In the old days, pious and zealous women (and yes, men) could afford to hear Masses at different churches of once-organized and manageable Manila.
My grandmother said that her parish then (this was in the 20s-40s) was Sta. Cruz. But as Nick Joaquin wrote, pre-war Manila families would troop to hear High Mass in the majestic, not to mention, historic “mother churches” of Intramuros. These were, namely, the Manila Cathedral, the San Agustin, the Sto. Domingo, the San Francisco, the San Nicolas de Tolentino, the San Ignacio and the Nsta. Sra. de Lourdes.
On Tuesdays, devotees of San Antonio, wearing the brown Franciscan habit (or anything brown) tied with a white knotted cord would hear Mass at the Venerable Orden Tercera (VOT) church perpendicular to the San Francisco. On Wednesdays, the church of the Redemptorists would be filled with devotees to the Socorro Perpetuo (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) while Fridays were reserved for el Nstro. Padre Jesus Nazareno of Quiapo. On First Fridays, the church of San Ignacio would be the place to be for devotees of the Most Sacred Heart who would come with the Red Scapular of the Apostolado de Oración.
Unfortunately, after the destruction of Manila, and its terribly-planned (was it even planned?) re-development, and with tumultuous changes of Vatican II, many old devotions have faded into oblivion. Many of the devotees are now old-timers, and the changes in Metro Manila have caused churches to be located far from each other.
Fortunately for this writer, who is a devotee of Sta. Teresita, Sta. Clara, San Antonio de Padua, Padre Pio and Nstra. Sra. del Carmen (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel), churches associated to these powerful intercessors are quite accessible from where I live.
From Cubao, I can take the LRT to el Real Monasterio de la Inmaculada Concepción de la Madre de Dios de las Monjas de Sta. Clara (whew! what a name! it’s popularly known though as Monasterio de Sta. Clara), and a jeep to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine in Broadway or the Convent of St. Therese in Gilmore, both in New Manila. As for San Antonio, as I am now working in the Fort, I can visit the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park either by car or taxi.
What is evident among these saints, their religious orders, their cults, why their very shrines is that they’re all associated to the devotional color of Brown. Habits of Carmelite and Franciscan friars and nuns are brown as well as those of their associated Third Orders.
For both the Monasterio de Sta. Clara and the Carmel of St. Therese, the air of solemnity and sacredness is evident and obvious. The contemplative Poor Clares and Carmelites maintain chapels that are quiet, liturgically-alive (Gregorian chant, seraphic singing, observance of the Hours, etc) and well, quite popular. Sadly, the Sta. Clara church is poorly ventilated, with only one actual source of ventilation (the entrance to the left side of the altar. On the other hand, the chapel of the Carmelite nuns can be quite packed and whenever the relics or feast of St. Therese are celebrated there.
On the other hand, Mt. Carmel Shrine is cavernous and magnificently appointed with stained-glass windows while Santuario de San Antonio is elegantly furnished with retablos, tasteful statues and portraits, and yes, airconditioned. For both the friars’ churches, the retablos are magnificent – painted brown and tastefully accentuated with gold paint.
Visit these churches and read up more on the interesting history, culture and rituals of the Franciscans and Carmelites in the Philippines!