Situated between Lantana and Vancouver streets, of the Cubao District of Quezon City, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao (ICCC) rises about the nearby residences, and announces itself as the seat of the Archdiocese of Cubao. Located between the major thoroughfares of Aurora Boulevard and Eulogio Rodríguez, Sr. Boulevard, the ICCC started out as a small chapel among the small farming community along Manga Road, at the edge of the Magdalena Estates and the and the Diliman Estates (now called Cubao) of the the Tuason clan, under the matriarch Doña Maria Teresa Eriberta De La Paz Tuason (1867-1951).
The ICCC roots start when the missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD, or Societas Verbi Divini) established the Christ the King Mission Seminary along Eulogio Rodríguez, Sr. Avenue, in 1933. The area was still part of the Municipality of San Juan del Monte, and Quezon City was not yet founded. These farming lands were part of the Magdalena estates of Doña Magdalena Hashim Ysmael-Hemady (1877-1955), and the SDV priests were administering the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in a small chapel to the local community around the seminary, starting in 1935. The small chapel was named after San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isidore the Laborer, 1070-1130), after the Spanish patron saint of the farmers and laborers. As time passed, masses were moved to the home of a certain Carbonell family, and were conducted by Fr. Henry Demond, SVD, who was also known to have written the educational textbook, Elements of Tagalog Grammar, in 1935.
As the community began to grow, the masses were moved to a Quonset mess hall that was abandoned by the US-Philippine Commonwealth Armed Forces. The Quonset hut was built as part of the growing military base, Camp Murphy, which was named after the American Supreme Court Justice and Philippine Governor-General William Francis Murphy (1890-1949). The camp in Cubao was first the base for the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC), the military base is now divided into the Philippine Armed Forces’ (AFP) Camp Aguinaldo (after the revolutionary general and President Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, 1869-1964) and the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Camp Cramé (after the first Filipino PC commander, Brigadier General Rafael Cramé y Pérez de Tagle, 1863-1927).
From its location between Spencer and Brooklyn streets, the chapel moved to its present site, around the 1940s. And in 1949, the chapel was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, and was elevated to a parish in 1950. However the modern structure that people recognize was built around the 1960s, constructed in the modernized Neo-Romanesque style as designed by Arch. Arturo M. Mañalac (1915-1990). The medieval Romanesque style came about in Europe between 800 and 1100 AD, and incorporated medieval architecture with elements of ancient Roman structures, such as the Corinthian columns and barrel vault ceiling. This return to medieval styled church architecture was inspired the Christ the King Mission Seminary’s castle-like Buttenbruch Building and the Neo-Gothic temples of the Iglesia ni Cristo, by Arch. Carlos Antonio Santos-Viola (1912-1994).
At the same time the new parish edifice was being constructed, the Immaculate Conception Parochial School was opened in 1964, with a kindergarten of 83 students. Expansions to the school continued in 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1995, 1999, and 2006; with the school changing its name to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral School in 2003.
Since the foundation of the Immaculate Conception Parish in 1950, and the Immaculate Conception Parochial School in 1964, the two institutions were run by the order of the SDV. However, in 1990, the management of the Immaculate Conception Parish was transferred from the SDV to Archdiocese of Manila.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral School’s change of name coincided with the institutionalization of the Diocese of Cubao was established, in 2003. And the seat of the new ecclesiastical administration was the Immaculate Conception Parish. In preparation for the foundation of the Diocese of Cubao, the Immaculate Conception Parish underwent major renovations and expansions, and was elevated to the status of a cathedral, and renamed as the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao (ICCC).
Along with the renovations of the ICCC was the construction of the Bishop’s Residence, located at the corner of Lantana and Trinidad Streets. At the entrance of the Bishop’s Residence is the Diocese of Cubao’s motto “Civitas Supra Montem Posita,” molded in concrete. The Latin phrase was taken from the Bible verse of Matthew 5:14, where Jesus speaks to the people, in the Sermon on the Mount, describing them as “A City on a Hill.” The Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Cubao can also be found on different parts of the church.
Another property developed by the Diocese of Cubao, is the Obispado De Cubao, which is a multi-leveled building that houses the offices of the diocese, a large multi-purpose hall for gatherings and wedding receptions, and the Diocese of Cubao Educational System (DOCES). Under the DOCES are several Catholic schools directly supervised by the Diocese of Cubao; which are the Holy Family Parochial School Roxas District (est. 1974), the Immaculate Conception Cathedral School (est. 1964), the Our Lady of Hope Parochial School of Barangay Bagong Pag-asa (est. 1970), the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice Outreach Program Foundation Inc., Preschool in Diliman (est. 1984), the St. Joseph Catholic School in the Homesite Project 3 (est. 1985), and the Sto. Niño Parochial School (est 1967). Another school beside the Obispado De Cubao is the Catholic Filipino Academy (CFA), which was founded in 2005 by the writer and Catholic lay preacher, Eugenio Isabelo Tomas “Bo” Reyes Sanchez Jr. (born 1966).
Part of the renovations of the ICCC was the installation of the Baroque styled retablos (altarpieces), altar table and lectern, at the main altar and transepts. At the main altar is the figure of the Crucified Christ, with a silver areole emanating from the back of the cross. At the north transept, in the image of Saint Joseph, while the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception is housed at the south transept; which relates all three figures as the Sagrada Famila (Holy Family).
