An iconic edifice that stood witness to Old Manila’s rich and colorful history is the centuries-old Binondo Church. Located at the nexus of Quintin Paredes Road and Ongpin Street fronting Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, this historical landmark has–for centuries, served the Chinese and Filipino Catholics in the oldest Chinatown district in the world. While the original iteration of the church sustained damages since it was first constructed, its original stone walls and octagonal bell tower remains standing to this day.
1. Binondo Church was originally founded in 1596 by a group of Dominican priests to serve the Chinese converts to Christianity.
With the growth of trade between China and the Philippines, the Chinese population living in Binondo steadily grew. Realizing the need for a place of worship for the new converts, the Dominicans founded Binondo Church. Some of the first houses that the Dominicans built around Manila were done exclusively for the Chinese. This includes the Hospital of San Gabriel in Intramuros (1588) and Binondo (1598); the church in Baybay (1588) between Tondo and Manila which was dedicated to Our Lady of Purificacion.
2. The control of the church has been transferred between the Dominican and Secular priests several times.
1598 – Dominicans
1768 – Secular
1822 – Dominicans
1898 – Secular
3. The original iteration of the church sustained damages from earthquakes, the Chinese revolution, and invasions.
1603 – The church was destroyed during the Chinese revolt that resulted in the death of over 30,000 Chinese merchants and civilians.
1762 – During their brief occupation of Manila, the original building was destroyed by the bombardment of the British in 1762.
1863 – The church was destroyed again following during the earthquake that struck Manila. It was later rebuilt in its grandeur and was even considered as one of the most beautiful churches in the country.
1872 – The British turned Binondo Church as their headquarters during their occupation of Manila. After their departure, the church had to be rebuilt due to the extent of the damage after it was set on fire.
1944 – On September 22, 1944, the church was destroyed by when it was bombed by the Americans. Everything including the archives of the parish was burned. Nothing was left except for the stone walls of the church and the octagonal tower that still stands to this day.
4. After the war, the parishioners of Binondo Church had to make do with a roofless structure for several years before it was reconstructed in the 1950s.
The present iteration of Binondo Church was rebuilt following the destruction it suffered during World War II. The stone walls and its octagonal bell tower was what remained of the original structure.
5. The ornate details and design of the main altar of Binondo Church closely resemble the famous St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
6. San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, trained in this church before going to Japan as a missionary.
Famously known as the first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz served as a sacristan in Binondo Church. Educated by Dominican priests, the young Ruiz also served as the order’s “escribano” because of his skilled hand in penmanship. He later got married and had two sons and a daughter while earning a living as a calligrapher.
While working as a clerk in Binondo Church, Ruiz was accused of killing a Spaniard. Knowing full well what the colonial government would do, the Dominican priests arranged for him to seek asylum in Japan along with Antonio Gonzales, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza.
After reaching Okinawa, their group was quickly captured on July 10, 1636. Badly beaten and tortured, they were forced to renounce their faith, but Ruiz consistently rejected.
And finally on September 27, 1637, they were brought to the Mountain of Martyrs were their feet were bound, and their bodies hung upside down. Ruiz died two days later, with his body cremated and his ashes dumped in the sea.
His canonization was based on a miracle that took place in 1983. Cecilia Alegria Policarpio, a two-year-old girl suffering from brain atrophy (hydrocephalus) was cured after her family prayed to Ruiz for intercession.
7. Masses in Binondo Church are held in four different languages–Filipino, Mandarin, Hokkien, and English.
8. Andrés Bonifacio and his second wife Gregoria de Jesús were first married in Binondo Church.
The Manila Project
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