Amidst all the early Neoclassic building of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman campus, two major modern structures stand as monument against the old colonial style: Arch. Cesar Concio’s 1954 Protestant Church of the Risen Lord and Arch. Leandro Locsin’s 1955 Catholic Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. Located along Pres. José P. Laurel Avenue and sandwiched between Galicano Apacible (1864-1949) and Felipe Agoncillio (1859-1941) streets, the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice is considered as a National Historical Landmark and a Cultural Treasure by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Museum of the Philippines.
Before World War II (1939-1945), students of the U.P. in Manila were already demanding a permanent location where to practice their faith. When the university transferred to Quezon City in 1949, Protestant and Catholic students were vying for time and space in a small wood and bamboo hut. So in the early 1950s, Fr. John Patrick Delaney SJ (1906-1956), the university chaplain, took a chance and commissioned up and coming artists, engineers and an architect to create one of the groundbreaking structures of Philippine modern architecture; and in the end, these young men would become very successful in their chose fields, with many being honored as National Artists of the Philippines.
The architect of this project was the 1990s national Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, whose concept for the first circular church in the Philippines was too radical for many traditionalists, who were used to the Baroque and Gothic influenced church designs. To realize Locsin’s thin-shell concrete dome concept, the structural engineers Alfredo Juinio Sr. and David Consunji leading the monumental task, under such a meager budget that was scrimped and saved by the U.P. teachers, students, and residents. To complete the team, the electrical engineers were Jose Segovia and Pete Pineda.
Leandro Valencia Locsin (1928-1994) is a man of many talents and interests, as evident in his entry to pre-law, then transferring to music and then architecture at the University of Santo Tomas. Early in his career, Locsin was creating theater sets for ballet and musical performances. Throughout his career, Locsin has designed 71 residences, 81 buildings, and 1 state palace; among these are 9 churches and chapels, and 17 government buildings. Best known for his massive, yet very breezy architectural style, Locsin’s most famous works are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Folk Arts Theatre, the Philippine International Convention Center, 1976; and the Philippine Plaza Hotel, the National Arts Center at Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna, the terminal of the Manila International Airport, and the Istana Nurul Iman (Palace of Religious Light), the palace of the Sultan of Brunei, which has a total floor area of 200,000 square meters. Locsin has garnered much recognition throughout his career, including the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Architecture in 1959, the American Institute of Architects Hawaii Chapter’s Pan-Pacific Citation for consistent excellence in design in 1961, the Rizal Centennial Award for Architecture in 1962, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1970, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award in 1972, and the Gold Medal Award from the Philippine Institute of Architects in 1978, an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980, the United Architects of the Philippines’ Likha Award and Gold Medal, and National Artist in Architecture in 1990.
The Parish of the Holy Sacrifice is remarkable example of modern tropical architecture, how its design allows natural light and air flow to filter throughout the structure, yet is strong enough to stand the forces of nature. This makes it also an engineering marvel, with its dome supported by thirty two columns located along its rim.
Alfredo Lazarte Juinio Sr. (born circa 1918), while teaching at the university, served as the head of the U.P. Office of Campus Planning, before becoming the dean of the U.P. College of Engineering from 1970-1979. Aside from being the lead structural engineer in the development of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, Juinio’s other two major projects for the U.P. were the construction of Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Avenue and the U.P. Gateway (with Napoleon Abueva as the designer) at the University Avenue. Later on, Juinio worked as the Minister of Public Works and Highways, as well as the Administrator of the National Irrigation Administration. As the dean of the U.P. College of Engineering, Juinio work for the establishment of the National Engineering Center building, and the formation of the U.P. Engineering Research and Development Foundation, Inc. (UPERDFI).
David Mendoza Consunji (1921-2017) is most known as the chairman of publicly listed holding firm, DMCI Holdings, Incorporated. Consunji served as the secretary of the Department of Public Works, Transportation and Communications, as well as the president of the Philippine Contractors Association, International Federation of Asian & Western Pacific Contractors’ Association, and the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers. Other positions that Consunji held were as vice-president of the Confederation of International Contractors’ Association, chairman of the Contractors Association, the Philippine Domestic Construction Board and the U.P. Engineering Research and Development Foundation.
