Among the remnants of Spain’s 300-year occupation of the Philippines, which ended when the 20th century came to a close, are breathtaking churches. Among these old churches are San Sebastian Church (Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila), Baclayon Church (Baclayon town, Bohol), Loboc Church (Loboc town, Bohol), Paoay Church (Laoag, Ilocos Norte), Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino (Cebu City), Miag-ao Church (Iloilo), Valladolid Church (Valladolid, Negros Occidental), St. Martin de Tours (Taal, Batangas).
These churches provide a living testament to the rich history of the Philippines, as well as serve as great venues for weddings and other religious occasions.
In and around Metro Manila, I’ve been to the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church (both in Intramuros, Manila), Barasoain Church (Malolos, Bulacan), Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church (Makati City), and, recently, the Church of Santa Ana.
It’s not easy to find the Church of Santa Ana. It’s found in the Santa Ana district of Manila City. It’s surrounded by the Pasig River, the Paco and Pandacan districts of Manila City, and Makati City. I only know one way to get there, through Makati City, and I’d probably get lost if I take some other road (but it’s just as easy to be lost in Makati City). At the other end of Pasong Tamo Avenue, just after the Philippine Daily Inquirer office and JP Rizal Avenue, is already Santa Ana.
The roads leading to the Church of Santa Ana are narrow, a sign of really old localities, probably when central planning wasn’t a major concern. It doesn’t help that there are a number of one-way streets, which means you can’t just go around and retrace your way if you’re lost (or maybe I’m just mistook them for one-way streets, brought about by years living in Makati City). I’m just thankful that people around the place are helpful when asked for directions, as I had no idea how to get there. Thank God for small mercies.
I wouldn’t have braved the narrow streets except that I had to attend the baptism of a friend’s daughter. It’s a normal progression as one gets older: first, you attend your friends’ weddings, then the baptism of their children, then the birthdays of their children, then the children’s weddings, then you’re friends’ funerals (assuming you don’t go first). Sad, but that’s life.
The church stands on the site of the first Franciscan mission established outside Manila in 1578. The permanent marker on the outside wall of the church, placed by the Historic Research and Markers Committee in 1936, reads:
First Franciscan Mission established outside Manila, in 1578. Present church built under the supervision of Vicente Ingles, O.F.M. Cornerstone laid on September 12, 1720, by Francisco de la Cuesta, Archbishop of Manila and Acting Governor of the Philippines.
I made it a point to come earlier than the scheduled start of the baptism because I don’t know the place, which is a good thing because the small parking area still had many vacant spaces. Perhaps more important is the fact that it gave me some time to go around the place, marvel at its beauty and take pictures. Only God can make a tree, but man can sure construct beautiful churches.