The Resilient Cathedral of Manila
My first introduction to Intramuros was the COMELEC. We used to visit an aunt who used to work there. After the COMELEC, next was the church adjacent to it, which I did not know at the time was the Manila Cathedral. But it would be a couple of years before I would appreciate the history and beauty of the place.
The interior of the cathedral is rather plain with the exception of the side chapels which has mosaics and other religious works of art. This is the only church in the country that I know of that is fully air conditioned. Like San Agustin, it is also popular church for weddings. Some say it takes about a year to have the San Agustin church reserved for weddings and apparently, its more or less the same with the cathedral.
A few days before holy week of this year, it was mentioned in the news that the Manila Cathedral would be closed for structural repairs. Apparently besides the safety issue and its maintenance, the ground on which it stands needs to be stabilized as it was reported that the cathedral was sinking. It would be closed for a year and the church that would act as a cathedral during this time would be San Fernando de Dilao Parish also known as Paco church.
The Manila Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic church in the country. It is the premiere church. A Papal Bull was issued by Pope Gregory XIII establishing the diocese of Manila in 1579. On August 14, 1595, Pope Clement VIII elevated it into an archdiocese with 3 dioceses suffragan to Manila. These are Nueva Caceres (Bicol etc.), Nueva Segovia (Cagayan, Ilocos etc.), Cebu. Jaro was also made into a diocese but only in 1865.
Interestingly, the first bishop of Manila was the Dominican Domingo de Salazar who came together with the Jesuit rector, Antonio Sedeño in the country in 1580. Bishop Salazar was said to have scouted the banks of the Pasig river to look for building materials and it was Father Sedeño who initiated building in stone.
The Manila Cathedral is probably the most resilient structure in the country. It has been destroyed by fire, typhoons, earthquakes and the last one, by war. Only to be re-built each time on the same spot. There were 7 churches in Intramuros and it was only San Agustin that escaped destruction and the cathedral was the only church that was re-built on its former site.
This almost did not happen since the religious orders who had their churches and provincial houses in Intramuros destroyed by the war, instead of rebuilding them, moved out of the walled city to build in other areas such as in Quezon City. Manila ’s clergy also wanted to do the same thing. Even Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty and Archbishop Gabriel Reyes considered the idea of transferring to Mandaluyong. And if that had pushed through, it would be one of those misnamed or misplaced places in Metro Manila where the Manila Cathedral despite its name, would have been located in another municipality or city.
Fortunately and thankfully, through the efforts of Archbishop Rufino Santos, the cathedral was to be rebuilt on its former site. It would be difficult to imagine Manila and Intramuros today not having the cathedral.
Manila has had 32 Archbishops. Among them are:
Domingo de Salazar, O.P. (1581-1594) – Manila’s first bishop
Ignacio de Santibañez, O.F.M. (1596-1598) – Manila’s first archbishop when it was made into an archdiocese.
Miguel de Benavides, O.P. (1603-1605) – responsible from establishing the University of Santo Tomas.
Francisco de la Cuesta, O.S.A. (1707-1722) – was archbishop when Governor General Bustamente was assasinated. Acted as gov. gen. for about 2 years after the assassination of Bustamente.
Manuel Antonio Rojo del Rio (1758-1764) – was archbishop when the British invaded and sieged Manila. Surrendered Manila to them.
Gregorio Meliton Martinez (1862-1875) – was archbishop during the Cavite mutiny of 1872
Bernardino Nozaleda, O.P. (1889-1902) – archbishop during the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine – American War. He was the last Spanish archbishop of Manila.
Jeremias Harty (1903-1916) – first American archbishop of Manila.
Michael J. O’Doherty (1916-1949) – archbishop during the war and the Japanese Occupation of the country.
Gabriel M. Reyes (1949-1952) – the first Filipino archbishop of Manila and of Cebu.
Rufino J. Cardinal Santos (1953-1973) – archbishop of Manila and the first Filipino cardinal. He was responsible in having the Manila Cathedral reconstructed and on its former site.
Jaime L. Cardinal Sin (1974-2003) – probably the most well know archbishop of Manila in recent memory. Instrumental and considered one of the leaders of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
The Manila Cathedral was also visited by two popes. Pope Paul VI in 1970 and Pope John Paul II in 1981.
I remember one of the biggest religious event in the country was the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz (now declared a saint) by Pope John Paul II when he visited the country in February 1981. Fortunately I was brought along to see this momentous event.
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