Memos from Asia

5 Must-See Old Churches in the City of Manila

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Manila has been the capital of the Philippines since the Spanish settlement in the 1500s. It was the center of culture, trade, and different industries then. And even now, Manila remains to be one of the most progressive cities in the Philippines and one of the fastest-growing ones in Southeast Asia. All of these while preserving some of the country’s most treasured ancient history.

A lot of the country’s past is embedded in Manila. Although a large portion of the city has already been highly urbanized, there remain several historical structures that can be found around it. A lot of these edifices are in form of Catholic churches that have been around for several hundreds of years. Here is a closer look at five of them we recommend that you visit when you are in the area:

Minor Basilica of St Lorenzo Ruis

Binondo Church, or Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, located in the District of Binondo, Manila is built in 1596

The Minor Basilica of St Lorenzo Ruis colloquially called the Binondo Church is located in Binondo, which is considered the city’s “Chinatown”. It is home to a lot of Chinese-Filipino Christians in the city. The minor basilica artistically reflects all these aspects by priding itself with a Spanish Baroque design that houses a five-tier Chinese-style bell tower. It’s maroon bordered exterior, has also given it an iconic brand. The original structure of the church was greatly damaged twice, during the British bombing and World War 2. Nevertheless, the church was able to remain resilient and has remained one of the oldest churches in the country.

Saint Lorenzo Ruis is the first Filipino to be canonized as a saint in the year of 1987. This basilica, which was formerly known as the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, was founded by the Dominican priests around the 1500s. It was then renamed as the Minor Basilica of St Lorenzo Ruis, a Filipino of Chinese descent himself, to honor his contributions that lead to his sainthood.

Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene

Black Nazarene Quiapo Church, Manila, Philippines

The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene is more commonly known locally as the Quiapo Church. This is because the church is situated in the street of Quiapo. This parish houses the Black Nazarene, who’s feast is one of the grandest ones that is celebrated in the country. The Black Nazarene is believed to be miraculous. This is one of the reasons why during the feast, the streets of Quiapo would be filled with devotees trying to touch the religious statue of the Black Nazarene during its parade.

It is a phenomenon of how this church was able to withstand and survive the bombings that happened in the country during World War 2. Although there has been a lot of repairs over the years, it remains one of the most iconic churches there is in the country.

San Agustin Church

Cathedral of the Philippines’ oldest church

The San Agustin Church is the oldest stone church in the country and one of the 4 recognized Baroque Churches in the Philippines that was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993. Also known as the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Consolación y Correa or the Immaculate Conception Parish, the San Agustin church has been around for more than 400 years already. Located in Intramuros, a place that has a rich history as well, the San Agustin Church is one of the Philippine churches you need to visit.

The exterior of the church has a very outstanding Baroque design. When you get inside, it gets even better because of the detailed murals on the walls and the ceilings which give off a 3D illusion. And like the rest of the old churches in the list, it is also commendable how it survived a series of catastrophes over the years.

Basilica Minore de San Sebastian

San Sebastian Church in Manila , Philippines.A Metal Prefabricated Basilica Tower

Another church located in Quiapo is the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian, or simply the San Sebastian Church. It is said that the church was also partly designed and constructed by the famous Eiffel tower engineer Gustav Eiffel. Originally the church was made of wood, but since it got burned down in the 1600s, it was rebuilt to be the only all-steel church in the Philippines.

The San Sebastian Church’s gothic-inspired visual veers away from the more common Baroque designs of the old churches in the country. It is arguably one of the most beautiful standing churches there is in the country with its tall majestic pillars, intricate stained-glass windows, and elegant crystal chandeliers. It is easily a favorite church among architects and interior designers because of the visual exquisiteness that it gives off.

Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines

Last in our list is the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica. This is definitely not the least on the list because this basilica is the episcopal seat for the Archbishop of Manila. The Manila Cathedral is also situated in Intramuros, like the San Agustin Church. This cathedral has witnessed a lot of religious historic events in the country, including three apostolic visits from Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Francis.

Aside from the rich religious history it holds, the Manila Cathedral is also a favorite wedding venue for a lot of celebrities and renowned names in the county. It is one of the grandest churches in the country, if not the grandest. It has marble altars, intricate arches, beautiful lighting and it welcomes you with a glorious exterior. The Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica is surely a must-visit when you are in the country.

There are a lot more majestic churches that can be found in the country. However, these 5 churches are already great destinations for devotee Catholics who want to enjoy marveling at these stunning churches while learning about the rich Christian history that goes along with it. But even if you are a non-Catholic tourist, if you enjoy beautiful old astonishing architecture, these churches will surely be a must-see. The best thing about it is they are all in one city, in the City of Manila. It would be easy to navigate your way through these 5 churches in a day!

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