Monday, February 12, 2007


With nothing better to do yesterday morning, I decided to drive out to San Augustin at Intramuros. I’ve been to this church a couple of times during Carlos Celdran’s walking tour, but haven’t really seen the interior of this church during a mass with all its chandeliers lit. It was incredible. This has got to be Manila’s most ornate and garish church. No wonder many weddings are held here; it’s quite colorful and photogenic.

Touted as the oldest church in the Philippines, its very first structure was made of nipa and bamboo built in 1571 by the Augustinians who arrived in the Philippines with the Legazpi expedition in 1565. It was originally named the Church and Convent of Saint Paul. It was destroyed when Limahong invaded Manila in 1574, but was rebuilt in 1581 to become the venue of the First Diocesan Synod.

Unfortunately, one of the candles at the funeral of Governor-General Gonzalo Ronquillo de Penalosa set the drapes of the funeral bier on fire, which burnt the entire church down. The fire raged uncontrollably and soon the entire Intramuros was in flames. The structure that replaced it was also razed to the ground by another fire in 1586. It was only after then that Juan Macias was commissioned in 1604 to design a stone church. It proved formidable; sustaining only minor damages from earthquakes; that is, until in 1880 when a tremor severely cracked one of the belltowers, which was later torn down.

When the British invaded and occupied Manila in 1762, San Augustin was looted; the altar ornaments were stripped of their gold and precious gems, while the graves of the conquistadores were desecrated. The Augustinians were driven out of the convent; several were arrested and shipped off to England only to return two years later after the occupation.

During the Spanish-American conflict in 1898, then Governor-General Jaudenes prepared the terms of the surrender of Manila to the victorious American forces in the chapel of the Nuestra Senora de las Augustias. And during the last days of the Battle of Manila in 1945, the Japanese soldiers used the church as a massive holding cell for hostages, but the Americans shelled the church anyway. San Augustin went through a series of repairs and renovations since then. Architect Angel Nakpil conceived and built a museum within the premises in 1965; construction of which lasted until 1969.

San Augustin Church is across the street from Casa Manila Museum making it an interesting place to visit on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:40 AM


Blogger Kyels said...

I love this church; the architecture, it's brilliant.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go in there because when I was there, a wedding reception was on.

Beautiful photos, I like the first one.

February 12, 2007 9:46 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Kyels!

It is really an interesting church; I'm just wondering how come they didn't let you inside just because there was a wedding going on.

February 12, 2007 11:13 AM  

Blogger Belle TH said...

Awesome! Pretty elaborate, I must say. I know now where to hold my second wedding.

February 12, 2007 11:23 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Beth ... perfect church for a local wedding. Better plan ahead and book the place so a slot can be assured. On Sundays, it usually hosts a edding every hour! Sobra!

February 12, 2007 11:32 AM  

Anonymous tutubi said...

hol senor!

san agustin's ceiling design is not scuplted but rather paintings done using trompe 'oeil style literally meaning "fool the eyes"

my blog post about that church last year

February 12, 2007 11:48 AM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

Very ornate nga, sa pintuan pa lang, kitang kita na.

Is it spacious inside? Sa 50th wedding anniv ko kasi, kailangan malaking space kasi kasama na doon ang mga apo at apo sa tuhod pati na ang buong barangay... hehehe.

February 12, 2007 1:09 PM  

Blogger Bugsy said...

Eric, my family always goes to that Church on Sundays when we're in Manila and we've been doing that as far back as I can remember. When I was younger, I'd go through the names in the crypts ... it's like a who's who list! The museum at the back of the church is also interesting. But I must take Carlos Celdran's tour to learn more!

February 12, 2007 1:21 PM  

Blogger carlotta said...

i love the crypt in that church. when i joined carlos celdran's tour, i traced the letters with my finger. it's so cool. =)

look out for a new entry in my blogspot this week. ^^

February 12, 2007 1:45 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Tito ... that should be an interesting read. I will check out your entry.

February 12, 2007 4:49 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

For those many guests, maybe the Manila Cathedral is more conducive for your 50th, Rhoda! San Augustin may not be big enough :)

February 12, 2007 4:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

It was my first time yesterday to go there with a mass going on, Bugsy! It was filled. Apparently, many prefer going there on Sundays.

I know you will enjoy Carlos' tour!

February 12, 2007 4:54 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Carla! Unlike you and Bugsy, I never was inspired to check out the names on the crypts, but I will the next time I happen to find myself over there.

I also want to go back to the museum and study each exhibit leisurely.

Looking forward to your new post!

