As one of the only countries in Southeast Asia where Christianity is the dominant religion, the Philippines is a seriously unique place. Originally brought to the island by Spanish colonists, Catholicism remains the most practiced religious sect on the islands.
What’s the best way to explore Manila’s past as a Spanish colony, and its present as Christian outpost in Southeast Asia? Check out some of the city’s many antique churches! No matter what your spiritual beliefs may be, these unique structures will leave a lasting impression.
1.) San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, was built during the early Spanish settlement periods. At over 440 years old, it displays a striking example of Baroque architecture. With its unique interior murals and towering ceilings, the San Agustin Church deserves its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
2.) Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz (Binondo Church)
This granite church, which was destroyed by the British in 1762 and rebuilt in 1852, features architecture that combines both Spanish and Chinese traditions. In particular, its octagonal bell tower is seen as an example of Oriental design. Inside, visitors can view several stunning ceiling paintings that depict Biblical scenes. Located in Manila’s Chinatown, the Binondo Church is especially notable for the recently painted bright red trim on its facade.
3.) Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church (Guadalupe Church)
With its gothic-style exterior and massive buttresses, the Guadalupe Church truly stands out among the surrounding modern developments of Makati in Metro Manila. The groundbreaking of this Baroque structure dates back to 1601. Since then, the church has survived an earthquake that caused the roof to collapse and a fire in 1894. The most unique aspect of its facade is the large rose window that sits directly above the arched doorway. The interior has been refurbished many times and is now among the most popular wedding venues for Manila residents.
4.) Santo Niño de Tondo Parish (Tondo Church)
While Tondo Church may feature minimal exterior ornamentation, its two domed bell towers create an unforgettable visual impact. The building is also notable for housing an image of baby Jesus that has been enshrined at the site since 1573 (although it went missing briefly in 1972). At over 380 years old, this church continues to be one of the most visited places of worship in Manila. Visitation spikes during the Feast Day of St. Niño de Tondo, celebrated on the third Sunday of every January.
5.) Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church)
Located in the “Old Downtown” of Manila, Quiapo Church attracts millions of visitors every year. Many come to see the iconic Black Nazarene, a life-size statue of Jesus that is considered miraculous by some devout followers. The statue is brought out of the church’s shrine for public veneration just three days a year—New Year’s Day, Good Friday, and Jan. 9. Even if you don’t get to see the Black Nazarene’s procession through the streets, it’s worth it to view the beautiful Quiapo Church up close.
Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or just looking for an excuse to explore Manila, these churches will not disappoint. You’ll agree that the historical houses of worship in Manila are among the most impressive in the world.
Which of these Manila churches are you most excited to visit? Let us know in the comments!