History and Beauty in San Agustin Church (Walled City of Intramuros, Manila)

We all have frustrations in life. Some frustrations are legitimate, common to many, while some are petty. It may be difficult to judge because a simple frustration to one may be seriously burdensome to someone else. Like this — it’s extremely frustrating to be in a place of immense beauty and historical value, like the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, without a good camera to capture the moment.

The San Agustin Church is just a stone’s throw from another World Heritage Site, the Manila Cathedral. Yet, if we look at the World Heritage Sites of the Philippines listed by UNESCO, there might be a confusion because what’s listed is the Church of Immaculate Conception of San Agustín. It’s the same San Agustin Church, declared as a World Heritage Site in 1993.

Those who are going on a visita iglesia this Holy Week (also check Ilocos, Bicol and Laguna, will find the architectural delight a welcome bonus. The historical significance of this venue is not limited to purely religious significance, including those found in the museum beside the church. The San Agustin Church houses the ashes of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, founder of the City of Manila and the city’s first governor-general.

The San Agustin Church was ordered built by the Augustinian Friars (Order of Saint Augustine). The church is the oldest stone church in the Philippines, built from 1586 to 1606 (the original nipa and bamboo church was built in 1571, destroyed when the pirate Limahong invaded in 1574.

Since San Agustin Church is beside the Manila Cathedral, both were subject to the same earthquakes (which destroyed the Cathedral, which was rebuild) and the same intense artillery and bombing during the recapture of Manila into Filipino-American hands in 1945 (no, the intense artillery and bombings were NOT done by the Japanese, but by the Americans).

San Agustin Church miraculously survived the bombing. The Manila Cathedral was destroyed during the bombing and had to be rebuilt (it’s currently being renovated because of structural weaknesses, causing countless hearts, mostly of brides, to break due to cancellations in wedding reservations).

The marker placed by the National Historical Institute reads: “Oldest stone church in the Philippines. Plans were approved in 1586. Construction started in 1587 and completed in 1607 under the supervision successively of Augustinian Fathers Francisco de Bustos, Ildefonso Perez, Diego de Avila and Brother Alonso de Perea. Its architect was Juan Macias. It has withstood many earthquakes from 1645 up to the present and survived the British invasion in 1762, the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the Japanese invasion in 1942. The church choir has 68 carved Molave seats with Narra inlaids, an artistic lectern and parchment cantorals of the 17th and 18th centuries. The church and its graves were profaned during the British occupation of Manila in 1762. The ashes of early Spanish conquistadores Legazpi, Salcedo, Lavezares, and blessed Pedro de Zuniga and others now rest in the esternmost chapel of the transept. Terms for the American occupation of Manila were prepared in the vestry of the church in 1898. The First Philippine Plenary Council was held here in 1953. Chosen as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.”

That’s the history bit.

Now let’s go to the reason why we’re there. We were there for another business — attending the lovely wedding of a friend, Marnelli. That was the very first wedding in San Agustin Church that we attended.

The church website indicates that it’s “The Wedding Capital of the Philippines”. We’d really like to know the explanation to this, whether it’s because of the number of weddings being celebrated here. Or because this is a preferred venue because of the historical significance or because of the beauty of the place, and the convenience of having the wedding reception at the adjacent inner courtyard.

If we were at the San Agustin Church for a historical visit, we would have brought a good camera. If, without a good camera, we were at some other place, we won’t probably publish this post because the photos would be of no good. But, as they say in reference to people, you can’t put a good man (or woman) down. Same thing with the San Agustin Church . . . with or without a good camera.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.