Manila, the ‘Distinguished and ever Loyal City’ was the capital of the Philippines. It was in Intramuros where the seat of the Spanish colonial government ruled. With both sword and the cross, most of the country was subjugated and Christianity was one of the great hallmarks of Spanish colonization. Within this city, five historic Manila churches still stand as testament to the faith and piety of the Filipinos that has continued to flourish to this day.
San Agustin Church
Originally St. Paul Church, it was the seat of the Augustinians, the first congregation who arrived in the country in 1565 together with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. It was this congregation that started the evangelization of the country. San Agustin Church, as what it is popularly known, in Intramuros is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. It was built starting in 1587 and finished in 1607. It has weathered fires and earthquakes, the looting by the British during their invasion of Manila in 1762, and the great second World War. Within its hallowed halls happened several important historical events including the surrender of the Spaniards to the Americans. Today, it is one of four baroque churches around the country listed as UNESCO World Heritage. Photo of interior, above.
San Sebastian Minor Basilica
Completed in 1891, the San Sebastian Minor Basilica is the only steel church in the country and probably in Asia. Contrary to rumors, it was Genaro Palacios who designed it, not Gustav Eiffel. It was commissioned by the Augustinian Recollects to replace an earlier stone church that got damaged then destroyed during the earthquakes of 1863 and 1880, respectively. The steel panels were forged in Belgium and shipped to Manila where it was later assembled. The stained glass windows are still original, made from Germany. During World War II, San Sebastian Minor Basilica was spared from carpet bombing that destroyed much of Manila.
The then district of Maalat, as Malate was originally known, became a parish in 1581. It was under the aegis of the Nuestra Senora de los Remedios. This antique Marian image was brought from Andalusia, Spain via Mexico in 1624. It still stands at the central niche of the altar until today. This is one of the historic Manila churches. The current stone church is the third structure and constructed in 1864. It is in baroque style with a blend of Moorish elements. The edifice was recently restored and the application of a protective paletada reversed the damage. Before, several of the noteworthy bas relief elements at the facade crumbled due to weathering.
Black Nazarene Minor Basilica
Quiapo Church, as how the Black Nazarene Minor Basilica is popularly known is the center of the Nazareno devotion. Every January 9th of the year, a procession commemorates the Traslacion. The image of the Christ carrying the cross was originally brought from Mexico in 1606. In 1787, it was transported to an earlier church in Quiapo where it has been ever since. The current church was built in 1879 and was enlarged and renovated in 1984.
This, perhaps, is one of the historic Manila churches that has been built and rebuilt over the centuries. The current structure is the eighth version since it was established in 1571. From the initial edifice made of wood and nipa to the present stone church, fire, several earthquakes and a world war has continuously ravaged it. Today, it’s a beautiful neo-romanesque structure completed in 1958 and retrofitted in 2014. It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila.