The Quezon City district of New Manila is a haven for various Catholic orders, with many chapels and convents scattered around the area; from the American colonial period (1898-1946) Convent of Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux (established 1926), the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres Novitiate and Provincial House (established 1931), Franciscan St. Joseph’s Academy and Convent (established 1932), and the Society of the Divine Word’s Christ the King Mission Seminary (established 1933), to the post-war Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary Compound (established 1950), the Pink Sister’s St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration (established 1965), the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae’s Maryhill School Of The Theology (1979),the Local Superior of The Society of Monfort Missionaries(established 1984), and the Foundation for Carmelite Scholastics(established 1987). However, the center of most Catholic activities is the Minor Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, located on Broadway Avenue, taking most of the block between 4th and 5th street.
The Mount Carmel Parish is part of the third wave of Discalced Carmelites missions to the Philippines, which started in 1923, with the arrival of four French nuns from Hue, Vietnam, to the shores of Jaro, Iloilo. In this first wave, the Convent Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux was founded in 1926, along Gilmore Avenue, in New Manila. The second wave also began in Infanta, Quezon Province, in 1946; and this time the Discalced Carmelite friars were now leading the wave. Part of the third wave that started in Jaro, Iloilo, the Anglo-Irish Carmelite friars established a foundation in 1954, in New Manila, Quezon City, and on December 30 of the same year, the cornerstone was laid for the new church.
The new church was dedicated as a shrine to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which the first Carmelites named in the construction of their first monastery on Mount Karmel (Har HaKarmel) in the northern territories of Israel, during the 12th Century. The order of Carmelite started with Christian hermits living in Har HaKarmel, during the Crusades, who chose the mountain where the prophet Elijah had lived and challenged the priests of the god Baal, as a reflection of their faith against the Muslims who have taken over the holy city of Jerusalem. The old friary is built around the cave, which is believed to be where Elijah had stayed. The Marian incarnation the Carmelite hermits first sought patronage was the “Stella Maris” (Star of the Sea), as to guide them in their pious life. It was when Mary appear to the Carmelite monk, Saint Simon Stock (1165-1265), and showed him the Holy Scapular as a means of salvation did Our Lady of Mount Carmel become a separate incarnation of the Blessed Virgin. In the Philippines, Our Lady of Mount Carmel patron of the cities of Manila, Malolos, and Quezon; the districts of Quiapo and New Manila; and the province of Bulacan.
The Catholic order of the Discalced Carmelites was established in 1593 by the Spaniards Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz; 1542-1591) and Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus (1515-1582), as part of the Catholic Church’s Counter Reformation. An emphasis to the devotion to these founding saints was emphasized in the Mount Carmel Parish, with the installation of two sculptures of the saints, near the entrance of the church, in 2004. The erection of these sculptures was part of the church’s celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the founding of church. There are also icons of the two saints at the transepts of the church.
Construction of the church started in 1954, and it was designed by Arch. Maximo Vicente, Jr., while his father, Maximo Sr., carved many of the religious icons throughout the church. Maximo Jr.’s beautiful modernist approach to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish has strong influence for his work under the National Artist for Architecture, José María Velez Zaragoza (1912-1994), whom the father and son team work for, in the creation of the Santo Domingo Church (1952-1954), along Quezon Avenue. While still under construction, the first mass was held on December 21, 1958; and the church was finally completed and blessed on July 16, 1964.For his design of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Maximo Jr. received the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA) Gold Medal of Merit.
Maximo Vicente, Sr. was a renowned santo maker, and he carved the icons of Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Jesus, Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel at the transepts;as well as the Crucified Christ at the altar and the Blessed Virgin and Child at the Seat of Wisdom Chapel. His assistants in his Talleres created the retablo for the icons, as well as the gigantic statue of Our Lady of Carmel on the façade of the church. Maximo Sr. died less than two months after the church was completed.
