07/19/17

San Sebastian Basilica Up Close

It is remarkable to realize that San Sebastian Basilica has managed to withstand a lot for more than 125 years and counting. It managed to survive earthquakes, typhoons, and war, not to mention the changing urban landscape that has been detrimental to the city’s development after the war. Its significance as a landmark, a heritage structure and an architectural marvel has not diminished and has become an important of Manila’s landscape for more than a century. That’s not to say the San Sebastian Basilica has been without its own challenges. On the contrary, the fact that it is structure made entirely of metal makes it more prone to elements and the costs of maintaining such as huge structure is a challenge in itself.

With the importance of preserving such a landmark an utmost priority, the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation was established in 2011. Composed of key Augustinian Recollect priests and conservation professionals, among others, the foundation has been the driving force behind the current campaign for the conservation of San Sebastian Basilica that is expected to be completed by 2022.

The ornate pulpit

As a fundraiser to help finance the ongoing conservation efforts and draw greater awareness about the structure, the foundation recently opened San Sebastian Basilica for tours, taking visitors not only inside the church sanctuary, but also up in the choir loft to the belfry, which at the time was the highest point in Manila. It is an opportunity for visitors to see San Sebastian beyond its sacred functions, providing a close look at the technology and engineering behind it that one would not normally see in a place of worship.

The choirloft of San Sebastian

The view from the other side of the ceiling, which evokes the feel of a steel plant or factory rather than a church

One of the bells in San Sebastian Basilica. They were actually from San Sebastian 4.0 which was heavily damaged by an earthquake

It was also an opportunity to learn more not only about San Sebastian but also the challenges it currently faces and the work being done to address them. One of them is the problem of corrosion which is expected of a structure made entirely of metal. But the corrosion that has been a cause of concern is not actually the one that is visible to the eye; in fact such issues are more easily addressed. The real problem is internal corrosion, one that is not visible to the naked eye. Apparently, there was this design flaw in the structure in which water and moisture actually managed to get inside the church through holes that were present in spires. And this would have been undiscovered had not for the study that was done on the entire structure, using small cameras to inspect the internal sections of the church.

There is also the challenge of preserving the paintings in the church, all painted on the church’s metal surface. With the details now greatly faded, there is a pressing need to restore the paintings. However, considering the delicate condition of the metal used in the church, the struggle to balance conserving the metal structure and make it more corrosion-resistant and that of the painting has been a constant struggle that conservationists are trying to accomplish.

The dome above the altar is itself a canvas of different works of art, albeit faded by the years

Considering that very few churches provide such tours that let you go deep inside the church structure, the San Sebastian Basilica tour is one tour everyone should check out. You not get to appreciate more a historic, cultural, and architectural gem, but you also help in the protection of this landmark for years to come.

Trivia: each of the four large round stained glass windows depict one of the writers of the Gospels,, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

For more information about the San Sebastian Basilica conservation efforts, visit the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation website. You can also visit their Facebook page for information on the tours and how you can join.

Acknowledgements to the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation

07/13/17

The San Sebastian Basilica’s Story in Steel

So much has been written and said about the San Sebastian Basilica in Manila’s Quiapo district. It is, after all, an iconic structure that has pretty much defined the city’s skyline for more than a century. And if we are going to dig deeper, two reasons can be determined as to why and how it became such an icon. One is the Neo-Gothic inspired architecture that is akin to the churches in Europe. And the other is the method of construction used in building this church, as the first and only structure in the country that is built entirely of metal.

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09/30/15

Chino Roces and the Bridge at Mendiola

Since the late Marcos period at least, Mendiola Street has been known as a hotbed of protest activity as people marching there aimed to have their grievances and protests heard a bit closer by whoever is at Malacañang at the end of the said street. The epicenter of sorts of these activities is the bridge along Mendiola that crosses the Estero de San Miguel, named today in memory of one of those who took part in those protests along that storied street.

His name is Joaquin Roces, better known to family and friends as “Chino.” And he was no mere protester. He belonged to one of Manila’s most illustrious families, the Roces family who owned a bustling media conglomerate that flourished until 1972, when Martial Law was declared.

Chino Roces (courtesy of Malacanang Museum

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12/4/14

The Saga of MLQU

Firstly, a disclosure: the Urban Roamer is an alumnus of the Manuel L. Quezon University. Technically, I only studied there for 2 1/2 years as a transfer student (long story) but considering this is the school from which I graduated, I suppose the MLQU aspect of my college education should weigh a bit more.

Thus, my interest gets piqued with any news that comes my way about my alma mater, like the one I will be sharing later on in this post. But before we go further, I suppose this is a good opportunity as well to talk about this underrated institution in the heart of Manila.

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11/6/14

A Walk Around Quiapo

As part of an effort to revitalize Quiapo through the rehabilitation of one of the heritage houses in the area, the Kasa Boix, the Kapitbahayan sa Kalye Bautista recently organized an event called the Lakbay Lakaran, which aims to give visitors a unique experience in exploring what is known as the heart and soul of Manila, the district of Quiapo.

The Lakbay Lakaran was a good opportunity to see some of the district’s hidden and overlooked gems and give a new perspective of what it has to offer, beyond the stereotypical imagery that has been adversely attached to it in recent years, like being a place of chaos and disorder.

The Urban Roamer was fortunate to take part in one of the two tours the group has made this year. The Lakbay Lakaran I joined took us to some spots that were already documented here like the Ocampo Pagoda and the Padilla House as well as others that will be documented here today.

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