A Blast From Our Colonial Past

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April 13th 2011
Published: April 17th 2011
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Legacy from Spanish ColonizersLegacy from Spanish ColonizersLegacy from Spanish Colonizers

After all, they stayed for nearly 400 years. They came, they conquered, they converted, they baptized, they built Churches.
While its Asian neighbors have temples and pagodas, the Philippine landscape is dotted with heritage Churches. A legacy from its Spanish colonizers for nearly 400 years. Indeed, much of the history of the Philippines can be gleaned from the Catholic Churches spread all over the archipelago, many dating back to the 16th - 18th century. If you are spending a couple of days in Manila before heading off to a beach destination, you may want to spend some time visiting a few of these churches.


The highlight of a trip to Intramuros would be Fort Santiago. A fellow Filipino earlier blogged about this, and I think his write-up serves as a good guide in exploring Intramuros, especially Fort Santiago. Directions on how to get to Intramuros are also outlined in his blog. I included a photo from his blog here. Just click on the photo to read the entire blog.

If you are visiting Fort Santiago, you might as well throw in a visit to 2 churches within the Intramuros area: The Manila Metropolitan Cathedral and San Agustin Church. Both are within walking distance from Fort Santiago, passing a couple of Museums (Bahay
Malate ChurchMalate ChurchMalate Church

It took only a few days between February 3-17, 1945 and the entire area was nearly flattened with thousands dead from the shelling of American forces and the burning by the Japanese occupiers.
Tsinoy and Casa Manila) along the way. I also recently blogged about San Agustin Church and the adjoining San Agustin Museum. You may want to check it out too to find out how best to spend a leisurely afternoon in Intramuros, Manila. (Wanna Hear My Confession? (San Agustin Church and Monastery in Intramuros))

Malate Church (Church of Our Lady of Remedies)

From Intramuros area, you can reach Malate Church driving along Roxas Boulevard lining Manila Bay. You may even choose to stroll along Baywalk after a visit to Malate Church and catch the Manila Bay Sunset, if you like.

Built in 1588 originally as an Augustinian Friar Building, the statue of Our Lady of Remedies was transported from Spain in 1624 and enshrined here. The Church withstood a couple of major earthquakes in 1645 and 1863. But
Paco Park: Chapel, Park & CemeteryPaco Park: Chapel, Park & CemeteryPaco Park: Chapel, Park & Cemetery

Our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal was buried here until 1912, when his remains were transferred to the Rizal Park where his statue is guarded 24/7.
more damage was wrought by the February 3-17, 1945 Battle of Manila which left nearly the entire Malate area flattened, with thousands dead from the shelling from American forces and burning from Japanese occupiers. Unlike the San Agustin Church and Monastery , this centuries-old church was left charred and roofless, and reconstruction began soon after the end of World War II.

Tired and sweaty after Intramuros and Malate Church? Or after the stroll along Baywalk? Go check out either the nearby Max's Restaurant or Aristocrat House. You can't go wrong with a good, reasonably-priced meal in either one of these 2 dining institutions in the country. If you are a vegetarian, and still have the time and energy, walk towards San Andres Market where you can buy fruits, fruit shake and the local halo-halo which is sweetened fruits with ice shavings and milk --- our version of the milk shake. You won't spend more than a US dollar to enjoy a glass or two.

Paco Church ( A Chapel I'm Told, Not A Church)

Taxis are cheap in this country, so go ahead and hail a cab to take you to Paco Church.
Binondo ChurchBinondo ChurchBinondo Church

This is the church where the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, served as altar boy. The Church was built for Filipino-Chinese Catholics, fondly called Chinoys or Tsinoys.
Just make sure it is not a Monday or Tuesday when Paco Park is closed.

From outside, it looks like your mini-Intramuros as the Park is hemmed in by this ancient wall. No wonder this Church is a favorite wedding as well as concert venue. Never mind that it is also a cemetery! After all, it has a distinguished list of VIPs interred in its park grounds. No less than Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero, was buried here until 1912, and so with the martyred priests Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, more commonly referred to as Gomburza.

A decade ago, I attended my nephew's wedding in this very church. There were also a couple of concerts I had the chance of watching in this park. The joke is bandied around that those buried in Paco Cemetery within the same park grounds must be happy listening to musical concerts held here. It even goes further to threaten that you may be seated next to a ghost clad in 18th century clothing while watching a concert! What I most remember though is that after every concert, we would always troop to the nearby Swiss
Angels Inside the Binondo Church?Angels Inside the Binondo Church?Angels Inside the Binondo Church?