Máximo Vicente, Sr. (1885-1964) is a Spanish-Filipino religious sculptor, from the Municipality of Malabon. Vicente was influenced by his maternal uncles, Osmundo and Narciso,who were also santo makers, in Quiapo and Santa Ana, Manila. In 1908, Vicente established his studio, the Talleres de Maximo Vicente along Hidalgo Street, in Quiapo, Manila; and was first joined by this half- brothers Rafael (master carpenter), Felix (sculptor, painter, and altar designer), Dionisio (sculptor), Luciano (painter), and Roberto (sculptor). Vicente enrolled at the University of the Philippines (UP), School of Fine Arts, in 1909, but dropped out to continue his business. Vicente would eventually move his atelier to Adriatico Street, in Ermita, Manila, where he would train many workers from Malabon, Navotas, and Pampanga. One of is most noted apprentices is Juan C. Flores (1900-1992), who would return to his hometown of Betis, Pampanga, where he would be recognized for revitalizing the santo business in the town. Vicente married Crispina Laxamana, whom they had two children. Their daughter would enter a Carmelite convent, while their son, Maximo, Jr., would become an architect, and whose wife, Soledad Hernandez, would manage the atelier, after Vicente’s death.
Emphasis to the devotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary can be seen in the stained glass windows that line the walls of the aisle. The story of Mary starts with the images on the north aisle: the Young Mary with her parents, Saints Ann and Joachim; the Wedding of Saint Joseph and Mary; the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel; the Visitation of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth; the Birth of Jesus; the Presentation of the child Jesus at the Temple, and the Prophesy of Simeon; and the Holy Family’s Flight to Egypt.
At the southern aisle the story of Mary continues with the Holy Family in Nazareth, the Finding of Young Jesus among the Scholars of the Temple, the Intercession of Mary in the Wedding of Cana, the Crucifixion of Jesus, the Death of Jesus, the Pentecost, and finally the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.
At the ends of the transepts of the church are two large stained glass windows that depict holy personages who are important to the order of the Discalced Carmelites. At the north transept are images of the lives of Saint John of the Cross at the left, and Saint Teresa of Avila at the right. At the center of the window is theOur Lady of Mount Carmel and the insignia of the Discalced Carmelites. At the southern transept is the life of the French Carmelite nun, mystic and Doctor of the Church; Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (born Marie Françoise-Thérèse Martin, 1873-1897), at the left side of the window. In the center is Saint Joseph as the Father of Christianity, as well aspects of his life. And finally at the right of the window is the life of the Prophet Elijah, as a connection to the first Carmelite hermits. There are also smaller stained glass windows at the sides of the transepts, which feature images of Christianity; such as the Cross, the Holy Spirit, and the Eucharist.
Since the opening of the parish, the Carmelite priests were a daring sort, as they were first to allow funeral wakes to be held within the church proper. Before this, wakes were held at the homes of the departed, or in the many funeral parlors across the city. In the past, the wakes were held at the side chapel of the parish. However, this proved disconcerting to some parishioners and visitor, especially for those who wanted to have their weddings at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel. So in 1999, the OLMCHP Crypt and Multipurpose Halls was inaugurated at the former basement of the church. The new structure was designed by Arch. Antonia M. Hubilla, who was a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
Over the years, there have been more developments in the compound of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, which include the St. John of the Cross Seminary, the St. Joseph Administration Building, and the Fr. Mark Horan Hall. Latter was named after Fr. Mark Horan, the Carmelite friar of the Anglo-Irish Province, who arrived in the 1950s as Apostolic Visitor to the Carmelite nuns, as part of the second wave of the Carmelite missions.
There have been many renovations to the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish over the decades, and the latest started in 2015, after the parish was declared a National Shrine on the same year. Arch. Antonia M. Hubilla oversaw the renovations that went beyond the facelift of the interior; and included the rewiring of the electrical requirements of the church, the installation of a new sound system and fans, and the replacement of the aging and even damages retablo of the saints. The most significant change was the removal of the ornate wooden panels that lines the altar wall, and in the installation of baldacchino above the altar.
