Wanna Hear My Confession? (San Agustin Church and Monastery in Intramuros)

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April 6th 2011
Published: April 9th 2011
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Confession of a Sinner: English or Spanish?Confession of a Sinner: English or Spanish?Confession of a Sinner: English or Spanish?

Who cares to hear my confession?
It is Lent. Time to go visiting the Churches. The norm for Catholics here is to visit 7 Churches, preferably on Maundy Thursday. But I have decided to instead do the 7 during the entire Lenten Season, and to choose the 7 Churches with lots of history. First off: San Agustin Church in Intramuros, a 16th century church claimed to be the oldest stone church in the country.

Filipinos A Strange Race?

From Makati where I live, we drove along Roxas Boulevard with a lovely view of Manila Bay towards the Pier. We took the right towards Intramuros, where one finds Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral. We skipped both, and drove directly to San Agustin Church and Monastery.

Standing right in front of the Church and looking around, I found how un-Asian this corner in Intramuros is. No wonder some of my foreigner friends tell me that Filipinos are "strange" in that way. Strange in that most of us bear Spanish-sounding surnames. Like Ramirez. Like Chavez. Like Guerrero. Or Mendoza. Sure, we were a Spanish colony for close to 400 years, but other countries had Dutch or Portuguese or British colonizers - yet, I don't
Inside the San Agustin ChurchInside the San Agustin ChurchInside the San Agustin Church

Many wedding ceremonies were held here. Brides favored the "long aisle" where they'd walk towards the altar to meet their groom.
hear of them with Dutch or British or Portuguese family names. Or am I wrong? Strange and so un-Asian in that our language is interspersed with a lot of Spanish words and that Filipinos very readily use Spanish expletives that I do not wish to repeat here. Truth is we even coined a word for the elitist Filipinos ...... "con** crowd" --- which literally means a lady's private part in Spanish. 😊 Strange in that we are so used to counting in Spanish (uno, dos, tres.........) or in telling the time in Spanish ( a las tres y media, a las dose, etc.). But more than anything else, we are very "Spanish" in our faith. The Philippines does not have the temples of Cambodia, Laos or Thailand, nor the pagodas of China , Japan and Korea, but we have many Catholic Churches dotting the countryside which are worth seeing. Churches always form a central and core part of every Filipino's lifestyle. Here in Manila, a few old Churches remain standing despite this city being the second most -bombed city during World War II.

More Than Just An Old Church

San Agustin Church at the corner of
Many Sermons Heard From This PulpitMany Sermons Heard From This PulpitMany Sermons Heard From This Pulpit

In the olden days, Spanish friars took to the pulpit to deliver their sermons.
General Luna Street and Real Street in Intramuros is hard to miss. It is just a stone's throw from the Manila Cathedral (when facing the Cathedral, take the right side and walk straight towards San Agustin Church) and an easy walk from the Fort Santiago, another tourist destination.

Inside the Church, one finds off some corner a confessional box. The parish priest sits inside while parishioners take turns to have their confessions heard by the priest with only a small screen window separating them. On your knees, you confess your sins! In another corner, there is the pulpit where the parish priest used to say his homily or sermons. Times have changed since those days. And the ornately designed pulpit is now simply a reminder of how grand our old Churches were or still are, if luckily preserved and bomb-spared as with this Church. But Filipino Catholics still make their confessions to their priests in this box-like structures though modern-day Catholics are not discouraged from doing face-to-face confessions. But to confess in English or Spanish? How about in the local dialect? Strange. 😞

This Church is a favorite among brides such that "bookings" for weddings need
Burn in Hell!Burn in Hell!Burn in Hell!

This is a reminder that one should confess his sins to ask forgiveness. That...........or you burn, baby!
to be arranged at least a year in advance. I have attended one too many wedding ceremonies here, and wedding receptions were held in any one of the nearby colonial-inspired restaurants and bistros just across the Church, or in the garden within the church courtyard. On weekdays, you may find school groups doing their field trips, and on weekends you would likely witness wedding ceremonies. That is how "busy" this Church is.

Yet.........the adjoining Monastery which has since been converted into a Museum hardly gets a crowd. 😞 The day I visited, I walked alone along many corridors. Kind of eerie, if you ask me. I honestly felt like some statues are staring down at me. In one of the exhibit rooms , I got goosebumps finding a dark corner with 4 or 5 statues clad in black robes. They were representations of the early Augustinian friars who built this Church and established a religious order in the country. It "helped" that the room was dimly lit, such that you find the robed statues just when you are almost face to face with them. Off another corridor, I found huge paintings, some pitifully warped, and woodcarvings depicting hell.
I was all alone at the time I visited...I was all alone at the time I visited...I was all alone at the time I visited...

Walked this path all by myself. No crowds. Eerie. I felt some statues staring down at me.
You bet my hair stood on edge and felt my heart beating out of my chest. I almost had regrets that I came when school's over. I could have timed my visit with a school group's field trip instead and spared myself of some palpitations.

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi Rests Here: A Short History Lesson

Filipinos all know that Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines. But Spanish colonization and the subsequent Christianization of the Philippines didn't start with the discovery of Magellan in 1521, who incidentally was slain by a local tribal chieftain named Lapu Lapu in the island of Mactan in Central Visayas. While Magellan captained the very first ship to sail completely around the world, Magellan never lived to tell his tale of discovering the Philippines and to prove that the world is indeed round. However, his discovery led to Spanish Expeditions led by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos in 1541 (who was driven away by hostile locals) and then by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Legazpi befriended a native Bohol chieftain called Datu Sikatuna in a ceremony called "Blood Compact" and from there, established Spanish colonies with the aid of local allies
Legazpi Rests HereLegazpi Rests HereLegazpi Rests Here

Where Magellan and Villalobos failed, Legazpi succeeded in colonizing the Philippines and initiating the christianization of the pagan natives. He was buried here in San Agustin Church.
starting with the island of Cebu. With the colonization, came Christianization of the natives who earlier practiced nature worship. And as pagans converted to Christianity, they were baptized and given Christian names. So. Now you know why many Filipinos have Spanish family names. Right?

Legazpi was a diplomat more than he was an explorer. In Manila, he befriended both Rajahs Lakandula and Sulaiman and with some help from Augustinian and Franciscan friars, established a governing city council in 1571. At the same time, he ordered the construction of Intramuros, proclaiming it the capital of Manila and seat of the Spanish Government in the East Indies. He died in 1572 and was laid to rest right here in the San Agustin Church.

Now, enough of history and back to topic.

Father Blanco's Garden

After doing the rounds (actually the "squares") in the Museum, it is refreshing to go down and spend some time within the garden. If you have a book with you, you can take over one of the benches and while away the time while resting your legs and feet in Father Blanco's garden. The garden can do with more
Father Blanco's GardenFather Blanco's GardenFather Blanco's Garden

Or one can bring a book and while away some time here in this quiet garden.
flora, but you can enjoy the afternoon breeze here before venturing out of the Museum grounds. In my case, I found the time to check out the "Binondo Food Wok Map" while here in the courtyard garden. This is the map I bought (for 100 pesos) in the Bahay Tsinoy (literally means House of Filipino-Chinese) one block away from San Agustin Church. (Facing the Manila Cathedral, one can take the road on the left side till you hit the 2nd corner. This is Cabildo Street corner Anda Street) Of course, if it is too sunny, you may simply have a drink and some chips or biscuits in a corner stall (can't even call it a cafe) within the Museum. There are tables and chairs where you can sit, facing some huge paintings. Not bad in terms of scenery, but the corner stall can certainly offer better drinks (like a good brew?) and better wafers or local rice cakes.

More Time to Spare?

If you have more time to kill, you may head straight for the Walls by taking Real Street (the Church is right at the corner of Real and General Luna Streets) , passing
Way to the WallsWay to the WallsWay to the Walls

From the corner where the San Agustin Church stands, there is a good bistro (Mistre) along the same path one can take, walking towards the walls of Intramuros.
by a good bistro called Ristorante delle Mistre and remembering to have a cozy dinner there on the way back. There is an option to walk along the walls or ON the walls. There are stairways to get on top from where one is afforded a view of the nearby Manila Hotel and the sprawling golf links which get all lighted up at night. On this visit, I found many young couples on a date here. Good choice. It is quiet, breezy and has good views.

As I trace my steps back to the Church, I passed bronze representations of ex-Presidents in what is dubbed as Gallery of the Presidents. I cannot help but feel amused to find those of ex-presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Joseph Estrada side by side. Even in bronze, it is kind of strange and quite amusing to find them together. Can't wait till 2016 when that of incumbent President Noynoy Aquino joins them. Oh, I do not mean to be disrespectful. Just that it is no secret in my country how these 3 'adore' each other. Enough said. Go drop by Ristorante delle Mistre and have that mango cheesecake (less than US$2) to
View from the WallsView from the WallsView from the Walls

From San Agustin Church and Monastery, I strolled towards the walls which straddles a golf link and a street lined with old structures and more walls like this!
go with your brew. If you have the appetite for lunch or dinner, order their set menu. Come, visit and enjoy Manila!

Better still, enjoy the many islands of the Philippines. I am a local living here and must admit I still have a long list of must-visit destinations around the country. Like Mount Pinatubo. Or Puerto Galera in Mindoro. Or Sagada. Plus many more. Now, that's a confession! 😊 Cheers!

