Last Sunday, August 13, my students and I climbed the belfry of the San Pedro de Alcantara church in Pakil, Laguna and pointed to them a pleasant piece of history: a bell made from the Fundición de Hilario Sunico. Hilario Sunico is one of two real-life people that became Rizal's inspiration for the character of Kapitan Tiago in his Noli me Tangere. The other was Balvino Mauricio, who fled the Philippines at the height of the tumult that claimed the lives of Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora in February of 1872, and whose opulent house on Calle Anloague in Binondo became the basis for the description of Kapitan Tiago's house in Chapter 1 of the Noli.
Hilario Sunico was born in 1848 and later inherited the foundry of his Chinese father Chan Uan Co and became famed for his bells which were produced using the correct mixture of copper, sulfur, tin, and iron to produce stannite, a mineral widely used in bell-making. So popular was the Sunico foundry, located in #20 Calle Jaboneros, San Nicolas, Manila, that a great number of church bells in late colonial Spanish period can be traced here. However, at the dawning of the 20th century the demand for bells steadily declined, such that by the 1920's, Sebastian, one of the sons of Hilario, lamented the almost total disappearance of the demand for bells. Hilario Sunico died in 1918, his remains lying in repose at the La Loma. But his bells continue to ring to this day.