La Visita Iglesia: Notable Churches in Metro Manila

The scourged Christ at the Pillar from the Pagrel Collection of Don Luis Araneta, on loan to the San Agustim Museum

The scourged Christ at the Pillar from the Pagrel Collection of Don Luis Araneta, on loan to the San Agustim Museum

Today, Maundy Thursday, Filipino Catholics engage in an ancient Roman practice of visiting churches as a penitential and devotional act. However, with more and more Filipinos leaving their cities for the beaches (which they do anyway on any other long weekend), many are losing the opportunity of not putting attention on their spiritual nourishment but also the chance to re-connect to their city’s rich history and heritage.

Here I present to you a list of my own personal favorite churches in Metro Manila which are either steeped in tradition or aesthetically pleasing. Some are both historically fascinating and beautifully enthralling. I hope we take this evening as a chance to discover the rich Catholic heritage of the Philippines, so undeniably connected to the blood life of the nation. Remember, before going through the Visita Iglesia, it would be best to hear first the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper, which is usually said at 6:00 PM. Here, the Church remembers Christ instituting the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood during the Last Supper. Among the high points of this Mass is the Rite of the Washing of the Feet and the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, which is accompanied by the ancient hymns Pange Lingua and Tantum Ergo. The evening proceeds with the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Altar of the Repose, which participants of a Visita Iglesia should visit.

SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH, Intramuros
– the oldest stone church in the Philippines and the only survivor of the Liberation of Manila
-its former cloister was converted into an extensive ecclesiastical museum under the care of the Augustinian friars. No less than then Principe de Asturias Júan Carlos and Princess Sofía launched the opening in 1975.
The magnificent interiors of San Agustin are enhanced by exquisite trompe-l'œil

MANILA CATHEDRAL
(Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception), Intramuros
-the so-called “Mother Church” of Asia being the cathedral of what once the most powerful archbishopric in Southeast Asia
-seat of the Primate of the Philippines
-below it is the tomb of Manila’s archbishops
-rebuilt in the 50s by the aristocratic Archbishop Rufino Cardinal Santos with the help of Italian and Filipino artists and architects
-dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
-the current structure is the 8th incarnation
-also a Minor Basilica

The massive neo-romanesque facade of the Cathedral. It is currently closed for a lengthy restoration program.

The massive neo-romanesque facade of the Cathedral. It is currently closed for a lengthy restoration program.


The captivating dome of San Sebastian Church. The rust can be evidently seen as corroding the painted images

The captivating dome of San Sebastian Church. The rust can be evidently seen as corroding the painted images

SAN SEBASTIAN CHURCH (Minor Basilica of San Sebastian), Quiapo
-first pre-fabricated and only all-steel church in the Philippines
-exquisite example of Gothic revival
-first constructed in Belgium, then demolished, then shipped to Manila in several steamships and reconstructed again on current site
-features exquisite stained glass windows from the Henri Oidtmann firm, a German company
-owned by the Recollect friars, it is currently under the supervision of Tina Paterno and her team of volunteers and experts
-critically in need of funding and restoration

All-steel wonder: the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian

All-steel wonder: the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian

Magnificent but hidden: the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat

Magnificent but hidden: the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat

SAN BEDA ABBEY (Our Lady of Montserrat Abbey Church), San Miguel
-serves as abbey church for the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, home of the Benedictine monks, and San Beda College
-lavishly decorated with paintings on its walls, altar and ceiling by Spanish Benedictines Lesmes Lopez, OSB and Salvador Alberich, OSB
-constructed by the Swedish architect George Asp in the neogothic tradition
-only shrine in Manila dedicated to the Santo Niño Jesus de Praga and Our Lady of Montserrat, the Black Madonna of Catalunya, Spain.
-Completed in 1920, it used to be the church of the Papal Legate to Manila.
-St. Maximilian Kolbe said Mass here on his stop-over in Manila from Japan

More on the Abbey and Church on my blog entry: https://hechoayer.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/in-search-of-silence-the-cloister-of-san-beda-abbey-mendiola-manila/

Facade of Jose Zaragoza's cavernous Sto. Domingo Church built in the modern, California-mission style tradition. It features reliefs by Francisco Monti and paintings by Botong Francisco

Facade of Jose Zaragoza’s cavernous Sto. Domingo Church built in the modern, California-mission style tradition. It features reliefs by Francisco Monti and paintings by Botong Francisco

SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH (National Shrine of Nuestra Señora del Santíssimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila), Quezon City
-Mother Church of the Dominican Friars
-Built in the 1950s by esteemed architect José Zaragoza
-formerly located in Intramuros, its last motif before its destruction during World War II was Gothic revival
-old church used to be the most sumptuous and heavily gilded in pre-War Manila
-houses the revered ivory image of Nuestra Señora del Santíssimo Rosario de La Naval de Manila
-features paintings by National Artist Francisco “Botong” Francisco
-declared a National Cultural Treasure last year by the National Museum

More on the pre-war grandeur of Sto. Domingo in my blog entry: https://hechoayer.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/in-search-of-silence-the-cloister-of-san-beda-abbey-mendiola-manila/

