Monday, July 11, 2011

The Old Churches of Metro Manila

Sundays proved to be quite boring, so I thought of something productive to do that would also feed my need to travel (even if it means just within the metro). I came with this idea of visiting and revisiting some of the old churches right here in the city. This little project had me set foot in different streets I've never passed before. I love the unfamiliarity! While walking on those streets, I often found things that are also worth blogging about but will do in my next posts. Oftentimes, after finally reaching my church destination, I marvel in admiration as I stare at the beauty right in front of me.

Sunday isn't a very good day to capture photos of these churches. For one, it is a bit of a challenge photographing a church with lots of people moving in different directions every now and then. There's also one funny thing, there are Sundays when I have to hear the mass for twice or thrice as I hop from one church to another. I sometimes arrive in the middle of a mass in one of the churches and naturally, I have to wait before it ends so I could take a picture of the interior of the church. I feel like it's disrespectful to have my camera clicking in the middle of a mass. Other than these two though, I am having a good time. I also found out that strolling alone can be fun and exciting as most of the Sundays, I traveled all by myself. I know, I will keep wanting to do it on my own for now.

This church visiting is a work in progress since I still have seven churches on my list that I am yet to see for the next couple of Sundays. For now, I want to share these with you, specially to those who are planning to get married in a beautiful old church. :)

1Santuario de Santo Cristo  
183 F. Blumentritt St. San Juan, Metro Manila
Tel: (02) 724-5466 to 69

This citadel looking church stands on the hilly grounds of Acquinas School in San Juan, Metro Manila. It boasts of very thick walls and wide columns that you'll surely notice right at the entrance of the church. The facade is plain looking stone without intricate carvings yet a sight of this church proved to be mesmerizing for me. Inside the church is an old feel, and a bit sad with mostly earth colors dominating the interiors - from the floors, adobe walls and the ceilings painted in brown and white. Stained glass windows is prevalent at the higher part of the church and high ceilings featured antique woods with some parts sculpted beautifully. The present church is the third to be erected in 1774, having the first two destroyed in fire during the Chinese uprising in our country and the British occupation of Manila respectively. This church had been used as shelter by insurgent forces during the 1898 Revolution.

To go to this church when coming from EDSA-Crossing, ride a jeep bound Quiapo. Get off the jeep when you reach Kalentong. From Kalentong, (Jose Rizal University is a landmark) you may ride  a jeep going to Puregold San Juan, it passes right in front of the church or you may also walk like what I did. It is just about an eight minute walk. Alternatively, you may ride a jeep going to Pasig coming from Quiapo.

2. Santo Niño de Tondo Church
600 L. Chacon St., Manila
Tel: (02) 245-5417

This Neo-classical inspired church is the home of the ivory image of Sto. Niño that arrived in the Philippines from Acapulco Mexico in the late 1570's. Like other parishes with Sto Niño as their Patron, Tondo Church celebrates the Sto. Niño Festival every third Sunday of January, with traditional processions and street dancing. The current church is made of stone and is believed to have been completed in the second half of the 19th century having all the previous buildings damaged by earthquakes and at one point from demolition. Entering the church, it projects a very pleasant feel with natural sunlight and fresh air coming from outside through the wide arching doors. The church has a central nave with towering pillars on each side.

Going here would be easy as it is near Divisoria, a shopping haven for bargain goods. From Tutuban Mall, I walked straight (on the opposite direction of Claro M. Recto Ave.) passing few more malls and stalls then I turned right in Ylaya St. I saw the church where the street ended.

3. Binondo Church
Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz, Binondo, Manila
Tel: (02) 242-4850

Binondo Church as we see it today is the end result of several reconstructions, repairs and improvements after it was first built in the 16th century. This church is known as one the most beautiful churches throughout the archipelago before it suffered from both natural calamities and man-made catastrophes. This church, rebuilt with what was originally left from World War II damages, is made of stone and bricks. It features a five-tiered bell tower, with notable octagon shape, that signifies the Chinese culture of the parishioners. It is the church where St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first and only Filipino saint, served as a sacristan. In that essence, Binondo Church is also officially called Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz. The interiors of the church is a grandiose waiting to be witnessed. Above is an oval shaped dome which is said to be originally octagonal in shape. One would surely not miss the paintings on the ceilings, each depicts the mystery of the most holy rosary.

To go here from Divisoria, just hail any jeep going to Taft Ave, it will pass right in front of the church. It will also work if you do the other way, ride a jeep from Taft headed to Divisoria, the church will be on your right.

Plaza Lacson, Sta. Cruz, Manila
Tel: (02) 733-0245 to 46

Standing in the middle of  two more famous churches, Quiapo Church on it's southeast side and Binondo Church in the Northwest, Sta. Cruz Church is still often flocked by devotees of Mary through the Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of this Parish. Originally built in 1768 using adobe, the church suffered two earthquakes and was almost obliterated during the battle of Manila in 1945. Only parts of the walls and belltower remained standing. The present church was completed in 1957 with a multi-layered bell tower. The facade of the church is generally simple looking with a dramatic projection at the center created  by elaborate carvings. Inside, the lightning is almost dramatic, with strong lights and shades contrasting each other. What I found very unique (and almost intriguing) with this church is the fact that  in the altar, a painting of a sheep, instead of a crucifix or a sculpted image is highlighted.

This church is a short walk from LRT1 Carriedo Station. Jeeps traveling along Taft Ave with a signboard Sta. Cruz will also pass by right in front of the church. I first visited Binondo Church so what I did is just walk from there, towards Escolta through Quintin Paredes St. It was a nice experience walking these uncrowded and clean streets. My special bonus was seeing more of old yet glamorous structures before arriving the Sta Cruz Bridge where Sta Cruz church becomes visible.

Boni Ave. cor Aglipay St,  Mandaluyong City
Tel: (02) 531-4827 / 531-2931

Mandaluyong is formerly called San Felipe Neri. During the Spanish regime, it is a barrio of Santa Ana de Sapa, and is under the province of  Tondo. In 1841, it became a municipality and after 22 years of being independent from Sta. Ana de Sapa, it established its own parish, hence they built a church, interestingly, with the same name, in honor of the parish'es patron saint - thus the San Felipe Neri Church. There had been no writings about the church being damaged from fires, earthquakes or war so I am under the assumption that the church we see today is still the same church built in 1863, making this as one of the oldest churches within the metro. There are some accounts that this church served as a hub for Katipuneros during the Spanish Revolution.

The church was built using adobe with clean and plain finish and a twin bell tower on both side of the facade. The exterior was designed with clearly defined forms, with symmetry in all sides giving it a little touch of Romanesque architecture. The simplicity is also incorporated at the interiors of the church except for the wooden circular dome where the nave and the transepts meet . Walking around, I found out that there's a garden at the back side of the church where niches are arranged against the walls.

To go here, you can ride a jeep in EDSA Boni going to Gabby's (still a part of Mandaluyong).  You'll see the church on your right. Since I came from Sta. Mesa when I visited, I rode a jeep coming from Quiapo headed to Punta, Santa Ana then I got off the jeep when I reached Gabby's. I crossed the street towards Boni Ave. and walked for about 12 minutes.

Pedro Gil St., Sta Ana, Manila
Tel: (02) 564-4203

The parish of Sta. Ana had it's humble beginnings when a church was first built using palms and bamboo in 1578. This was a result of the mission provided to Franciscan orders  to reach out to the lay people outside the walled city which is the seat of power during Spanish colonial times. Sta Ana. was once a small settlement called Namayan, part of the kingdom ruled by  a Lakan. It is said that the Lakan's great grand son was later converted into Catholic faith. In 1720, the first cornerstone of the current church was laid and the church was completed after five years. Sadly, the original church was ravaged during the Second world war and a restoration effort was made, and turned out a success in 1977.

The facade of the church wowed me although I can't pin down if it's completely baroque style. The color of the stone added to the old charms of the church. Stepping inside gave me shivers, it is simple yet grand. The church is formed like a crucifix and sunlight is coming from the stained glass arch windows near the ceiling of the church.There are lots of artistic wood works in the interiors. What stood out the most is the combination of sculptures and  religious paintings positioned behind the altar.

