Tuesday was declared public holiday as the nation marked its 114th Independence Day. Because it was sandwiched by two work days, going out of town was not an option for us. We have to consider time and money and so we decided to remain in the city and go on a half day trip on Manila’s oldest district.
It was August last year when I had the chance to come back at the famed Walled City over a cultural dinner show at Barbara’s Restaurant and the recent was this May when Mrs. F and I attended a work connected meeting at Bayleaf Hotel. Other than those short visits, all I can remember was my grade school experiences when Nanay would bring me along on her class field trips more than twenty years ago. 😀
Leoncio and I had long planned this and thought that the perfect month to visit is December (last year) however, the busy Christmas month is understandable. How about the summer month? With the scorching heat of the sun and humidity we can’t probably stand the long walk. Anyhow, despite the frequent rain showers these days we consider the trip. We arrived at Intramuros past 12 noon; the weather was fine and I was very thankful of that. From its gate near MIT our expedition begins.
Our first stop was at General Luna Street where the oldest stone church stands to its mighty. San Agustin Church originally known as “inglesia de San Pablo”, founded in 1571 is the oldest stone church (built in 1589) in the Philippines. It is an administered by the Order of Saint Agustine (Augustinian Friars). Since the time of its foundation, the devotion to Nuestra Senora dela Consolacion y Cirrea is celebrated every Saturday. In this Church – tomb of “El Adelentado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi” Founder of the City of Manila is located in the eastermost chapel of the transept. Terms for the American occupation of Manila was signed in the sacristy and First Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1953 was held in the Choirloft. <source: sanagustinchurch.org>
The church was closed the time of our visit but the museum we eyed the last time was open so we go in and grab hold of the chance to see this side of the church.
The San Agustin Monastery was originally used as the living quarters of the Augustinians, classrooms, refectory, vestry, library and infirmary.
It was damaged by the British forces in 1762, by the American soldiers in 1898 and during the Japanese and American liberation war in 1945. The Monastery was converted into a museum in 1973 as the halls were restored.
Today San Agustin Museum showcases Filipino, Spanish, Chinese and Mexican Art treasures.
An entrance fee is collected at the point of entry, General Admission is at P100. I thought it was pricey all along until I got to see everything inside.
Cameras and videocams are allowed on some areas and a “No Flash” sign reminder is on its every corner. I believe it’s just right besides the place is divine.
From its entrance hall a 3,400 kilogram colossal iron bell would welcome you, this is said to be the original bell of the San Agutin Church before an earthquake damaged the bell tower itself. It was a century old piece of 1829.
Behind it is the Sala Recibidor where the Ivory Collection is being kept. Taking of photo is completely not allowed at this point and a CCTV camera is installed so don’t dare click even your small digicam here. You’ll find here collections of religious items that are evidently crafted years ago –Mama Mary’s statue in ivory, collection of crosses and tiaras in gold.
The four corridors of the first floor of San Agustin Museum exhibits oil paintings done by Filipino painters Enriquez, Fuster and others in the early XXth Century, the paintings portray Saints and celebrities of the Augustinian order.
You’ll be awed by the huge collection of oil paintings everywhere.
Found out that while at the museum you can enter San Agustin Church, we pop around to say a short prayer before anything else. And since I’ve been to San Agustin Church quite a number of times we didn’t look around only to find out today what I am missing from its inside. No, not the majestic interiors and luxury chandeliers, it’s the tomb of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi who found Manila ages ago. Will have to bookmark this one once I have the chance to visit back again.
Back at the museum, Sala De La Capitulacion was our 2nd stop; the old vestry (first floor) was used in the earlier times by the priest to dress up for liturgical services. This side of the museum now houses church artifacts and statues.
The old Sacristy located at the museum’s first floor marked by a large wooden door and frescoed walls of Aztec inspired influence showcases a host of China chest drawers, candlesticks, statues and paintings. A large polycomb XVth Century reredo altar with 22 gold niches retablo of the church carved by Juan De Los Santos in 1650, rivet one’s attention.
I somehow got lost and did not have a photo of the actual sacristy. 😦
Next to the Sacristy is the Refectory. The refectory was the former dining room of the priests. The Anterefectory was formerly called Sala de Profundis, used by the priest to say before and after meals. It was converted in 1932 into a mausoleum for the Augustinians and later for other Filipino families. A monument recalls the victims of the Japanese occupation (1942 – 1945) niches are now available at the new crypt annex.