During the 2002-2003 renovation of the ICCC, new stained glass windows were installed, by the famed Kraut Art Glass. At the transepts are stained glass designs with images of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well symbols of the institutionalization of the Diocese of Cubao. At the center of the north transept is a rose cross patter, with the image of Saint Peter’s Basilica and Latin phrase “Partone Sanctae Ecclesiae,” signifying that the diocese is under the patronage of the Holy Catholic Church in Rome. The first long window features the “Wedding of Mary and Joseph” and the Coat of Arms of Pope John Paul, with the Latin phrase “Totus Tuus.” Meaning “Totally Yours,” this was the apostolic motto of Saint John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła, 1920-2005) apostolic motto, who created the Diocese of Cubao with the 2003 Papal bull, Quo Satius Provideretur (Indeed, they provide). The line of “Totus Tuus” was taken from the 1712 Marian prayer book “True Devotion to Mary” by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716). The last image in the north transept is the “Flight to Egypt” from Matthew 2:13–23, where the Holy Family escapes from the persecution of King Herod.
At the south transept is the rose cross with the image of the ICCC, with the Latin phrase “Mater Ecclesiae, Ora Pro Nobis,” which was taken from a Marian prayers that states “Mother of the Church, Pray for Us.” The next image is that of “The Annunciation” from Luke 1:26–38 and Matthew 1:18–22, where the Blessed Virgin Mary is visited by the Archangel Gabriel, announcing the birth of Jesus Christ. At the bottom of the stained glass, is the Diocese of Cubao’s episcopate coat of arms, with the Latin phrase “Majorem Autem Caritas” or “Great Charity.” The last image is that of the Sagrada Famila or Holy Family, with the Coat of Arms of Cardinal Jaime Lachica Sin (1928-2005), and the Latin word of “Serviam” or “To Serve.” Cardinal Sin was key in the formation of the Diocese of Cubao, and the appointment of Rev. Honesto F. Ongtioco, as the first bishop of the diocese.
Some of the original stained glass windows can be still seen at the side chapels to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the north aisle, and the Our Lay of Remedies at the south aisle. One of the latest stained glass windows installed by the Kraut family is the 2012 image of Saint Pedro Calúñgsod (1654-1672), the second Filipino saint, who was canonized on the same year.
The Kraut Art Glass started in 1911, when Matthias Kraut arrived in the Philippines from Germany. Starting with a business of house painting, Kraut would open his stained glass business in Quiapo, in 1912. Soon the Kraut Glass Art company would be the leading stained glass company in the Philippines, creating masterpieces for churches, homes and business. Some of the major pieces created by the Kraut Glass Art company are the Archway of the Philippine Pavilion in the 1917 St. Louis Exposition, with Galo Ocampo for the 1954 Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City and the 1958 Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica in Manila, and the Santo Niño Basilica in Cebu. Now-a-days, the business is managed by Matthias’ grandchildren: Robert Kraut Jr., Ronald Kraut, and and Rochelle Kraut-Barrinaga.
At the dome of the nave is Neoclassical styled painting of the Sypnotic Apostles, by the noted portrait artist Rafael del Casal. Started in 2002, the painting was unveiled in 2004, as a donation by the Llames family.
Rafael del Casal (born 1957) is a self-taught portraitist and religious iconographic painter. Exhibiting a talent at an early age, Del Casal did try to apply for at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts (CFA), but was rejected. So Del Casal went to work as an apprentice of National Artist for Theater Design Salvador Floro Bernal (1945-2011) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), where his work on costume design honed his skills in anatomy and proportion. During that time, Del Casal created his first portrait of Bernal, who would later recommend him to the production designer of the film “Gumising Ka, Maruja” (1978), directed by National Artist Catalino “Lino” Ortiz Brocka (1939-1991). For the film, Del Casal created a full-bodied portrait of the actress Susan Roces (born 1941, Jesusa Purificacion Levy Sonora), which would jump start his art career with his first solo exhibition at Sining Kamalig on the following year. Still working in film and theater production, Del Casal attended a month-long workshop of “Anatomy for Artists” at the CCP, conducted by the renowned art forger Eric Hebborn (1934-1996); which would further strengthen Del Casal’s painting skills. Since then, Del Casal has not just been painting portraits and religious imagery, but he also has created historical paintings and designs church altars, stained-glass windows and liturgical vestments. Two of the most noted works of Del Casal are the official portraits of San Saint Pedro Calungsod (1654-1672), for the 2000 beatification and 2012 canonization of the saint.
The latest addition of the ICCC complex is the Cathedral Grottos and Columbarium, which serves as the crypts for those who want to be interred at the ICCC. Beside the entrance to the Cathedral Grotto is a relief of angels praying to the Holy Eucharist, with the Latin phrase “Adoremus in Aeternum Sanctisimum Sacramentum” or “Let us adore forever the most holy Sacrament,” which was taken from a popular Renaissance hymn, written by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652).
Beyond the modern concrete fixtures and neo-medieval architecture, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao is a silent witness to the changes of Quezon City, from its American Occupation roots (1898-1946) to the present times. The ICCC also stands as testament of the growing Catholic population of the city and the Philippines, despite controversies and politics. And to take the time to visit this church is to take part of that history.