Religious sites in Manila - tourist guide

St Augustin Church is one of Manila's oldests

St Augustin Church is one of Manila's oldests

Being the heart of an old Spanish colony and seat of Christianity during the early centuries of European exploration, Manila has been home to some of the largest and oldest cathedrals and churches in the Philippines. The city – especially in the walled quarter of Intramuros – boasts a wide range of impressive religious landmarks. Whether you are in a pilgrimage or just want to see some stunning ancient constructions and discover the history of different denominations in Southeast Asia, you’ll never run out of religious sites to see in Manila.

Catholic churches in Manila

Manila Cathedral
A massive piece of Romanesque architecture right at the heart of Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral is also one of the most historic sites in the country. Natural disasters and attacks caused the stunning building massive damage over the years, although extensive rebuilding and refurbishing has brought back some of its grandeur. Manila Cathedral is stunning, lined with beautiful religious ornaments, artworks and statues and is open to the public. (Open: daily although hours vary; Admission: free; Cabildo St. corner Beaterio St., Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 1796, +63 2 527 3093, fax: +63 2 536 0192, email: mlacathedral@yahoo.com, website: www.manilacathedral.org).

San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church is the oldest in Manila, dating back to the early 1600s. Hard to miss because of its massive exterior, the church is one of the must-see attractions of the walled Intramuros district.

Being amongst the best-preserved churches in the city, San Agustin is adorned with old furniture and even older religious ornaments. Adjacent to the church is a small museum dedicated to colonial religious art. (Open: 06:30, 07:30, 17:30 (Monday-Friday), 07:00, 17:30 (Saturday), 08:00, 10:00, 18:00 (Sunday), Admission: Church: Free, Museum: requires a paid ticket; General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila, tel: +63 2 527 2746, +63 2 527 4052, email: info@sanagustinchurch.org, website: www.sanagustinchurch.org).

Basilica of San Sebastian
The Basilica of San Sebastian is Asia’s first and only all-steel church, rumoured to be designed by the famous Gustave Eiffel, who also created the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower in Paris. The solid steel construction of the church was designed to withstand the constant attacks and natural disasters during early times. The church is Gothic, offering a unique European Feel. The church is also recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is considered as one of the major National Historical Landmarks in the country. (Mass Schedule: 06:00-18:00 (Monday-Saturday), 06:00-19:00 (Sunday); Admission: free; Claro M. Recto Street, Quiapo, Manila, tel: +63 2 734 8908, +63 2 734 8931).

Manila is a devoutly Catholic city

Manila is a devoutly Catholic city

Quiapo Church
Officially called the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, the Quiapo Church is one of the most popular places of worship in the Philippines because it is home to the Black Nazarene, a widely-venerated statue of Jesus Christ which many devotees believe can perform miracles. It is not unusual to see lines of people wiping their handkerchiefs on the statue, and then wiping themselves with the handkerchiefs in the belief that doing so can heal whatever disease or ailment they may have. 

The church originally had a Mexican Baroque edifice, but had to be repainted after being destroyed by fire in 1928. And it wasn’t always as massive; in fact, it was only expanded in 1984 to accommodate the thousands of Black Nazarene devotees who flock to the church every January 9 (the Black Nazarene’s feast day). (Open: daily, Hours vary, Entrance: free, but donations are appreciated; 910 Plaza Miranda & Quezon Blvd., Quiapo, Manila, Luzon, tel: +63 2 733 4945, +63 733 4434 loc.100, fax: +63 2 735 8614, email: roffice_mbbn@yahoo.com, website: www.quiapochurch.com).

Malate Church
The Baroque-style Malate Church faces Manila Bay, separated from the promenade by just a small park. The church was built in honor of “Our Lady of Remedies” (Nuestra Senora de Remedios). The original statue – which was brought from Spain in the early 1600s – still stands at the church’s altar. The Malate Church is one of the oldest in the country. It was used as refuge by British soldiers during their attack on Intramuros between 1762 and 1763. The church has since been destroyed and rebuilt. (Open: daily, Hours vary, Entrance: free; 2,000 MH del Pilar, Malate, Manila, tel: +63 2 400 5876-77, fax: +63 2 524 6866, email: remedios@skyinet.net).

Insider’s tip:
To truly get into the Filipino’s unique brand of spirituality, do as the local devotees do. For just a few pesos, you can buy candles in the shape of human bodies (male and female – you choose) from any of the vendors selling them on the sidewalks. They will light the candle and pray for you.  But because Quiapo is a crowded place, pickpockets abound. Make sure that you money is safe (preferably tucked into your front jeans pocket) and avoid using big bills. 

Non-Catholic churches and places of worship

Other non-Christian sites can also be found around the city, from Buddhist temples like Chinatown’s Seng Guan Buddhist Temple (Open: 07:00-18:00 (daily); Entrance: free; Narra St., Binondo, Manila, Luzon, tel: +63 2 252 0792) There is also Quiapo’s Masjid Al Dahab Mosque (Open: daily, Hours vary, Entrance: free; Globo de Oro Street, Quiapo, Manila, 1001, email: yusophmipanga@yahoo.com).

The Khalsa Diwan Indian Temple, meanwhile, is just a short cab ride from historic Intramuros. (Open: hours vary (daily), Entrance: free; 1350 United Nations Avenue, tel: +63 2 810 0687. Another famous Indian temple is the Saya Aur Devi (Open: hours vary (daily); Entrance: free; Paco District).

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