City of Manila

Where Manila’s Archbishops Lie

It’s the Halloween-All Saints-All Souls season once more. And for the longtime readers and followers of the Urban Roamer, I suppose you know what this means. Another trip to some resting place in this busy metropolis.

This time however, we shall not be roaming at a cemetery of yore or of the present. Instead we shall be revisiting a familiar landmark: the Manila Cathedral.

For one thing, this should not come as a surprise since, at least here in the Philippines, there were (or still are in some cases) Catholic churches that allowed for the interment of remains within its premises. Thus, in many old churches in the country, one can see the headstones of those who were buried in the church along the lower portion of the church’s interior walls. While some churches may still allow for such, this has become a rarity as the trend these days is for churches to have a dedicated place for the buried remains either in a dedicated section of the church or outside the church premises.

In the case of the Manila Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, there are still some remains who are buried here, but the more prominent remains can be seen underneath the cathedral floor.

This is the crypt of the Manila Cathedral, something that is not usual to see in other churches in the country. And it has the feel of being in a crypt like those found in Europe, at least in Italy and in the eastern side of the continent.

What is special about this crypt is that it is a special burial place dedicated as the final resting place of those who served as archbishops of the Archdiocese of Manila since the later American colonial period. Currently, there are 4 archbishops who are buried in the crypt, who are as follows:

Michael O’Doherty (1874-1949), archbishop from 1916 to 1949, the last non-Filipino and the only Irishman to become Archbishop of Manila. As such, during his tenure, he was witness to Manila Cathedral 7.0’s destruction during World War II.

Gabriel Reyes (1892-1952), archbishop from 1949 to 1952, the first Filipino to become Archbishop of Manila. He was also notable for being the first archbishop of Cebu when the former Diocese of Cebu was elevated as an archdiocese in 1934. It was during his tenure as Archbishop of Manila that the present site of San Carlos Seminary was built in Makati and launched the campaign to rebuild the Manila Cathedral, though he sadly did not live long to see it realized.

Rufino Santos (1908-1973), archbishop from 1952 to 1973. It was during his tenure that the Manila Cathedral we know today was completed. He also was responsible for the establishment of Radio Veritas, Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, the Villa San Miguel Archbishop’s Palace in Mandaluyong, and Caritas Manila. But perhaps he is more known for being the first Filipino to be elevated to cardinal in 1960, benefiting from the reforms instituted by Pope John XXIII to usher the Catholic Church into the modern era.

Jaime Sin (1928-2005), archbishop from 1974 to 2003. So much has been said about Jaime Sin and his role not only in the Catholic Church in the Philippines but in the history of the country as well. He played an instrumental role in two People Power Revolutions and, for good and ill, has been a huge influence in the country’s state of affairs, earning him both praise and criticism at the same time. Like his predecessor, Sin became a cardinal as well in 1976.

Unlike the main cathedral area, the crypt is not accessible to the public at all times; consider yourself lucky if managed to do so. In any case, if you happen to be in the Manila Cathedral, try to see if you can pay a visit to the crypt and pay respects to those buried there, regardless of your faith.


Acknowledgements to John of Intramuros Administration for his help in getting access to the Manila Cathedral crypt

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