After World War II, the Santo Domingo Church laid in ruins, as with many of the structures in Intramuros. With the difficulties of reconstruction, not only physically but also emotionally, the caretakers of the now destroyed structures were faced with a dilemma: should they rebuild in the Walled City or start anew elsewhere? Some, like the Archdiocese of Manila, opted to rebuild the Manila Cathedral from the ground up. The Dominicans, however, may have thought the pain of the loss they felt not only with Santo Domingo but also with the old University of Santo Tomas (UST) campus nearby was too much. Thus, they decided to leave the old Santo Domingo be and rebuild what would be the sixth iteration of the church in a new location up north.
That new location would be in Quezon City, the newly-established city and, in 1949, newly-proclaimed capital of the country. In particular, the Dominicans managed to snag a property in the midst of what was then a low-key commercial area right between the City of Manila and what should have been the National Government Center that is the Elliptical Circle and the quadrangles today. They were eager to get back on their feet and start anew and they envisioned Santo Domingo 6.0 as a reflection of postwar recovery while carrying the sense of grandeur that its predecessors had.
The task of constructing a new Santo Domingo Church and Convent fell into the hands of an up and coming architect and UST alumnus named Jose Maria Zaragoza. With a few projects under his name, it seems the Dominicans were impressed with his work, which blended traditional Spanish-influenced Philippine architecture and the International Style of architecture which was in vogue during the postwar era. The Santo Domingo 6.0 project would be Zaragoza’s first major project, so all eyes were on him to see how well his vision for the church would turn out.
The result was a grand contemporary house of worship influenced by the International Style, while taking in as well the elements of traditional Spanish-Filipino architecture, particularly the Mission Style that was employed in a number of Catholic churches built during the Spanish colonial period. While it was modern in character, it felt familiar at the same time as its grand design was in tradition to the grand architecture its Intramuros predecessors had.
Jose Maria Zaragoza’s work on Santo Domingo Church and Convent would be hailed as an architectural masterpiece, catapulting him to fame as one of the country’s premier architects of the postwar era. He would go on to design more landmarks such as the Meralco Building, Benpres Building, the old Union Church of Manila, and the controversial redesign of the Quiapo Church. And for his contributions to Philippine architecture, Jose Maria Zaragoza was posthumously declared as a National Artist for Architecture in 2014.
Contributions of Other Artists
The Zaragoza-designed Santo Domingo Church was already impressive in itself. But Zaragoza was not just the only artist who contributed to the overall character of the Santo Domingo 6.0. Just like how it was with Santo Domingo 5.0, other artists contributed work as well, helping shape the church we know today. One notable artist was the Italian sculptor Francesco Monti, who designed the sculptures found at the Metropolitan Theater and the UST Main Building. He did the bas-relief mural of St. Dominic (Sto. Domingo), the founder of the Dominican Order and after whom the church was made. In addition, he also did the bas-relief at the church entrance, depicting the battles of La Naval with the Lady of La Naval in the middle, signifying the icon’s role in the Spanish victory in those battles.
There was also the visual artist Galo Ocampo, renowned for having designed the Philippine coat of arms, as well as his glass artwork that can be seen in the Manila Cathedral. Ocampo’s contributions can be seen in the various glass artworks found in the church depicting the original 15 mysteries of the rosary, the Battles of Lepanto and La Naval, and the martyrdoms of San Vicente Liem de la Paz and San Francisco Capillas, who served as Dominican missionaries in Vietnam and China, respectively.
Two other artists did artworks that can be seen on the church nave above. One is actually a series of paintings depicting the life of St. Dominic, all done by future National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco. On top of the Francisco murals are 4 paintings depicting the 4 Gospel evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These were done by artist Vicente Llamas, who also did the paintings found in the aforementioned UST Main Building.
Interestingly, all four artists were also faculty members of College of Architecture and Fine Arts in UST at that time. Thus, their involvement in the Santo Domingo project should not come as a suprise.
Completion and Aftermath
Work on the Santo Domingo Church and Convent began in 1952 and would be completed in a span of two years. The church was inaugurated on October 12, 1954, but it would not be until 1957 when the Lady of La Naval would be brought to the church to be its new home.
Since then, Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City has become one of the most prominent churches in the metropolis and the center of Catholic faith in the city. Indeed, it has become a prominent Quezon City landmark, which alongside the Quezon Memorial Shrine and the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, helped shape the character of a young city, even though it would lose its status as the country’s capital by 1976. From
Aside from its religious functions, Santo Domingo also served as a repository of many valuable items, some being centuries old. Some of these items can be seen in the Museo de Santo Domingo, located within the church complex. Others are said to be kept inside a secret vault in the church for safekeeping. Then there are those located elsewhere, such as the medal belonging to National Artist Nick Joaquin located in the foot of the Lady of La Naval in accordance to his final wishes (Joaquin himself is a devotee of the Lady of La Naval).
On October 4, 2012, the Santo Domingo Church as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines, recognizing the church’s significance as a modern cultural landmark that serves as a living monument to Filipino artistry.
Acknowledgements as well to the Inquirer, LopezLink, and the Philippine Star
Raul F. Espinosa
May I request permission to use some of your photos in the book that I wrote for senior high school. The book is entitled Contemporary Philippine Arts from the Regions
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