February 12, 2007 4:56 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Each time I go, there is a wedding going on...!
If I was not already married I would think it is a sign... :-)

February 12, 2007 8:32 PM  

Anonymous cruise said...

looking at the main door of the church, grabe ang ganda. it must be very expensive. i was looking for a simple panel door for our house,a simple one cost a lot.

February 12, 2007 10:05 PM  

Blogger Noypetes said...

I'm glad to know that we now have walking tours of Intramuros. I also heard about the walking tours of Manila from a friend who just got back from the Philippines. I was pretty fascinated by Intramuros and the sorrounding areas including the San Agustin church when I was a kid, except back then, you really have to be gutsy to wander in that area. It used to be a haven for the undesirables of the city. Happy to know that a lot has changed in Intramuros! Thank you for your very cool feature of the San Agustin church.

February 12, 2007 11:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Sidney! Hmmm .. you can always renew your vows. For sure, we'll all flock over there and take photos of the glorious event :)

February 13, 2007 5:45 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Cruise, those doors are massive! Have a feeling they came from Tito's hometown of Paete, Laguna. I can't imagine how much they cost -- I'm sure a lot!

February 13, 2007 5:48 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The Intramuros Administratio does a good job of maintaining Intramuros, Noypetes. I also spent four years going to MIT's Intramuros campus at least twice a week, but was never inspired to venture the area back then.

Yes ... the walking tours by both Carlos Celdran and Ivan Mandy are quite fun and informative!

February 13, 2007 5:50 AM  

Blogger BW said...

I was curious as to why many weddings are held in that church. It's pretty ornate and garish as you said but is part of the appeal might be that's it away from the center of the city ? I'm not sure how Intramuros fares in the traffic congestion nowadays but many years ago that area was quite open.

February 13, 2007 11:09 AM  

Anonymous iskoo said...

grabe ang pila ng mga nagpapakasal dyan. kasi kung reception lang naman after the wedding daming hotels sa paligid, kung garden reception naman sa mismong intramuros pwedeng pwede.

February 13, 2007 1:53 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi BW! Doubt it much if traffic or accessability has anything to do with their decision making. I bet it has more to do with a combination of things -- a sense of history; its colorful and photogenic appeal; and from what I understand, getting married in that church also entitles you to use the museum and its grounds for pre-nuptial photo setting. And more significantly, many famous people were married there.

February 13, 2007 7:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Tama ka nga, Iskoo! Halos oras-oras may kasal :)

And know what would be an ideal reception venue after the ceremony here? Coconut Palace at the PCC complex -- outdoor with the grand view of Manila Bay sunset!!! Perfect, di ba?

February 13, 2007 7:30 PM  

Blogger Noypetes said...

MIT Alumni ka pala! Iused to walk past your school everyday on my way to my workplace in Intramuros when the Nat'l. Media Production Center was still there, before the takeover of the ABS-CBN building at Bohol Ave. in quezon City. The public golf course in Intramuros. The long walk to Taft Ave. by the City Hall to catch a ride home. Night shift at the newscenter then was a pain for a rookie like me coz the walk on the dark streets of Intramuros at mid-night on my way to catch a ride home was always an adventure.

February 13, 2007 11:22 PM  

Blogger minotte's notes said...

san agustin at nighttime when there's a wedding is a spectacular photo op.

thanks for sharing the sugar free mac site. i went and learned a lot.

February 13, 2007 11:41 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Oh, my! That was a risky nightly adventure, Noypetes.

What confused me when I returned to visit was the Intramuros wall that is now in front of the campus, but was never there before when I was a kid. After knocking my brains out, I realized it was a reconstruction. I remember able to see from the gates of the campus all the way to city hall -- unobstructed.

February 14, 2007 6:13 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I'm glad you're able to pick up some pointers from the i-Mag site, Minotte! It is really a wonderful service those folks offer.

Haven't seen San Augustin at night, but I will now. I'll probably check it out on a Saturday night. Thanks for the tip!

February 14, 2007 6:15 AM  

Anonymous niceheart said...

I don't think I've ever been to this church. Very elaborate nga. You won't see any churches like that here.

February 14, 2007 1:42 PM  

Anonymous ralphT said...

i havent been there....

February 14, 2007 4:20 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

As Carlos Celdran had described it, Irene, para daw jeepney the way this church was decorated -- very colorful, though nothing matches with anything; basta lagay o sabit lang :)

February 15, 2007 7:12 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I'd suggest taking a walking tour of Carlos Celdran, RalphT. You are assured of a fun-filled time!

February 15, 2007 7:16 AM  

Anonymous Adam said...

San Augustin is an amazing place to visit. I was there in 2005 and was amazed to think that this structure was built 150 years before my country (Australia) was even settled!

December 24, 2007 7:36 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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