More often than not, when we talk about Manila’s faith heritage, we talk about the city’s Catholic heritage. That should not be a surprise given that Catholicism is pretty much ingrained in our culture since the Spanish colonial period and that Manila, Intramuros in particular, was the epicenter not only of Catholicism in the country but in Asia as a whole, with its 7 churches located within the city walls.
Overlooked in all this is the city’s religious heritage beyond Catholic Manila. Granted they are not as old as the Catholic churches, they have an interesting story to tell as well. One of them is the subject of today’s post, the Central United Methodist Church of Manila.
From what I gathered, Methodism was one of the first branches, if not the first branch, of Protestantism that was established in the country, courtesy of the American Methodist clergy who arrived with the American forces at the height of the outbreak of the Philippine American War in 1899. As was noted previously in the Union Church of Manila post, Protestantism came here mainly to attend to the religious needs of these troops.
In any case, a Methodist steadily grew that it attracted a number of Filipinos to the faith as well. The Methodist quickly set up a firmer presence in Manila with the establishment of two chapels in the city. One of them was the Central Methodist Episcopal Chapel on December 23, 1901 in the site of the present church, a stone’s throw away from Rizal Park.
The Methodist Church of the country continued to grow as the years went on, despite a split that happened in 1909 which gave birth to the Iglesia Evangelica Methodista En Las Islas Filipinas. (IEMELIF) It grew to a level that in the case of the aforementioned chapel, it could no longer accommodate a growing congregation. The decision was made to build a somewhat bigger structure. The result was a new church designed by no less than Juan Arellano. (a familiar name by now here in this site with many of his works already featured here) It was inaugurated on June 19, 1932.
However, World War II happened, And as a result of the Battle of Manila, the church became one of the casualties. Plans were made to rebuild the church which would be as faithful to the original Arellano design as possible. The rebuilt church would be inaugurated on Christmas Day itself in 1949.
Today, the Central United Methodist Church stands to serve the needs of the Methodist faithful in this part of the city while serving as a monument to the contributions of the Protestant faith in the city’s religious landscape.