Within the walls of the historical Intramuros stands the oldest church in the Philippines, the San Agustin Church. Built in 1599 and completed in 1607, it is one of the 4 baroque churches in the Philippines listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. I remember visiting this church before but it was only during my recent photo assignment that I get to go through the church and it’s museum thoroughly.
Honestly, I found the church facade quite simple in design compared to other churches in the Philippines, except for that elaborately carved door at the entrance. What may be a modest exterior is certainly a contrast to a treasure trove inside the church. The church museum holds an impressive collection of liturgical and iconographic art as far back during the early days after the church was built during the Spanish-era.
The adjacent museum is a quadrangle two story structure with a central garden where Father Manuel Blanco pioneered the study of medicinal plants in the Philippines. The ground floor hallways by the garden has monumental 18th century religious paintings, glass encased vestments and literature as well as some carozas.
The ground floor also has two rooms worth checking out, the crypt where the remains of National artist Juan Luna can be found as well as poet and writer Pedro Paterno to name a few. Opposite the crypt is a chamber exhibiting more religious sculptures and reliefs. Going up a wide staircase with more paintings and an impressive dome ceiling will lead to the 2nd floor hallway illuminated by the colors of the stained glass windows. More sculptures and items for viewing and a corridor leading to the choir loft.
The Choir Loft has a grand view of the ceiling painted by Italian artist Cesare Alberoni and Giovanni Dibella in 1875. I was really impressed by the painting since it has an illusion of being embossed. The loft also holds 17th century hand carved molave seats which I thought also has nice touches of design details and an old Bamboo organ.
I’ve been to several UNESCO sites around Asia and I can say that our San Agustin Church is something I can be proud of. Being close to Manila, its a must visit to foreigners traveling to the Philippines as well as us Filipinos looking to explore more of our heritage and culture.
Entrance fee is Php 150 per pax. The Museum is open from 8am to 12noon then 1pm to 6pm. For inquiries call (+632) 5274060 or 5274062. You can also email [email protected] for details.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.