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New icons of Philippine Catholicism.

A predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines has always been known for its Baroque stone churches.

These stone edifices, which were mostly built during the Spanish period, reflect the culture and situation of Filipinos under colonial rule. While the beauty and historical values of these buildings are indisputable, could new churches give us a more updated glimpse on how Filipinos are today?

Taking a look at church buildings built in recent decades, let us see how today's architects reflect our country's culture and context. While the Baroque churches of the past will remain some of the country's best built landmarks, perhaps, it is now time to make room for modern takes on religious architecture.

St. Andrew's Church (Makati City)

Unveiled in 1968, this church is not the newest edifice on this list. Yet its eye-catching form and unique layout reflect the ingenuity of its creator and the rage of its times.

Built in honor of the late Don Andres Soriano Sr. of San Miguel Corp., the church was designed by Leandro V. Locsin, National Artist for Architecture. It finds inspiration from the story of its namesake, St. Andrew the Apostle, who was martyred on an X-shaped cross. The unique cross shape is seen in the form of the church's peak, which is flanked by curved concrete walls, while the curved shell is made of thin-shell concrete, considered revolutionary during its time.

Overall, the structure of the church pays homage to the Space Age era of the '60s.

The parishioners commissioned another National Artist, Vicente Manansala, to create the copper cross that now hangs over the altar. To complete the look, a customized chandelier was suspended over the cross, reminiscent of a saintly halo.

Despite its 51 years of age, St. Andrew's Church of Makati remains a modern cultural landmark. It showcases our country's early attempts to establish itself in the field of design post-war.

Magallanes Church (Makati City)

Officially named 'St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church,' the Magallanes Church was actually rebuilt from the remains of another church from the '60s. Once an intimate house of worship designed by Arch. Leandro Locsin, only the 28 concrete buttresses of the original structure survived the fire that consumed the building in September 2004.

Arch. Dominic Galicia took on the role of rebuilding the church, and he did it with simplicity and sustainability.

Founded on the concepts of memory and faith, the new edifice retained the surviving members of the original structure. New additions, however, are present in the 13 roof vaults that are separated by operable glass windows. These vaults gradually increase in height until it reaches the central peak, with the middle vault standing at 28 meters in height.

The vaults are encased in unglazed clay tiles on the exterior, reducing heat gain in the building. The windows permit natural light and ventilation to run through the edifice.

The new Magallanes Church showcases Filipino modern architecture at its best, with a wise consideration of its local context. Simple yet awe-inspiring, the church is representative of its community's capacity to rise up from the ashes and become a modern masterpiece amid the challenges.

Edsa Shrine (Quezon City)

Built in the wake of the Philippine Edsa Revolution, the Edsa Shrine is formally known as the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace. It was constructed on the site that bore witness to a bloodless uprising against the Marcos administration. Commemorating one of the key events that shaped Philippine history, the Shrine features cultural gems that represent Filipino ideals and struggles.

The church was designed by Arch. Francisco Manosa, considered the pioneer of Philippine neo-vernacular architecture. He created a plaza that encouraged the gathering of masses above the church interiors.

The church also features the work of Manny Casal in the 'Flame of Freedom,' a sculpture of three human figures bearing a fire bowl. The art is representative of the country's main islands. A grand Virgin Mary statue created by Virginia Ty-Navarro stands on top of the whole structure, becoming the icon of Edsa.

Now surrounded by busy streets and crowded commercial centers, the Edsa Shrine serves a reminder of our strength as a nation. It is one of the most recognized landmarks in Metro Manila and remains significant to us especially during our country's most difficult times.

National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio (Batangas)

Situated in the quiet municipality of Sto. Tomas in Batangas, the National Shrine of Saint Padre Pio is a place that regularly sees thousands of devotees and visitors. Built in 2003, the church is unique for its origins as a bamboo and nipa chapel.

Upon its expansion, it retained the use of local materials despite featuring modern forms. Now, it stands as a religious complex, consisting of numerous chapels and parish rectory.

In terms of architecture, the main church is reminiscent of the salakot, or the traditional Filipino farmer's hat. It is similar to the Edsa Shrine as it features a sculpture of the Virgin Mary at the roof peak.

The building was designed by Arch. Julius Pio Rana with the concepts provided by the parish priest, Fr. Joselin C. Gonda.

Though it features classic elements of church architecture such as a bell tower and a confessional, the structures are rooted in the Philippine vernacular style. With its unique design and pious environment, the church was eventually declared a National Shrine by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 2015, the first in the Archdiocese of Lipa, Batangas.

The Church of the Gesu (Quezon City)

Situated within the Ateneo De Manila Loyola Heights Campus, the Church of the Gesu was designed by Architects Jose Pedro Recio and Carmelo Casas in 2001. It is symbolic of both the Catholic faith and the community values of the school that hosts it.

The massive triangular shell of the church symbolizes the Holy Trinity. The shape also alludes to the Bahay Kubo, a recognized icon of Philippine architecture. Inside, the church features excellent acoustic design and unobstructed views of the altar. The holy water font, in particular, is interesting due to its stained glass enclosure and continuous flow design.

The church stands on what is believed to be the highest point of Loyola Heights. Due to its unique aesthetics and excellent design, it received the first Haligi ng Dangal award from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 2017.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Apr 13, 2019
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