At the time we visited, a group of teens were rehearsing their Palm Sunday play. With angel wings, they danced to some religious music and pranced around the church aisle.
Inn Bistro to partake of some gustatory delights starting with raclette and some sausages. Not exactly very Filipino nor Spanish, but as proof of how good this bistro is, the same Swiss Inn still stands here today. Be prepared to meet old waiters ready for retirement (as they have worked here for many years) or their sons who have replaced the original staff. 😊

Binondo Church

Unlike most churches here founded by either Augustinians or Franciscans, the Binondo Church right at the mouth of Chinatown was founded by Dominicans mainly for Chinese-Filipino devotees. To this day, we still call these Chinese-Filipinos as Chinoys (or Tsinoys) --- fondly, of course.

This Church has had many names. Originally built as a simple nipa and wood structure in 1596, it was then dedicated to Saint Gabriel. It was rebuilt in stone in 1606, but later demolished to rebuild a new stone church in 1749 dedicated to Nuestra Senora Santissima del Rosario. The same 1863 earthquake which damaged Malate Church also severely ruined the Binondo Church and Belfry. As with the same fate as Malate Church, the 1944 carpet-bombing of Manila (second most bombed city during
Santa Cruz ChurchSanta Cruz ChurchSanta Cruz Church

First church built by the Jesuits. Across the Church and the Plaza with the Carriedo Water Fountain is the Arch of Goodwill , entry to Manila's Chinatown.
World War II, next only to Warsaw, Poland) left only a shell of the previous Binondo Church.

The present structure now has a facade and belfry of Mexican-Spanish colonial architecture. You may call it baroque, Philippine style . 😊 Now known as Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, it was renamed in honor of the very first Filipino saint.......who happens to be a "Chinoy" altar boy in this very church.

Santa Cruz Church

Before Makati became the financial center of Manila, there was Escolta. This is actually the name of the street where many financial institutions located their headquarters, much like what and how Ayala Boulevard is in Makati now. In the 1960s, it was the most fashionable shopping street in Old Manila that people started calling it "downtown". I remember my oldest sister working for a major bank here in Escolta before, and how we would pass Santa Cruz Church after picking her up from work.

It is an easy walk from Binondo Church to Santa Cruz Church. You can take Ongpin Street which cuts right across Manila's Chinatown between these 2 Churches, going from West to East. Between
Quiapo ChurchQuiapo ChurchQuiapo Church

The Church houses the Black Nazarene, hailed to have miraculous attributes. A religious procession is held every January 9th, attended by close to a million devotees.
the archway to Chinatown and Santa Cruz Church is the Carriedo Water Fountain in Plaza Santa Cruz. If you are visiting on another day, you may opt to hail a cab or take the LRT and get off at Carriedo Station. From the Station, go down to Rizal Avenue. It is a short walk from there, taking Bustos Street from Rizal Avenue (commonly referred to by Filipinos as "Avenida Rizal").

Straddling the right bank of the Pasig River, Santa Cruz is right in between the districts of Tondo and Quiapo. The Church is the very first Church built by the Jesuits in 1619. Its patron saint is Our Lady of Pilar, and the parish drew many Filipino-Chinese or Chinoy devotees. As with many of our heritage churches, Santa Cruz Church was twice damaged by the earthquakes and completely destroyed in World War II. Rebuilt in 1957, in baroque style, much like the mission churches to be found in California.

Quiapo Church

From the same LRT Carriedo Station, one goes down Rizal Avenue (or Avenida Rizal) turning left at Carriedo and walking along a street flanked by street vendors. A very manageable walk, with many
Inside San Sebastian ChurchInside San Sebastian ChurchInside San Sebastian Church

This is the only all-steel church in the whole of Southeast Asia. Claimed to have been designed by no less than Gustav Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, the steel vaults are now needing major repairs and restoration.
interesting sidetrips and "shopping stops" as well. The road is littered with countless street vendors selling almost everything from pots and pans to pirated DVDs to flowers, fruits, fish and cooked food and snacks. On one side of Quiapo, there are even stalls selling religious icons side by side with candles, flowers and this time of the year, palm leaves (for Palm Sunday). I swear I even saw street vendors sellling faucets and pipes! Mobile hardware, I must say. The smell of flowers and candles mix with the aroma coming from grilled foodstuff just outside the Church. Enough to remind me that I didn't have breakfast. This is never a problem though, unless one is so picky. Street food is everywhere.

