The Manila Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Manila, is one of the city’s iconic Catholic basilicas. The current building is the sixth in the basilica’s 400-year history after having been destroyed by natural disasters, fires , earthquakes and war bomdardment.
The current structure standing was completed in 1958 after American forces carpet-bombed Manila particularly Intramuros, the Sapnish walled city where the Manila Cathedral is located. The first cathedral built by Spanish priests in 1582 was made of nipa and bamboo. It was damaged by a typhoon in 1582 and razed by fire in 1583. Subsequent buildings were made of stone but natural disasters such as the earthquakes of 1645 and 1863, and more recently the bombing of Manila in 1945 reduced the magnificient old cathedral to rubble.
An favorite wedding venue of Manila celebrities and the elite, the Manila Cathedral is also the resting place of the Manila’s archibishops including Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin. The Cathedral was also the venue for the wake and requiem mass for former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, who died on August 1, 2009. Aquino’s funeral broke protocol when Aquino’s remains was allowed to lie in state at the Cathedral, making her the first woman to be interred in the basilica.
Mabuhay ang Manila Cathedral!
The Casa Manila patio and gardens in Intramuros
Intramuros (Spanish for ‘within the walls) is the heart of old Manila. Founded by the Spaniards in the mid-16th century right after the Philippines Spanish rulers colonised the islands, Intramuros was the center of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
Brick-walled and turreted, the walls were designed not only to protect the Spanish elite who lived in Intramuros but also to segregate the Spanish population from the native Filipinos and other ethnic minorities such as the Chinese, Japanese and Indian immigrants, among others. Thus, with its churches, administrative buildings, a military fort, schools and hospitals, Intramuros was a ghetto for the upper or ruling Spanish elite.
Known as the ‘city within a city,’ Intramuros sustained heavy and irrevocable damage during World War 11 when US military forces bombarded the district to purge and drive out the Japanese army which used Intramuros as headquarters in 1940s.
Many of Intramuros fine Catholic cathedrals were destroyed and only two survived the bombardment, the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church. Today, the Casa Manila complex, located opposite the San Agustin Church, is a faithful reproduction of Spanish villas complete with authentic period furniture, costumes and gardens.
A lazy afternoon walk in Intramuros is recommended to Manila visitors as it provides a glimpse into the Philippines Spanish past. Ruins of military depots, courtyards converted into gardens and period buildings recreates the old city. Horse-drawn carriages also service Intramuros visitors for short runs to Chinatown, Rizal Park and Fort Santiago.
Mabuhay ang Pinoy!