While the Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church is considered as Makati’s oldest structure, it was actually not in that location where the Makati that we know today was born. In fact, during the time the aforementioned church was built, Makati as a settlement had not been established yet and was still considered part of the thriving Santa Ana settlement which used to be the site of the pre-Hispanic Kingdom of Namayan.
The beginnings of Makati can be traced in 1608 (or 1607 as said in the marker), when the Jesuits received a donation of land from Captain Pedro de Brito, a military officer of the Spanish Crown who originally bought what was then a vast hilly swampland along the Pasig River. The Jesuits would proceed to build a Catholic church in the estate, right near the highest point of the newly acquired estate, hoping not only to evangelize the people to the Catholic faith but also to entice people to settle in what was then a barren landscape.
Work began in 1620 to build a stone church which was to be dedicated primarily to Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 Apostles who would later be known as the first “Bishop of Rome.” Since in the Catholic calendar, he shared the same feast day as Saint Paul the Apostle, the church was dedicated to him as well as a secondary patron saint of sorts. So while officially it is known as the St. Peter and Paul Church (Iglesia de San Pedro y San Pablo), it was popularly known as the Church of San Pedro de Macati (Iglesia de San Pedro de Macati).
The church and the community around it would form the nucleus of what was to become the Makati we know today. The growth of the old settlement made it necessary to make the parish a town of its own. Thus, in 1670, the town of San Pedro Macati was officially established. And over time, its name was shortened and localized to how we identify the city today.
Sadly, the original church was destroyed during the British Occupation of Manila in 1762. Restoration would not begin until 1849, using the stones from the nearby Guadalupe Quarry, among other sources. Fortunately, the church did not suffer the same fate as the Nuestra Señora de Garcia Church during the Philippine Revolution. Instead, it was utilized by the American forces as a hospital and temporary barracks that housed some of its men.
While the church remains to be a significant landmark in Makati’s history, its significance seems to be overlooked and overshadowed by the progress and urbanization that has made the city what it is today. Nowadays, it would not be easy to spot the church as it is located at a now busy, sometimes traffic-laden P. Burgos Street with all the commercial activity around the area. Not to mention the taller buildings that surround it as well as those in the horizon.
Nevertheless, its significance as the birthplace of what was to be the hub of commerce of a bustling metropolis remains. And we pay tribute to its important contribution in shaping the landscape of Makati and the greater Metropolitan Manila as a whole.