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A virtual tour of 7 religious landmarks

By PAULO ALCAZAREN, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 18, 2021 5:00 am

Another wave of the virus arrived and another surge is expected mid-year. Many are hopeful that with divine intervention and guided by science, we can soon defeat this pandemic, but since we still can’t pray or hold Mass in churches, here is a virtual tour of seven religious landmarks in the metropolis, using sketches (bocetos). I’ve chosen only modernist structures by Filipino architects, among them national artists.

We start in Quezon City with an iconic building designed by National Artist Leandro Locsin, the Church of the Holy Sacrifice in UP Diliman. Locsin had created a prototype circular chapel for the Victorias Milling estate in Negros in the early 1950s but it was not built. The design was resurrected instead for UP Diliman and completed in December of 1955. The interiors contains the works of other National Artists: a cross and altar by Napoleon Abueva, a floor mural by Arturo Luz and stations of the cross by Vicente Manansala.

The church has just been renovated and repainted,  but its formerly simple green site has been mangled over the decades. A fence has enclosed what used to be elegant wide lawns with simple hedges that tastefully framed Locsin's masterpiece. The church is now barely visible and the horror vacuii of whoever was in charge has filled every nook and cranny of the site.

  Leandro Locsin’s Church of the Holy Sacrifice is an iconic landmark in Diliman.

From the land of maroon and green we hop on to the kingdom of the blue eagles, and their modernist landmark of the Church of the Gesu. The pyramidical white mass of the church anchors one end of the campus’ central Bellarmine Field. The design is by architect Bong Recio, who is an alumnus of the Loyola school.

  The Church of the Gesu by Bong Recio is an ode to modernism.

The church’s geometry symbolizes the Holy Trinity, and reportedly also was meant to suggest the outstretched arms of the Sacred Heart. The church seats a thousand and inside are two chapels, one dedicated to the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception, patroness of Ateneo de Manila, with the other dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  A 23-bell carillon, a donation from the high school class of 1960 and the college class of 1964, provides a vertical marker that makes the church’s location visible from Katipunan Road.

After visiting the Gesu we make our way to Makati via EDSA, where we stop at the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace, Our Lady of EDSA. This shrine was designed by National Artist Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa, and celebrates the People Power Revolution.  

The shrine is fronted by a small plaza that steps up to a promenade. The church itself is below a statue of the Virgin Mary by Virginia Ty-Navarro. Mañosa designed a more elaborate structure inspired by the traditional Filipino roof but it was not approved, and so the shrine is actually unfulfilled (just like the revolution it commemorates).

The Greenbelt Chapel by Enrique Dizon, Topy Vasquez and Ramon Orlina is a refuge within a refuge.

We head next to Legaspi Village in Makati’s Central Business District. In the middle of Greenbelt’s oasis of green, is the Santo Niño de Paz, more popularly known as the Greenbelt Chapel. In the late 1970s, Fanny Del Rosario-Diploma wanted to donate funds to build a chapel close to the hospital where she recovered from cancer. With the help of Cardinal Sin and permission from the Ayala Corporation, the chapel was completed in 1983.

The chapel was the collaborative work of three architects: Enrique Dizon, Topy Vasquez and Ramon Orlina. Dizon was the architect of choice of the donors, but he roped in Vasquez for the radical design based on a dome. Orlina approached Dizon later in the process, convincing him and the clients that they should incorporate his glass sculptures.

  St. John Bosco’s clamshell designed by Jose Maria Zaragoza hides a marvelous interior.

Not far from the Greenbelt Chapel is the St. John Bosco Church. Designed by National Artist Jose Maria Zaragoza and completed in 1978, the church is a modern concrete clamshell that provides an equally dramatic interior. It has a wonderful coffered ceiling, and a stained-glass clerestory provides additional drama. Being tucked away in a corner of Makati, the church is not so visible compared to the Greenbelt Chapel. The chapel anchors the Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati compound, and is the parish church for the residential neighborhoods in the area.

Across the other side of modern Makati is our next destination, the St. Andrew the Apostle Church. This is the second landmark in our list designed by Leandro Locsin. The church is at the end of N. Garcia Street (formerly Reposo) at the edge of Bel-Air Village.

  Leandro Locsin’s St. Andrew is a sculptural tour de force.

Locsin shaped the church based on circular plan but instead of a dome, he configured the structure’s silhouette based on an X-shaped cross or saltire, the type of cross St. Andrew was martyred on. The church’s main benefactor was Andres Soriano Jr., head honcho of San Miguel in the 1960s. The church took only a year to build and was completed in 1968.

We end our Visita Boceto in Sucat, Muntinlupa, where we can find another Jose Zaragoza masterpiece, the Church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It was completed in 1980 and because of its distinctive spire, sits as a landmark to travelers along the SLEX.

The church is a bit out of the way, but other than Marian devotees, lovers of modern churches will not regret the visit. Zaragoza devoted most of his professional life completing 45 churches or ecclesiastical centers in his career.

I did the sketches that accompany this article virtually over the last year. I do hope we can all do our Visita Iglesia with actual visits next year. In the meantime let’s all keep safe.

Banner photo caption: Our Lady of EDSA by Bobby Mañosa is drowning in infrastructure and needs to be saved.