Quiapo Church is the residence of the Black Nazarene, hailed to have miraculous attributes. The original Mexican baroque church burned down in 1928. The Church sits right within Plaza Miranda where many political rallies were held, more in the past than lately. Built in 1586 by the Franciscan order, destroyed in 1639, rebuilt but damaged again in the earthquake of 1863. Before this major earthquake, the Black Nazarene was enshrined in this church in 1787 . Today,
Guadalupe ChurchGuadalupe ChurchGuadalupe Church

Church of the Nuestra Senora de Gracia. Foundation laid in 1601, church completed in 1629. Was seat of devotion for Chinoys (Chinese-Filipinos). Used to be an orphan asylum following the devastating cholera epidemic of 1882.
this occasion is celebrated every January 9 where devotees parade the Black Nazarene statue around with many attempting to touch what is considered as a miraculous statue. The "fiesta" is an important religious event in the country.

San Sebastian Church

In my earlier blog ( QUIAPO: Heritage Treasures in Manila), I referred to San Sebastian Church as the only neo-Gothic all-steel structure in the Philippines and the whole of Southeast Asia. The Church was destroyed 3 times by earthquake before the Order of Augustinian Recollects decided to have an all-steel structure in its place. That, despite the humidity and tropical climate in Manila. The steel parts were manufactured in a Belgian foundry, then shipped to Manila in 6 ships beginning June 12, 1888. This is the same Belgian foundry which produced the Orient Express. It is even claimed that the all-steel church was designed by no less than Gustav Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame.

Guadalupe Church (Church of the Nuestra Senora de Gracia)

From EDSA southbound , take the right at the corner where you'd find Loyola Memorial . This street goes a few hundred meters down to Nuestra Senora de Gracia or
Inside the Santa Ana ChurchInside the Santa Ana ChurchInside the Santa Ana Church

The Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados enshrined here is a replica of the original found in Metropolitan Church in Valencia, Spain. Brought to the Philippines in 1720.
Guadalupe Church. Or, you may take the MRT and get off at Guadalupe Station. Foundations laid in 1601, construction completed by 1629. It is one of the oldest churches in the country, and the oldest in Makati. Unlike the other churches within the Metropolis, this church enjoys a big space and garden. The edifice itself is on elevated ground, giving it a majestic facade and perspective. Unfortunately, with all the wide space it enjoys, one can reach the Church only by passing through very narrow streets lined by shanties and dilapidated structures.

Santa Ana Church (Church of Nuestra Senora de la Desamparados)

From the nearly 400 year-old Church in Guadalupe, you can drive down to J. P. Rizal Street all the way to Sta. Ana, Manila, passing what used to be the Sta. Ana Race Track. The Church of the Abandoned-- more simply known as Sta. Ana Church. Never realized it ranks among the oldest churches around Manila. At the time we visited, there was hardly any crowd inside this 17th century-Church , more so in the adjoining halls of the church where they kept religious statues of a few saints. We even ventured up the
Bell Tower of Santa Ana ChurchBell Tower of Santa Ana ChurchBell Tower of Santa Ana Church

Who would have thought that priceless treasures lurked beneath this church? Excavations unearthed 11th, 12th and 13th century ceramic, pottery and other artifacts -- all of which are now housed in the National Museum.
stairs, but was gently reminded that the convent is not open to the public.

In 1966, the grounds of this centuries-old church were excavated by a team from the National Museum. This project yielded 11th, 12th and 13th century Chinese artifacts and priceless treasures such as porcelain, pottery, and ceramic wares. Now displayed at the National Museum, these excavated treasures are reminders of Santa Ana’s rich heritage and thriving economy.

Church Fatigue By Now?