Another noticeable change was the replacement of the old Baroque-styled retablo at the transepts, with more modern versions. These were earlier retablo were designed by the Liturgical designer Antonio “Tony” Adriano (born 1951), who had learned the craft from his father Avelino and grandfather Simplicio, who founded the atelier along M. H. Del Pilar in Ermita in 1911. Adriano has created many retablos over the years, including those of the Ermita Church in Manila, the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo City, the Sta. Ana Church in Taguig City, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Quezon City, the Santuario de San José Parish in San Juan, and the Archbishop’s Palace in Villa San Miguel in Mandaluyong City. However, Adriano gained prominence when he created the papal throne for Pope John Paul II, for the 1995 World Youth Day at the Quirino Grandstand, in Manila.
The new retablo and baldacchino were designed by Engr. Robert Cruz and Freddo Rivera, with an interesting detail in new altar for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, at the south transept, is the Latin verse in bronze, “Flos Carmeli, Vitis florigera, Splendor caeli, Virgo puerperal Singularis”. This is actually the first line of the “Flower of Carmel’ (Flor Carmeli), the hymn that Saint Simon Stock wrote in veneration of his vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Scapular. The line translates as ““Flower of Carmel, Tall vine blossom laden; Splendor of heaven, Childbearing yet maiden, None equals thee”.
With the Our Lady of Mount Carmel declared as a Minor Basilica in 2018, the Baptistery was constructed on the same year through the joint efforts of the Apophatic Builders and Vitreartus Liturgical Arts.
However, the most important historical artifacts to be installed in the church is the almost 30 foot tall sculpture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as the “Ina ng Mundo” (Mother of the World). The statue was commissioned by the lawyer, Don Jose Mariano De Los Reyes Ocampo, for his “Pagoda” styled mansion, which began construction in 1935, in Quiapo, Manila. Completed in 1937 by the famed sculptor, Graciano Nepomuceno, and assisted by Anastacio Caedo, the opus depicts Our Lady of Carmel seated on top of the world, which is in turn held up by seven figures of different races. These men are allegorical figures representing the people of the seven continents of the world. In the decades past, the pagoda mansion has fallen to disrepair and the “Ina ng Mundo” hidden in the mire, while the descendants of Don Jose have moved to newer homes all around the metropolis. However, they have never forgotten their devotion to Our Lady of Carmel, and the perceived miraculous nature of the statue. So when they heard that the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish was to be declared as a national shrine, they donated the statue, and it was finally installed in 2016.
Graciano T. Nepomuceno (1881-1974) was a noted classical sculptor, who made his niche during the American Occupation. Nepomuceno studied painting under Miguel Zaragoza y Aranquizna (1847- 1923) at Liceo Filipino, and sculpture under prize-winning sculptor Ciriaco Arevalo. Aside from beautiful symbolical wooden sculptures, he is also known for creating the decorative panels at the Malacañang Palace and the façade of Metropolitan Theater. Nepomuceno is also known for his intricately sculpted santos (saints).
Anastacio Tanchauco Caedo (1907-1990) graduated from U.P. School of Fine Arts; under the tutelage of National Artist, Guillermo E. Tolentino. During his apprenticeship under Tolentino, the two took to body building as a means to understand the human anatomy and strengthen their bodies for his very physical work of sculpture. This love for body building led Tolentino to fashion his opus “The Oblation” after Caedo’s physique. Later Caedo made name for himself by sculpting many religious works for the Jesuits at the Ateneo de Manila and busts of the National Hero Dr. José Rizal for many of the Philippine Embassies around the world. Caedo was nominated three times as a National Artist of the Philippines (in 1983, 1984, and 1986); which he turned down, to avoid the politics in the art world.
Despite being relatively new, the Minor Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has a great historical significance to the Filipino Catholics that stretches to the arrival of the first Carmelite nuns in 1923, to the creation of the official parish of the New Manila district. To artist historians, the church is the combined work of many great artists, beginning with the father and son team of Maximo Vicente, to the legacy of Nepomuceno and Caedo, to modern masters such as Adriano. But to casual visitor, the church is a beautiful haven amidst the tall tree of New Manila, creating a respite from the pollution and noise of the near by Aurora Boulevard.