To go here coming from Taft, ride a jeep in Padre Faura going to Sta. Ana Tulay, the church will be on your right. Coming from Guadalupe, ride a jeep going to Herran. You may alight in the intersection of Tejeron and Pedro Gil St then ride another jeep headed to Sta. Ana Tulay. When I visited, I started from San Felipe Neri in Mandaluyong so from Gabby's I just rode a jeep headed to Padre Faura. I saw the church on my left.

7. Malate Church
2000 M. H. Del Pilar St., Malate, Manila
Tel: (02) 523-2593; 523-3168; 400-5876

This church erected just footsteps away from Manila Bay (and the famed Baywalk) is another glorious architectural wonder in the metro. The front walls of the church was built with stones and is discernible as mostly  Baroque in style. Getting inside it, you would realize that the church isn't as big as what you'd imagine from looking at it's facade. The church is cross shaped with relatively short transepts. I thought that the arching windows made of stained glasses is the only thing that's giving color to the simplicity of this Romanesque inspired interior.

The church dates back to 1588 and became the home of the statue of Nuestra Senora delos Remedios in1624, the parish'es Patroness. The church is a non-living witness of the short lived British occupation of Manila as  British  military units used the church for their protection against opposing forces when they landed the shores near the church in 1762. What is standing as the church today is a product of rebuilding the original church after it was toppled down by an earthquake in 1863.

To go here, ride a jeepney in Quezon Ave. (the road beside Quiapo Church) or the road in front of Sta. Cruz Church, with the signboard Mabini. It will pass right in front of the church which will be on your left. 

959 San Marcelino St.,
Paco, Manila (c/o St. Vincent de Paul Parish)
Tel: (02) 525-7853, (02) 524-2022 loc. 119

This round shaped chapel stands in the grounds of what used to be a municipal cemetery during Spanish Colonial times and what is now a national park. The church has a vaulted circular roof, thick adobe walls and is noticeably Romanesque in style. The discoloration of the adobe stones in its exterior is a reminder of  the oldness of the structure. It had been added and was built in the center of the cemetery in the 18th century. The chapel's interior is plain and small, but can seat probably around 70 people comfortably during 6 PM masses held only on Sundays.

In front of the chapel is a garden, with lots of greens and aged trees, made even lovelier by the fountain in the center. The whole place where the chapel was built is also circular. Prominent features are the empty niches constructed within the adobe walls. On top of these walls are walkways where you can appreciate more of your surroundings.

This chapel and park is an important part of our past. This is where Dr. Jose Rizal's (Philippine National hero) remains were interred, right after he was executed in Bagumbayan. Today, St. Pancratius Chapel is one of the  favorite wedding venues in the country. 

To reach this place, I rode a jeep in Pedro Gil (street in front of Sta. Ana Church) going to Padre Faura. I just reminded the driver to drop me off Paco Park. The jeep passes almost in front of the park, just a few steps away from the gate. Going home, I walked from the park to Taft Ave. It is very near Pedro Gil Station.

Cabildo cor. Beaterio St.,
Intramuros, Manila
Tel: +63.2.527.1796 / +63.2.527.093 / +63.2.527.3889

Formally known as the Minor Basilica of Immaculate Conception, the cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila. That means, this is where the Archbishop, the highest  ecclesiastical authority in all of Manila, celebrates masses and conducts other religious services. No wonder why the country's richest and famous usually choose to exchange vows in this church.

This cathedral started as a church made out of nipa and bamboo in 1571 right after Miguel Lopez de Legazpi conquered Manila in 1570. In 1581, the church was elevated as a cathedral when it became a diocese of Mexico. By 1591, building the church using stone and mortar had been started yet it was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1599. The present structure is the seventh to be built after all the past structures have been razed by natural calamities, fire and bombings in World War II. The cathedral as we see it today was built in 1954 and was inaugurated four years after.

The cathedral features a Romanesque-Byzantine architecture yet a mixture of different styles are visible. This fusion resulted in a jaw dropping elegance. The front facade features six statues of famous saints that were originally sculpted using molave wood in the earlier years. The church also may have the highest bell tower as I can see this while traveling the part of Taft Ave near Luneta. From the outside, the three door portals are very noticeable. The recessed arches in the central door is said to be a representation of the episodes in the history of this church.