From the two gates along Galicano Apacible Street and two more gates at Felipe Agoncillio street, there are two paths with a geometric zigzag pattern that continues to and throughout the floor of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. This is the terrazzo floor mural of the 1997 National Artist for Painting Arturo Luz’ “River of Life”. The concept of the artwork seems to have the spirit of Christianity flow from the altar, and down into the streets of the university.
Arturo Rogerio Luz (1926) was born in Manila; and he was a Neo Realist, whose abstracted works gave a play to everyday objects and scenes. His Luz Gallery has helped launch the next generations of artists. Arturo has held many important positions in the world of art, such as president of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) in 1952, executive director of the Design Center of the Philippines (1973-1987), director, Metropolitan Museum of Manila (1976-1986), and director of Museum of Philippine Art (1977-1985). Luz represented the Philippines in various exhibitions abroad, including the Arte de America y España in Europe in 1963, Sao Paolo Biennale in 1974, the Tokyo International Print Biennale in 1974, and the eighth British International Print Biennale in 1984. Aside from local and international exhibitions, Arturo also received accolades such as the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Painting (1966), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award for Painting (1980), the Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government (1978), the Gawad CCP para sa Sining (1989), and the National Artist for Visual Art in 1997.
At the center of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice are several works by the 1973 National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva. At the very heart of the church is the altar with the crucifix suspended above. Entitled “Christ Crucified and Christ Resurrected”, the crucifix has one side with the stripped Jesus with His head bowed down in death, and on the other side Jesus is clothed and with his head held up high.
The Prestól (altar table) is also sculpted by Abueva, featuring Jesus giving the “Sermon on the Mount” (Gospel of Matthew: chapters 5, 6, and 7), where he spoke of the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–12).
On the lectern, Abueva sculpts the “Twelve Apostles”, with three saints on each side of the rectangular lectern. At the very front of the lectern are St. Peter, Saint James (son of Zebedee), and St. John. At the left side are St. Jude, St. Andrew, and St. Thomas. At the back of the lectern are St. Matthias, St. Philip, and St. Bartholomew. And at the right side are St. Simon, St. Mathew, and St. James (son of Alphaeus).
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Between the columns that support the dome of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, there are 14 walls in which the fifteen “Stations of the Cross” (the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ) at mounted on canvas by the 1981 National Artist for Painting, Vicente Manasala, and assisted by the 2001 National Artist for Painting, Ang Kiukok.
Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981) took his first art lessons under the turn-of-the-century genre painter Ramón Resurrección Peralta (1877-1940), before entering the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1926. After graduating in 1930, Manansala continued his studies at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Montreal, Canada, and in Paris, France. While in Paris, he took an apprenticeship under the French avant-garde artist Joseph Fernand Henri Léger (1881-1955). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Manansala took more studies at the Otis Art Institute, in California, USA. Manansala’s first jobs in the 1930s were as an illustrator for the Philippines Herald and Liwayway and layout artist for Photonews and Saturday Evening News Magazine. As an artist, Manansala was honored with the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1963, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1970, and he was proclaimed National Artist in Painting in 1981.
Ang Kiukok ( 洪救國) was born as Ang Hwa Shing (1931-2005), to a family of Chinese immigrants in Davao City. His often violent works are a interweaving of cubist, expressionist and surrealist styles. A graduate of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Ang Kuikok originally had foregone the artistic life, in exchange of teaching English to the children of Chinese expatriates. After winning many painting competitions, Ang Kuikok was awarded the Outstanding Overseas Chinese in Art (1961), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila (1976), the Outstanding Alumnus award by the UST (1978), and finally the National Artist for Painting (2001).
Around the church grounds, there are seven gardens, which are arranged with certain natural elements and artworks, to symbolize various advocacies of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice. These gardens are the Garden of Communion, Garden of Love and Friendship, Garden of the Family, Garden of Religions, Garden of Justice and Peace, Garden of Mother and Healing and the Garden of Eternal Life.
At the Garden of Communion, there stands the bust of Fr. John P. Delaney in the middle of a pond, which was sculpted by Napoleon Abueva in 1998. This garden is meant to represent unity of time, action, spirit and the four elements of earth, fire, wind and water.
