Three centuries of Spanish rule gave birth to a number of long-standing Roman Catholic churches around the Philippines. Most of these are revered for their old-school architecture that is like no other and style that is ahead of their time. But other religious spaces in the country have since employed modern approaches that not only draw in a regular crowd of churchgoers, but also a number of photographers and artists who canât help but marvel at the unique design.
We round up some beautiful churches that you can easily drive to near and around Manila.
1) Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Daang Bakal Road, Antipolo, Rizal
The Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was made popular by the wedding scene in the John Lloyd Cruz-Bea Alonzo movie A Second Chance. Designed by Architect Dom Galicia, it is admired for its open-air style, surrounding lush garden, and an 18-meter cross hanging from the glass ceiling.
2) Church of the Gesu
Father Masterson's Drive, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City
Designed by Jose Pedro Recio and Carmelo Casas, the Church of the Gesu embodies the norms of Jesuit buildings—utilitarian, plain but practical, and sturdy. The result was a massive tetrahedron structure with skylights above the older and large windows and doors for cross ventilation. The interiors use a modern minimalist approach so that churchgoers can focus on the sanctity of the space. This is characterized by repetition of lines provided by the beams and irregularly-shaped openings with colored glass.
3) Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
What started as a simple parish made of nipa and bamboo in 1581 is now a majestic religious structure known as the Manila Cathedral. Its facade features statues of famous saints—St. Rose of Lima, St. Jacob, St. Andrew, St. Anthony the Abbot, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Polycarp—all sculpted in Roman travertine stones. More than a hundred stained glass windows made by Filipino artist Galo Ocampo adorn the walls.
4) Chapel on the Hill
Don Bosco, Batulao, Batangas
Perched on the ridges surrounding Mt. Batulao, Chapel on the Hill gives a panoramic view of the valley with its floor-to-ceiling windows. The ceiling has stained glass windows, giving natural lighting to the place. Outside the chapel, you can find the "Labyrinth," a path described as "a sacred circle" perfect for prayer and meditation.
5) Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned
Sta. Elena, Marikina City
It was in 2009 when the Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned—under the supervision of Rev. Fr. Reynante U. Tolentino—transformed from a simple Baroque-style structure to the art-filled church that it is today. Father Nante commissioned works from artist Nani Reyes, his kababayan from Angono who helped fill the walls with paintings depicting the religious activities of the community, while Batangas artist Rex Papasin was tasked to create 3D illusions for the arcs and dome ceiling. The floor was designed with Machuca tiles while the walls are accented with colored glass windows.
6) St. John Bosco Parish Church
Arnaiz Avenue corner Amorsolo Street, San Lorenzo Village, Makati City
St. John Bosco Parish Church is known for its breathtaking geometric architecture designed by National Artist Jose Maria Zaragoza. Standing humbly amid skyscrapers of Makati City, its exteriors is reminiscent of the edge of a leaf, while the white ceiling is accented with crisscrossed beams.
7) Mary Immaculate Parish
Apollo III, Moonwalk Village, Las Piñas City
Mary Immaculate Parish in Las Piñas is also known as Nature Church because of its open-air structure and nature-inspired concept designed by Architect Bobby Manosa. It stands under a canopy of mango trees and around thick tropical palms, ensuring privacy for churchgoers. The anahaw roof, made of 40,000 anahaw leaves and considered the biggest in the Philippines, is accented with 176 capiz dove-shaped lanterns hanging in the ceiling. The pews and kneelers are made from tree logs destroyed by the typhoon, while the floors are made of stones and pebbles.
8) Basilica Menor de San Sebastian
Pasaje del Carmen Street, Quiapo, Manila
Basilica Menor de San Sebastian, completed in 1891, is the Philippines' only all-steel church. It is often mistaken to be one of the creations of French civil engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel, but was actually a project by Spanish architect Don Genero Palacios y Guerra. Aside from its unique material, San Sebastian also serves as a gallery of religious art hand painted by college students from the Academia de Dibujo y Pintura. The church is now undergoing restoration through the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation.
9) Parish of the Holy Sacrifice
Apacible Street, University of the Philippines - Diliman, Quezon City
Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, a.k.a. UP Chapel, is a masterpiece of the country's finest artists. The open and circular layout was designed by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, the wooden cross and altar are made by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon V. Abueva, the floor mural called "River of Life" was designed by National Artist for Visual Arts Arturo Luz, and the murals depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross are by National Artist for Painting Vicente Manansala. The Parish of the Holy Sacrifice was recognized as a National Historical Landmark and a Cultural Treasure by the National Historical Institute and the National Museum, respectively, in 2005.
10) Caleruega Church
Caylaway, Nasugbu, Batangas
Caleruega Church, named after the birthplace of St. Dominic de Guzman, features a hanging bridge, a koi pand, a man-made fountain, and various halls for gatherings. The main Transfiguration Chapel welcomes guests with its metal gate decorated with vine-like design. Once inside, you get to see large stained glass windows that not only provide natural light but also give a radiant finish to the altar wall.