Inside the cathedral, you would see artfully made stained glass windows which totals 134. These windows allow natural light to enter and glow thus giving more life to the interiors of the church. The central nave is separated from the right and left nave by tall pillars that lined up to near the main altar where the statue of Immaculate Conception is placed at the center. The eight pairs of stained glass windows found at the half-orange octagonal dome of the cathedral  creates a lightning drama that illuminates the interior of the church, giving me a feel that I'm really in a highly spiritual place.

To go here, ride any jeep with the sign board Pier from Quezon Ave (beside Quiapo church). Alight in front of the Manila Cathedral. 

10. San Agustin Church
Real St.
Intramuros, Manila
Tel:  +63.527.2746 / +63.527.4052

San Agustin Church is the only church within the Walled city of Intramuros that survived the wrath of World War II bombings, making it not only the oldest stone church in the country but one of the oldest churches standing around the Philippines. This stone church was built and completed between 1586 to 1606. The design of the church is said to be really stable that it withstood the numerous earthquakes that shook Manila in the past years. The 1863 earthquake however, damaged the right bell tower of the main facade which is left at that state up to these days.

The main facade of the church is simple and unpretentious but with obvious symmetry. Probably, the only eye catching part is the intricately carved doors that opens into the wide artful interior. Inside the walls of the church, there are tasteful paintings at the ceiling that one may misconstrue as carvings, if not stared at carefully.
Seeing the baroque pulpit in the right side of the central nave had me imagining Spanish Augustinian priests preaching the parishioners back in the old years. The church also houses the oldest Spanish Baroque pipe organ in our country that was restored through the help of Spanish government and by the Diego Cera Organ Builders in 1997-1998. The luminous 19th century chandeliers gives glowing life to the church.

The church has a museum and touring it will assure you an access to the choir loft where you can find 17th century carved seats. There's also a burial chamber in one of the sections of the museum that felt eerie, but right in the church, near the main altar, the remains of  Spanish conquistador and the first Governor General Manuel Lopez de Legazpi is buried.

To reach this church, ride any jeep with the sign board Pier from Quezon Ave (beside Quiapo church). Alight in front of the Manila Cathedral. Walk along Gen. Luna St., the road on the left of the cathedral, San Agustin Church is about two blocks away on your right.

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  1. beautiful churches. facade palang, very interesting na. and wait til you see the interior and the dome. heavenly!

  2. I absolutely agree. That's the reason why I can't stop going to these churches on Sundays, kind of addicting. Thanks for taking time to visit Chyng. :)

  3. Thank you ate .. saktong sakto tong research ko..
    may project kasi kami sa school about sa mga old churches .. eh, ayon .. hanggang metro manila lang budget namin.. buti nalang :)) medyo na lessen na prob namin kasi my street na nkalagay .. madali na sigurong mapuntahan yan at makuhaan ng litrato .. thank to you ate :)) - GELAi

  4. Hi Gelai! Glad to know this post can help you. May mga directions din akong sinulat on how you might reach this churches. You may also go to Quiapo church and San Sebastian church, old churches din yon kaso wala pa akong pics. Let me know how else can I help you. Goodluck!

  5. Such a beautiful blessing you shared with your readers, Pang. Brief narratives of the churches' origin and why it was built; and how can a commuter can reach each one.

    You write if you're writing to a friend. I'm gonna bring my young daughter to these churches...after I make her read your blog. :-)

    May you continue to find the strength and wisdom to share other places blessed by your visit.

    Thank you for finding time to bring this narrative to us, Pang.


  6. Thank you for your inspiring comment Al. It's such a joyful experience reading kind words like this. :)

    Please say hello to your daughter for me. May you both find visiting these churches enriching. God bless!

  7. Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto is also considered oldest in the Philippines church, it was erected by 15th century located in the heart of Sampaloc, Manila.

  8. It is a delight that you took time to take photos of old churches within Metro Manila. They are indeed a conner stone of our strong faith in God. It is also an opportunity for us to be proud of such edifices knowing that they were all built during the Spanish era.... We look forward in seeing more pictures around the country. It is also about time that we learn to preserve them and give value to our heritage...


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