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Gallery of Past PresidentsGallery of Past Presidents
Gallery of Past Presidents

It would be rare to find ex Presidents Estrada and Arroyo side by side, but here you are........
San Agustin Church and MonasterySan Agustin Church and Monastery
San Agustin Church and Monastery

A busy Church. And a pitifully uncrowded Museum. Mind you, it is a good Museum.
Entrance to the MuseumEntrance to the Museum
Entrance to the Museum

No photos inside, where one finds antique pieces made of ivory and wood, as well as period paintings.
How about a drink here?How about a drink here?
How about a drink here?

Right inside the Museum is this corner stall where one can buy a drink and some chips. Nothing fancy. But it's nice to sit around, rest your butts and view the paintings from here.
Barbara's: Another Dining OptionBarbara's: Another Dining Option
Barbara's: Another Dining Option

This one is right across the San Agustin Church, and is a favorite wedding reception area.
Manila Cathedral : Back ViewManila Cathedral : Back View
Manila Cathedral : Back View

Taken with my iPhone, a year ago, when I joined one of those political rallies in the area. ;-)
Manila Cathedral Manila Cathedral
Manila Cathedral

Facing this Church, take the right side and walk all the way to San Agustin Church. Or take the left side and find the Bahay Tsinoy at the second corner, then walk towards San Agustin Church.

As soon as you see this along Roxas Boulevard, take a right turn. The first corner is where you will find Manila Cathedral on your right. On the left is the street towards Fort Santiago.

In front of the Manila Cathedral, you may want to try the horse-drawn carriages called calesas. It is really an easy walk, but some of you may want to see Intramuros more leisurely.
Pathway to the GardensPathway to the Gardens
Pathway to the Gardens

View from the Monastery, 2nd floor.
Another Empty CorridorAnother Empty Corridor
Another Empty Corridor

No school groups doing field trips today. No crowds.

Carrozas are "floats" where religious statues are placed on top and paraded around during religious processions.
Rizal ParkRizal Park
Rizal Park

Originally called Bagumbayan, then Luneta, now Rizal Park after the national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal whose statue you'd find dead center of the park.
Take A CalesaTake A Calesa
Take A Calesa

There are also calesas in Rizal Park, which is not too far from Intramuros.
Bahay TsinoyBahay Tsinoy
Bahay Tsinoy

Just around the corner from Manila Cathedral on your way to San Agustin Church is Bahay Tsinoy. This is where I got my Binondo Food Wok Map (100 pesos) --- another must-do in Manila.

9th April 2011

Thanks for such an interesting blog, great photos and very interesting story. I don't think that Indoensian people took on Ducth surnames, but then thanks to you I now know why Filipino took on Spanish names, I must discuss this with the Filipino people I work with. That carving of burning in hell is very scary - thanks for the great blog - you love in a very interesting country.
10th April 2011

Thanks, Rob and Lorenza
It has been a while since the last time I visited the Museum beside San Agustin Church. Shame on me. But I am now keen about doing the rounds here in Manila and suburbs. Judging by how travelers skip Manila for the beaches and the mountains soon after they arrive, it might be good to design one-day trips for those stopping over Manila and see parts of the city, and learn more about our country's history. . ;-)
10th April 2011

Nice blog
You've got some really nice photos here. I enjoyed reading along.
10th April 2011
San Agustin Church and Monastery

hi Tita Lili, Is this a recent picture of San Agustin? we are planning a Church wedding in Manila and we've been seeing a pictures of the front of the church, showing an unpainted part. Thanks Tita Lili, enjoyed reading this blog a lot. As I always tease my mom and aunties back home as being church tourists.
11th April 2011

Just a few days old photo
Yes, Aries. I took this photo only last week. Very recent. But better make those bookings this early for weddings. As I mentioned in my blog, they need to be booked way in advance.
11th April 2011

Now, that's how history is made interesting.
Most often, we (well, I) get stumped when people ask for interesting places to go to in Manila. My confession? Intramuros is the only place I could think of. Featuring these places in your blog is really a great way to remind us once more that there's more to this capital than this centuries-old fort (and traffic jams and malls). Can I make a suggestion? :) Why not feature peculiar places to eat in? Not the typical restaurants but something that showcases not only our food but why we Pinoys love eating. :)
11th April 2011

What a wonderdul idea! You know how i love my food, Hana, that I actually blogged on it more than once. In an earlier one (http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Philippines/Metromanila/blog-451568.html), I promised to do a sequel but never got around to it. Hmmmm......yes, maybe the peculiar places like Balaw Balaw, chinatown is next, etc. Thanks.
4th July 2011

Revived Interest in San Agustin Church
Ms. Lili, These pictures of San Agustin certainly made me want to insert a visit to this place in August. I go to all these churches/castles in UK, Russia and I could say San Agustin can rival these churches in architectural design. Great post!
20th October 2011

love the church!
ay, naunahan ako. LOL. i went to intramuros last weekend and decided to write a post about san agustin church. yun lang, i haven't started it yet. but san agustin is a very important church for me. for me, it's one of the most beautiful churches.

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