Minor Basilica of San Sebastian declared a national cultural treasure

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The National Museum has declared the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian in Quiapo, Manila as a national cultural treasure (NCT) and recognized other structures, places and paintings as important parts of the country’s heritage and history.

The National Museum bestowed the title on the 124-year-old Minor Basilica of San Sebastian as it is the only all-steel temple in Asia.

The National Museum said the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian was “inspired by the Roman Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries” and “a highly associated Neo-Gothic revival style of the Middle Ages.”

The construction of the church was the idea of engineer Genaro Palacios, who was then the director of public works in Manila. He recommended to the Recoletos to use steel instead of stone in building the church.

“The church stands as a marvel in structural engineering skills and artistic creativity with its Gothicized pulpit and confessionals; silver frontals; frescoes and ornaments; delicately wrought ironworks and chandeliers; its twin spires with belfry; and the intricate masssive paintings on colored glass which was freshly introduced to the Philippines by an international multi-awarded studio in Brussels, Belgium,” the National Museum said.

“The Basilica is embellished with remarkable trompe l’oeil of saints and martyrs in niches, the only surviving work of Lorenzo Rocha, a 19th century Filipino prizewinning portraitist. It also houses a magnificent gilded retablo designed by another notable Filipino artist, Lorenzo Guerrero,” the National Museum added.

Other national cultural treasures

The Bohol Watchtowers in Maribojoc, Dauis and in Panglao were also declared as NCTs.

The Punta Santa Cruz Watchtower in Maribojoc, which was built as a lookout against pirates in 1796, offers an excellent view of the Bohol Channel and the island of Cebu. The Panglao Watchtower erected at the church complex of San Agustin parish in 1851 is the tallest of its kind in the country. The Dauis Watchtower, on the other hand, was built near the parish church of Our Lady of the Assumption parish. It has a hexagonal tower with inscriptions of the emblem of the Augustinian Order and Ano 1779 above the entrance.

Another NCT is the Tabon Cave Complex in Lipuun Point, Quezon, Palawan.  It is said to be one of the most momentous archaeological breakthroughs, bearing indications of the nation’s historical and cultural development for the past 50,000 years. The cave covers approximately 138 hectares and is composed of 218 caves, 38 of which were used as habitation and burial sites in the past.

The San Nicholas de Tolentino Church Complex and Ermita Ruins in Dimiao, Bohol was also recognized as a NCT.

Built in 1797, the church was founded by the Jesuits before 1750 and was assumed by the Augustinian Recollects in 1786. It was constructed of coralline limestone quarried from the mountains behind Poblacion, Dimiao.

The Shrine-Parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Complex in the municpality of Dauis in Bohol and its liturgical objects are now NCTs. Built in gothic style, it has a unique style of ceiling paintings and follows a distinct iconographic program. It was erected in 1774.

The National Museum also declared the four murals of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco at the Philippine General Hospital as NCTs.

Titled “The History of Medicine,” the four murals depict the phases in the development of medicine and healing practices in the country, from folk remedies to the modern age.

Important cultural properties, heritage zone

On the other hand, the “Inang Bayan” mural created by National Artist Vicente Manansala was recognized as an important cultural property (ICP). The mural is displayed at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City. Former first Lady Imelda Marcos, the founding chairman of the Philippine Heart Center for Asia, commissioned Manansala to paint a mural for the lobby of the hospital’s Medical Arts Building.

The Parish Church of San Agustin and Complex in Bohol was declared as an ICP. Notable are its ceiling paintings over the nave, dating from the 1920s to 1930s. They are in shades of brown and monochromatic lavender.

The replica of the balangay boat named “Diwata ng Lahi” built by Badjaos from Tawi-Tawi is another ICP. They used an ancient boat-building technique in the island of Sibutu and Sitangki in Tawi-Tawi.

Also recognized was the San Sebastian del Mundo Parish Church in Davao Oriental. Standing on a plateau overlooking the Caraga River and the Pacific Ocean, the church and convent were completed in 1883 and considered as one of the oldest churches in Mindanao.

In Tayabas, Quezon, the Malagonlong Bridge was recognized as an NCT while the Spanish colonial bridges were declared as ICPs.

The Sta. Monica Parish Church and its liturgical objects in Minalin, Pampanga are also ICPs. The church was built by the Augustinian architects in the 17th century.

Meanwhile, the Old Town of Dapitan was declared as a heritage zone to protect the historical and cultural integrity of the area, which is one of the oldest settlements in Northwestern Mindanao.  – Evelyn Macairan

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