The Poor Clares can be seen behind the grills at the back of the Monasterio de Sta. Clara Church in Katipunan, QC

The Poor Clares can be seen behind the grills at the back of the Monasterio de Sta. Clara Church in Katipunan, QC

MONASTERIO DE SANTA CLARA (Real Monasterio de la Inmaculada Concepción de la Madre de Dios de las Monjas de Sta. Clara), Katipunan, Quezon City
-established by Sor Jerónima de la Asunción in 1621
-Mother Church of the Order of Saint Claire
-houses the oldest group of contemplative nuns in the Philippines, the Poor Clares or Clarisas in Spanish
-traditionally, devotees ask for fair weather from the nuns by offering them eggs, “clara” being “clear” or the egg white in Spanish
-thousands flock on the feast of Sta. Clara to ask for favors from Sta. Clara and the prayers of the enclosed nuns
-site where, in Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere”, Maria Clara was kept in seclusion by the devious Franciscan Padre Salvi for enslavement and his personal pleasure
-its former monastery complex in pre-war Intramuros was considered a “living death”, having no windows and people unable to see the nuns whose faces were also veiled until the 1960s

Facade of the church of the Monasterio de Sta. Clara

Facade of the church of the Monasterio de Sta. Clara

A pink sister adoring the Blessed Sacrament in the St. Joseph's Chapel for Perpetual Adoration in New Manila

A pink sister adoring the Blessed Sacrament in the St. Joseph’s Chapel for Perpetual Adoration in New Manila



PINK SISTERS CONVENT
(St. Joseph’s Convent of Perpetual Adoration) New Manila, Quezon City
-convent and chapel of the Pink Sisters in Manila
-established by the German Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration
-known as Pink Sisters based on the color of their habit, which was originally meant to be red
-built in 1965 upon the recommendation of Archbishop Rufino Cardinal Santos, and the assistance of several Spanish and Filipino families in genteel New Manila
-Pink sister/s would be seen praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament 24/7
More information on my blog entry: https://hechoayer.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/livin-in-pink-the-pink-sisters-and-the-freedom-in-the-cloister/

The Carmelite Chapel of the Carmel of St. Therese in Gilmore, also in New Manila

The Carmelite Chapel of the Carmel of St. Therese in Gilmore, also in New Manila

Carmel of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, New Manila, Quezon City
-established on 24 November 1926 through the generosity of the Spanish and Filipino families of New Manila
-a chapel for cloistered Carmelite nuns; the original community of French nuns came from their Indochina houses
-Josefina Constantino (born in 1920), a Filipino essayist, literary critic and poet who used to teach at the University of the Philippines, professed as a nun here in 1979. She is now known as Sister Teresa Joseph Patrick of Jesus and Mary
-the seraphic voices of the nuns can be enjoyed during their daily morning Mass at 6:30 AM as it wafts from their enclosure at the side of the sanctuary
More information on my blog:https://hechoayer.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/starting-a-sembreak-well-carmel-of-st-therese-of-lisieux-gilmore-new-manila/

The imposing facade of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine in New Manila

The imposing facade of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine in New Manila



MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH
(National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel), New Manila, Quezon City
-constructed in 1954, simultaneous to the establishment of the Order of Discalced Carmelite Friars in the Philippines
-the older shrine to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular was actually the San Sebastian Church
-used to be run by Irish and American friars
-the parish church of many, many religious orders located in New Manila, a quiet community of old Spanish and Spanish-speaking families such as the Madrigals, Conjuangcos, Avancenas, etc.
-so-called parish of the “tisoys” and old rich of Manila who moved to New Manila after the destruction of World War II
-a cavernous church that features marvelous stained glass windows and ornate retablos
-for a long time, still promoted the use of Communion Rails

Spacious Mount Carmel

Spacious Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel rendered in stained glass. The stained glass windows of Carmel add color to the rather dull and cold exterior and interior of the cavernous church

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel rendered in stained glass. The stained glass windows of Carmel add color to the rather dull and cold exterior and interior of the cavernous church

Interiors of Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Cubao

Interiors of Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Cubao



IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
(IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CATHEDRAL PARISH
-Since 1935, German SVD priests have been saying Mass in a small chapel in the area for the community there
-The parish was canonically set up in 1950
-It is now the Cathedral of the new Diocese of Cubao, whose first Bishop is His Excellency Honesto F. Ongtioco
-Its renovation is an excellent example of liturgical arts revival; artist Rafael Casals is involved in the church’s beautification and rehabilitation program as well as my uncle, an architect
-The crypts below the cathedral were also designed by my uncle
-features a majestic stained glass window panel at the middle featuring the Immaculate Conception

Magnificent stained-glass window panel on the main facade of Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao

Magnificent stained-glass window panel on the main facade of Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao

As the evening progresses, don’t forget to say the Rosary, or the Way of the Cross or a good confession. More than taking pictures and doing the Visita Iglesia as a tourist activity or family affair, make it a really good way of doing penance, of renewing your love and devotion to our Lord.

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
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