The refectory houses part of the Pagrel collection of Filipino art treasures, wooden Santos, bas reliefs, retablos, tabernacles, candlesticks, liturgical chairs and processional guidons which form the Araneta collection along with the Aztec frescoes in the ceiling.
If I remember it right, no photo is allowed inside the crypt though I was able to shoot from outside even before I entered the place. For understandable reasons, I felt difficult to stay long inside. It’s some sort of creepy especially if you don’t see many people around. You know what I mean, hehehe. And because we hastily left, we failed to check on Niche 87 where Filipino painter Juan Luna is entombed.
Just outside the Refectory the Century Carrozas are lined up, these are used during the religious processions whether inside or outside the church.
A small snack bar is located at the end of that turn. Actually touring the whole museum can be tiring, so, I suggest you bring bottled water with you but keep it your bag.
A passage from the museum leads to Father Blanco’s Garden. The pathway to the garden is lush with greens that shortly gave us a break from the extreme warmth of the museum.
The bronze monument of Father Blanco was made by Amado Castrillo.
The main staircase of the monastery leads to the second floor where much more exhibits of religious items can be found. The staircase is made of 44 pieces of Chinese granite stones brought in Canton 1780, is topped by a perfectly round stone dome covered with light bricks, with six rectangular windows. Here hang the XVIIIth and XIXth Century paintings. Whew! It was really old nonetheless it stays rock-hard.
The four corridors in the second floor, burned in 1945, have been recently restored to their original form. The walls are plastered and painted in white, as they were originally, following the Mexican influence.
Though it’s a No Flash reminder only, taking of photos were not allowed in most area especially on halls were exhibits could be found. Read on to find out what San Pablo Hall, San Agustin Hall, the Porcelain Room, the Choir Loft and the Church Vestment Room are made of.
San Pablo Hall: Commonly known as “Claustro de San Pablo”, was destroyed in 1945 and restored in 1993. The table used during the chapter meetings, the “Caja de Obras Pias”, the model scale of San Agustin Church and Museum and Old paintings are on the exhibit here.
The San Agustin Hall: The hall housed formerly the cells of Major Superiors of the Augustinians in the Philippines –the Prior of the monastery and other officials. It was destroyed in 1945 and restored in 1993. Hanging on the walls are photos of churches built by the Augustinians from 1565 – 1898. Also on Exhibit are Filipino Grammars and Dictionaries written by the Augustinians. I was able to identify most of the churches displayed here especially those located in the northern part of the Philippines however, I think the management of the museum need to check on some because the captions no longer match the pictures. I hope they would be able to do the appropriateness so the viewing public will not get lost or confused in any way.
Porcelain Room: Exhibited here are shards excavated at the San Agustin complex which evidences the China-Philippine trade. Equally revealing are heirloom jars from Southeast Asia, a collection of Mr. Ermelo Almeda.
Oratorian / Antechoir / Choir-loft: Here you can see a crucifix dating back XVIIIth Century, the 68 choir seats carved in molave with fine inlays, the big lectern with “cantorals” and the XVIIIth Century Pipe Organ, to which is attracted the memory of composers of such re-known as Augustinians Father Arostegui and Pakil-born Marcelo Adonay.
This side overlooks the interiors of San Agustin Church from above.
Church Vestments: This room showcases XVIIth and XVIIIth Century vestments and capes from Spain and China worn by officiating priest for church services. The capes, chasubles, dalmatics, altar clothes, and frontals are embroidered and decorated with gold and silver metallic thread. Some are painted with intricate designs. Vestments in various colors are used during different liturgical seasons. Some of these vestments were conserved to prevent further deterioration. I snapshot some old vestments but didn’t stay too long at this room which I find eerie again.
Some more photos taken at the corridors,
Our 2 hours (and more) tour ended at the huge courtyard at the core of the museum.
By the way, the Inner Garden and Regal Cloisters in San Agustin Church in Intramuros hosts to a variety of event, whether Weddings, Anniversary, Baptismal or any memorable event.
If we’re not after to something later that day probably we could have explored more in details. Well, I guess another visit can be schedule easily anytime but I want a bigger group this time.
San Agustin Museum is open daily including Sunday and Holidays from 8:00am-12:00nn and from 1:00-6:00pm. Now, I can tell that your P100 is worth your visit. 🙂
For group packages, scheduled field trips on the museum or if you would like to inquire about San Agustin Museum publication shop items or our function hall / facilities for events or gatherings like weddings, baptismal, etc. you may reach them at the following contact information: Tel. Nos. : (632) 527 – 4060 / 526 – 6793 to 94 / 524 – 1165
Stay tuned for more…