In the Garden of Love and Friendship there are two stone monoliths, which represents the evolution from friendship to love to courtship to marriage. There are two more gardens that use monolithic symbolism: Garden of the Family and the Garden of Religions.
The Garden of Justice and Peace has a bronze sculpture of the “Gomburza”, which are the representations of the three priests who were accused and executed as conspirators for the failed Cavite Mutiny of January 20, 1872. The first letters of each priest’s family name was used to come with the word “Gomburza”: Fr. Mariano Gómez y de los Angeles (1799-1872), Fr. José Apolonio Burgos y García (1837-1872), and Fr. Jacinto Zamora y del Rosario (1835-1872). The martyrdom of the three priests was one of the push factors that incited 1896 Philippine Revolution against the Spanish colonizers (1565-1898). The sculpture was executed by Tito Sta. Ana Sanchez.
Tito Santa Ana Sanchez (born 1955) is a sculptor, who is adept in both classical and modernist styles. Formally trained at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), Sanchez trained under Anastacio Caedo and the National Artist for Sculpture, Napoleon Abueva. Soon after graduating, Sanchez took a short teaching position at the U.P. CFA, but soon left to focus on his art. Sanchez experimented in various art making media, and was garnering awards in many local competitions for painting and sculpture. In fact, Sanchez was first known as painter, with his first solo exhibition entitled “Black Paintings”, in 1979. However, Sanchez would soon focus on sculpting, and has continued to create works for exhibition and for commissions. At a latter point in time, a crisis prompted Sanchez to focus on his care for his family, and he moved from his native Pasay City to the town of Los Baños, to get away from the distractions of life in Metro Manila. In Los Baños, Sanchez continues to produce sculptures, while giving attention to his family.
At Garden of Mother and Healing, there is a Grotto of Our Lady of Fatima, which stands for motherland and nurturance. In the same garden is a sculpture of a “Seated Mother”, by Napoleon Abueva.
The Garden of Eternal Life represent the stages in life from the death; and one of the powerful symbols is that of the Manunggul Jar fountain. The Manunggul Jar is a burial jar, discovered in the island of Palawan, and it has been dated to be created between 890-710 B.C. The figures on the lid of the jar are of two humans on a boat, with the first figure having his arms cross as if he was dead, and the second character is rowing the boat, similar to Charon of Greek mythology, who ferries the souls of the dead to the afterlife.
Back inside the church, there is a reproduction of the “Pietà” (1498-1499), Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni’s (1475-1564) Renaissance masterpiece. Instead of marble, this modern resin version was sculpted by Napoleon Abueva in 1999.
The latest artwork to grace the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice is Maria Laura V. Ginoy’s 2016 sculptures of the fourteen “Via Crucis” or Stations of the Cross”, located at the periphery of the walkway around the church. As part of her masteral thesis at the U.P. College of Fine Arts, Ginoy ingeniously translates the Passion of the Christ through concrete casts of arms and hands (most likely of her classmates).
There are two more artworks that are not so accessible to visitors of the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, due to their locations and the strictness of the guards to enforce the rules of conduct in the premises. This first is the 1999 mural of Domingo “Nic” Aragon Mendigo Jr. at the Fr. John P. Delaney Hall. The second piece is a painting of the Virgin Mary by Mario Agustin Parial (1944-2013), which was once within the church but has been moved to the priest’s dining quarters.
Mario Agustin Torres Parial (1944-2013) is a painter and printmaker, who graduated from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and learned printmaking under Manuel A. Rodriguez Sr. (born January 1, 1912), the father of Print Making in the Philippines. Early in his career, Parial taught at the UST and the University of The Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts. Parial’s colorful and almost cartoonic style showcased a folk-like whimsy, which had won him many competitions. Parial was honored the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artists Award (1972), the Benavides Award for Outstanding Performance to University Prestige from the University of Santo Tomas (1967), and the Outstanding Thomasian Award from UST (1978).
If the many green areas of the University of the Philippines makes it a haven for all visitors and residents, the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice is the heaven within the haven. Set along the very busy Pres. José P. Laurel Avenue, the hubbub of the outside world is drowned by the tranquility of the thick foliage and the serene gardens. And with the masterpieces of five National Artists and other artists, the church becomes cornucopia of beauty and peace.