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San Agustin Church: A Local Masterpiece

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Intramuros has remained one of the most intact time capsules of Philippine history in the city of Manila. The height of the Spanish influence and power in the country still resonates in its walls and infrastructures. Strolling along its cobblestone streets will definitely take you back in time.

My love affair with this city started way back in 2004 when I was still in my sophomore year in high school. It was also during this time that I developed a fascination with history, particularly the different periods in art and architecture (i.e. Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, etc.). It all started with a trip to the famous San Agustin Church. We were looking for a beautiful church for my twin sisters’ christening and this was the perfect place because of the fancy restaurant right across the street (Barbara’s).

Anyway, how do I even begin to describe The San Agustin Church? It’s a grand masterpiece, being one of the oldest and most revered churches in the Philippines! The sheer size and ornate details of its architecture are enough indication that a lot of money was spent on it. The massive wooden doors in the entrance are decorated with intricate carvings while the interior resonate Baroque influences. The ceiling and walls are covered in a magnificent tromp l’oeil (French for deceive the eye) murals. It did deceive my sight because I thought they were real structures carved out of stone. The aisle is lined with 14 chapels complete with wooden confessionals and on the right side (facing the altar) you will see an exquisite pulpit. Many people are also interred there, including conquistadors Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Juan de Salcedo.

Adjacent to the church is the museum, which used to be a monastery. Artifacts dating back to the Spanish colonization are showcased here and there is also a columbarium where some of the famous Filipinos are interred (not for the claustrophobic and faint of heart!). My favourite part of the museum is the garden that most people overlook when touring inside. It’s a simple garden with a backdrop of rolling grass, a pretty fountain for a centrepiece and an old brick wall that completes that old world vibe. I used to sit in one of the benches in the courtyard and just admire the view. Unfortunately, they closed it off to the public the last time I went there.

My excursion wouldn’t be complete without stopping by Casa Manila. It is located just across the street from San Agustin Church. The structure stays true to the colonial architecture of its time. One of the main attractions is the stone courtyard located at the heart of the building. Several Filipino films have shot their scenes here. Next is the Casa Manila, a museum that serves as a replica of colonial residences of the elite society. Lastly, there’s a fine dining restaurant called Barbara’s which serves excellent Filipino cuisine topped with an ambiance of pure elegance.

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