovations used by the Spanish friars and their Filipino craftsmen which Cleland believes justifies a “complete and faithful renovation in and of itself.”

A unique historical and architectural journey, The Silent Sentinel is a gem for history and architecture and preservation buffs, and a call for much overdo attention for not only San Pablo Church, but the other important Spanish Colonial Churches in the Cagayan Valley which have earned the right to stand tall and proud through hundreds of years of faithful service.

James Cleland holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a studio concentration and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University Chicago. Currently in his 20th year at Loyola Academy, Cleland is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians and a faculty moderator for the Loyola Academy Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students.

 The Silent Sentinel is Cleland’s first book. For more information, visit

 AuthorHouse is the premier book publisher for emerging, self-published authors. For more information, please visit



The Post-Modern facade is actually a temporary cover until such time as the great nave can be reroofed. This covering provides some safety from rain and wind to the sanctuary.
Interior brick work showcasing the Cagayan Valley Style. Try as they must, historians to this day have not learned how this adobe brick is so durable and colorful when compared to every other adobe brick in the Philippines.
Look closely at the patchwork to the brick walls; sunburst patterns favored by the Spanish Dominicans lay next to geometric abstractions never seen anywhere else in the Philippines. This church provided the laboratory for experimentation with adobe and stone which gave rise to the United Nations Historic Landmark at Tumauini, the Saint Mathias Church.
Found among the old candles and statuary was a beautiful wooden figurine of a saint--perhaps Saint Paul; Ms. Lily Mamauag and I saw to it that the figure was restored carefully and returned to the church. Such figurines are thought to possess special powers to the parishioners.
The original wall to the right connects to the temporary wall to the left. This wall is so damaged that the covering to the bricks has worn away enhancing erosion. A Boston masonry consultant to the Alamo in Texas (USA) was asked if this could be treated and he stated that it could. Both the Alamo and San Pablo were built within a decade of each other.
Stairway to the bell tower. The bells were stolen; in the past, these would toll to announce morning Mass, noon Angelus prayers, funerals and weddings of the faithful and warnings of approaching danger. The bell tower acted as a sentinel.
Look closely to the lower left; the Stations of the Cross would be reenacted in the first outdoor courtyard in all of Asia.
The restored front portal to the facade. Parish priest Fr. Pua tried his best to make the adobe as close to the Cagayan Valley Style as he could; a long search revealed little as to the complete list of ingredients.
To the left of the church lay the original convento. As fate would have it, a well-intentioned parish priest had it cleared away but much history went with its clearing. The War of Independence from Spain had a tragic chapter in that convento. A much beloved Spanish priest would not leave his people even though he was in great danger from revolutionaries storming through the provinces.
At the bottom of this picture one can see the catenary wall which enclosed the courtyard. This was a first anywhere in a Spanish colony and another reason this landmark church must be saved.


Miss Marilyn Caliguiran, a resident of Tumauini, Philippines, has been an instrumental person to the San Pablo Project. In addition to conducting interviews with the local population she saw to the careful photography to both the site of the church and the site of the horno, or kiln, for making the world-famous Cagayan Valley Style bricks. It is her photographs that will allow historians their best look at this--a world famous church waiting to be saved from its ruins.

Ms. Caliguiran-Gallema--a professor at nearby Isabela State University--is an expert in the Ibanag language and continues her fight to preserve both the beautiful literary heritage of the Ibanag language as well as the cultural and architectural legacy of its famous Spanish/Philippine architectural style.

All of the above photographs of the site were taken by Lynn Caliguiran-Gallema except for the third photograph which was taken by Fr. Ian Mamauag. All of these photographs are protected by copyright and cannot be used without the expressed written permission of James Cleland.

Awee Abayari awards the 2008 recipients of the Philippine-American Awards for their contributions to the Philippine and Phil-American communities. I was to be on the platform next to the "Phenomenal Diva" Jessa Zaragoza but was needed at the book stand. Oh well...I did get to meet heroes from Bataan at the stand, and that was great and their picture is below.
My wife, Naty, working our booth was a big help especially when it came to translating Ibanag and Tagalog!
One of the wonderful heroes of the Battle for Bataan Peninsula and his wife.
Making new friends at the Philippine-American Expo in Los Angeles, California. Friendliness and hospitality have always been Filipino hallmarks.
An Imperial Japanese Army helmet was found in the wall behind the altar and several bullets were found in the bell tower: reminders of a tragic episode in history.