City of Manila, being the capital city of the Philippines, is blessed with heritage churches dating back to 16th century. These bastions of faith served communities in different districts, each has its own history and façade architecture to show.
Being in Manila for several years (since college days), whenever I had time to explore Manila on foot, I would embark on a church visit or visita iglesia to reflect as well as to appreciate our city’s heritage on Lenten Season (season of reflection, fasting and abstinence for Roman Catholics). I always visit the churches below, perfect for my 7-church itinerary.
First stop is the Minor Basilica of San Sebastián that is the only all-steel church in Asia. Completed in 1891, it is an example of the revival of Gothic architecture in the Philippines. It was designated as a National Historical Landmark in 1973 and as a National Cultural Treasure in 2011.
San Sebastian Church is under the care of The Order of the Augustinian Recollects, who also operate a college adjacent to the basilica. It is located at Plaza del Carmen, at the eastern end of Recto Avenue, in Quiapo, Manila.
Few minutes of walking westward to Plaza Miranda will lead you to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, known canonically as Parish of Saint John the Baptist, and also known as the Quiapo Church, is a prominent basilica in the district of Quiapo in the city of Manila, Philippines. The basilica is famous home for the Black Nazarene, a dark statue of Jesus Christ said to be miraculous, whose feast is held at January 9.
Walking past the streets of Carriedo and Plaza Lacson near Escolta will lead you to Santa Cruz Church, a Baroque Roman Catholic church located in Santa Cruz district, Manila, Philippines. Also known as Our Lady of the Pillar Church, it was built when the arrabal (suburb) of Santa Cruz was established by the Jesuit Order in the early 17th century.
From Santa Cruz, across the Carriedo fountain is the Ongpin street. Just walk directly until you see the belfry of Binondo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, located in the District of Binondo, Manila fronting Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz. This church was founded by Dominican priests in 1596 to serve their Chinese converts to Christianity. The original building was destroyed in 1762 by British bombardment. A new granite church was completed on the same site in 1852 however it was greatly damaged during the Second World War, with only the western façade and the octagonal belfry surviving.
From Binondo, I walked again this time a long way to Tondo Church via Divisoria’s busy streets of Juan Luna and Ylaya. Santo Niño de Tondo Church was established by the Augustinians. It houses an image of the Infant Jesus which originally came from Acapulco, Mexico and was handed over by a wealthy merchant to the Archbishop of Manila at that time, who later turned it over to the parish priest of Tondo, Manila. Since 1572, the image of Santo Niño has been enshrined in this church and now one of the most visited churches in the Philippines.
From Tondo church, I walked back to Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz across Binondo church and hailed a jeepney at Juan Luna St. bound to Intramuros. Then I entered the south gate of the walled and visited one of four Philippine churches constructed during the Spanish colonial period to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines in 1993. This is the famous San Agustin Church also known as Immaculate Conception Parish Church of San Agustin and Shrine of Our Lady of Consolacion y Correa. Under the auspices of The Order of St. Augustine, it is located inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila. In 1976, San Agustin Church was named a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government.
Finally, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila is the Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Manila Cathedral located in Intramuros, the historic walled area within the modern city of Manila, Philippines. It is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the principal patroness for the Philippines. It serves as the episcopal seat for the archbishop of Manila.
Downtown Manila Route (east to west): San Sebastian-Quiapo-Santa Cruz-Binondo-Tondo-San Agustin-Manila Cathedral
If you have more time, you can go further down south of Manila to visit the equally historic churches of Ermita, Malate, Paco, Santa Ana, and Pandacan.
Have a blessed visita iglesia everyone!