If there’s one imposing and most important landmark the district of Santa Ana, Manila is proud of, it would be the Church of the Our Lady of the Abandoned, but more popularly known as Santa Ana Church.
Its origins actually date back in 1578, when the Franciscan missionaries established themselves at the old community of Namayan, once part of a kingdom bearing the same name. The Franciscans first built a small church near a brook, which they dedicated to the mother of the Virgin Mary, St. Anne. And old Namayan became Santa Ana de Sapa, the first Franciscan mission built outside Intramuros, AKA Old Manila.
The present Santa Ana Church was actually built in 1720 through the efforts of Fr. Vicente Ingles, who was a parish priest there at the time. It was also Fr. Ingles who brought to the church the image of Our Lady of the Abandoned, to whom the church was eventually dedicated to. Carved in 1713, it is said that it was through the grace of Our Lady of the Abandoned that Santa Ana was spared from much destruction brought about by World War II in the city. It is also one of the few churches in the city that has largely remained intact.
And who would have known that Santa Ana’s priceless treasures were to be found right underneath her church? In 1966, archeaologists discovered porcelain, pottery, and ceramic wares during an excavation beneath the courtside of the church. Now being displayed at the National Museum, these artifacts, many bore Chinese, Thai, and Indochinese origins, were a reminder of Santa Ana’s rich heritage and thriving economy.
When visiting the church, one should not miss the Camarin de la Virgen, a dressing room of sorts located behind the altar of the church at the adjoining parish building.
Being one of the oldest and most preserved churches in the city, it is good to know that much work has been done in recent years to preserve the church’s heritage. One example of this noteworthy work is the work done on the baptistry of the church, keeping with the architecture and heritage of the church overall.
At the back of the church once stood another important landmark. A well used to be located which was said to have healing powers. You can imagine the long queues back in the olden days composed mostly (if not all) of those who have physical ailments with the hopes of being cured by the well believed to be blessed by the Virgin Mary herself.
The American authorities though thought otherwise and was deemed unsanitary. With the threat of cholera affecting the city that time, the health officials had it filled up and closed for good in 1920. Some oldtimers believed that the closure of the well was the cause of the typhoon and flooding that ravaged Santa Ana immediately after. Nevertheless, a little altar was built in place of the now filled up well in remembrance of the miraculous well of the old.
entry updated June 2011
credits also to Traveler on Foot
© The Urban Roamer