So there, you've got 10 churches in the list. The easiest would be to combine Fort Santiago with the 2 Churches of Intramuros. Or the same 2 Churches of Intramuros with a walk ON the walls or a visit to Bahay Tsinoy, Casa Manila and San Agustin Museum. Or to combine Binondo + Santa Cruz + Quiapo Church with an adventure in Manila's Chinatown. If there's time, you may even throw in San Sebastian Church too. Or to spend an afternoon driving from Guadalupe Church through Santa Ana Church, Paco Park and ending with Malate Church. Perhaps capping it with a leisurely stroll along Baywalk while waiting for the Manila Bay Sunset before calling it a
The Steel Vaults of San Sebastian ChurchThe Steel Vaults of San Sebastian ChurchThe Steel Vaults of San Sebastian Church

This all-steel church is in Quiapo, and from here one can visit some old houses such as the Bahay Nakpil in Hidalgo Street. Check out my earlier blog on Quiapo.
day. So many combinations. Hope this helps, so you need not "waste" your time in Manila. 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


Inside Santa Ana ChurchInside Santa Ana Church
Inside Santa Ana Church

On the second floor is the convent. Off limits!
Malate Church and PlazaMalate Church and Plaza
Malate Church and Plaza

This plaza is flanked by Aristocrat House on its right and Max's Restaurant on its left. Across the plaza is Manila Bay. Take a stroll along Baywalk and enjoy the Manila Bay Sunset.
Malate ChurchMalate Church
Malate Church

One of the oldest Churches in the country. Twice damaged by earthquakes, left charred and roofless after World War II.
Paco Church and CemeteryPaco Church and Cemetery
Paco Church and Cemetery

Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It's a park, a church and a cemetery!
Road to Quiapo ChurchRoad to Quiapo Church
Road to Quiapo Church

Wanna brave this crowd towards Quiapo Church? From LRT Carriedo Station, it is just a short walk with many interesting shopping stops.
Quiapo ChurchQuiapo Church
Quiapo Church

Across Quiapo Church is Plaza Miranda, site of many political rallies.
Manila CathedralManila Cathedral
Manila Cathedral

Walking distance from Fort Santiago. Cabildo Street on the left side, General Luna Street on the right side. You reach San Agustin Church and Museum passing Gen Luna St. If you take Cabildo, 2nd block is corner Anda St where you will find Bahay Tsinoy Museum.
San Agustin Church and MonasterySan Agustin Church and Monastery
San Agustin Church and Monastery

This is the only church spared from all the shelling by American forces and the burning by Japanese occupiers during the Battle of Manila.
Inside San Agustin MuseumInside San Agustin Museum
Inside San Agustin Museum

This used to be the Monastery adjoining the San Agustin Church, now a Museum.
Santa Cruz ChurchSanta Cruz Church
Santa Cruz Church

There are 3 bridges from the left bank of the Pasig River in this area. One is Jones Bridge which takes you to Binondo. Another is Mac Arthur Bridge which takes you to Santa Cruz Church. The 3rd is Quezon Bridge which will take you to Quiapo Church.
Plaza Santa CruzPlaza Santa Cruz
Plaza Santa Cruz

Across Plaza Santa Cruz is the Arch of Goodwill which serves as alternative entry point to Manila's Chinatown.
Inside Santa Cruz ChurchInside Santa Cruz Church
Inside Santa Cruz Church

In every Catholic Church, there is almost always a place where the faithful can light candles for their "favorite" saints.
Calesa Ride Through ChinatownCalesa Ride Through Chinatown
Calesa Ride Through Chinatown

If you are too tired, try a calesa ride to take you from Binondo Church to Santa Cruz Church.

17th April 2011

Tita Lili, you should be a DOT consultant, you know better how to promote our country than any of those people paid to do it. Specially love the first photo, the one with the collage of those Spanish churches and structures.
18th April 2011

Great blog
And AMAZING pictures.
18th April 2011

Wow, early Visita Iglesia. It felt like I was walking with you there. :) Wonderful, timely, and well-researched post. I must agree with Aries: DOT should hire you!
18th April 2011

Hey guys, thanks for the comments. I would gladly volunteer for the Department of Tourism (DOT) but in my own time........... ;-)
19th April 2011

uhm, its not Paco Church but a chapel. The church is located a few blocks from this cemetery.
19th April 2011

right you are, Estan!
Paco Chapel, Not Paco Church. I stand corrected ;-)
19th April 2011
Inside San Sebastian Church

Amazing Photos
my dear LILIRAM, you are a fantastic photographer and I must say these photos are amazing..... not to mention nakakaiyak !!!!
3rd September 2011

wow, a comprehensive Visita Iglesia guide in the metro.. Among the churches mentioned above, the churches of Sta. Ana and San Agustin are my favorites.

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