Malate, which used to be known as “Maalat” (salty) due to the saline waters of Manila Bay, is home to one of the oldest church in Manila, Malate Church. Formally known as Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church, it is located along M.H. Del Pilar Street fronted by Plaza Rajah Sulayman and Manila Bay.
1. Malate Church is a Baroque-style church located in front of Plaza Rajah Sulayman and Manila Bay.
Baroque is a style of art that started in Italy and eventually spread to Catholic countries in Europe including Spain. The word Baroque comes from the Italian word “barocco” which means bizarre or strange.
From the long list of Baroque Churches in the Philippines, four were included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1993. This includes the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur, Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, and the Miag-ao Church in Iloilo.
2. The image of the Virgen de los Remedios currently on display on the main altar was brought from Spain by Friar Juan de Guevara in 1624.
3. The stone church and convent, built in 1591, suffered heavily during the earthquakes that hit Luzon in 1645 and 1863. Several structures including the Manila Cathedral, Ayuntamiento, Governor’s Palace and much of the city was affected resulting in a number of casualties.
4. Of the 17 listed churches in the Philippines honoring the Virgin Mary with the title “Nuestra Señora de los Remedios”, Malate is considered the oldest. It was established by the Augustinian friars on September 8, 1588.
5. In 1667, Governor General Manrique de Lara, who feared an invasion by the pirate Koxinga, ordered for the church to be taken down. Koxinga, a Chinese pirate, threatened to invade the Philippines if the Spanish colonial government refused to pay a tribute and submit to his demands. The planned invasion was foiled after Koxinga died of Malaria in Taiwan at the age of 37. The church was eventually rebuilt over the next three years using the same stones and bricks.
6. The British turned Malate Church as their headquarters during their occupation of Manila in 1762. After their departure, repairs had to be made due to the extent of the damage. However, there are no records who restored the structure after the British had taken leave.
7. Malate church was considered to be a dangerous stronghold if it was captured by outside forces. Stone churches outside Intramuros can be a convenient cover for the enemy. When the British came in 1762 they operated from the church’s tower and Manila was subsequently sacked.
8. The present church was rebuilt in its entirety in 1864 by parish priest Fr. Francisco Cuadrado, who, together with poor fishermen, toured the city and nearby provinces to raise the funds needed for its reconstruction. The upper façade of the church was completed three decades later, from 1894 to 1898.
9. It is only one of two churches in the country that has a twisted column and has in effect a retablo-type facade, the other being the Franciscan church in Daraga. The retablo is a decorated upright panel, intricately carved and highly decorated.
During the Japanese occupation in World War II, both the church and the convent were burned, with just the walls left standing. Fortunately, the Columban fathers rebuilt the roof, the main altar, the dome and the transept around 1950. In 1978, the interior of the church was painted, the bricks and the stones outside were made to look new.
10. The façade of the present church of Malate is an interplay of Muslim design and Mexican Baroque. The three-story façade integrates with ingenuity the cylindrical end buttresses, hexagonal forms converted into belfries, as well as trefoil blind arches which clearly indicate an influence of the Moorish art.
Moorish art and architecture is a variation of Islamic art and architecture developed in North Africa and southern Spain.
11. The statue of the patroness of Malate church became famous for women’s ills and children’s diseases. The fame of the Malate Shrine became famous that replicas of the image spread to Pampanga and Pangasinan.
– The Manila Project
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