Since 2015, I have been walking the streets of many of the Philippines cities, and I have been documenting public art and heritage sites. One of the most common heritage sites that I have been documenting are Catholic churches, for their importance in the development of the local communities as well as the significance of their symbolisms, architecture and the artworks found within.
Some may ask: “Why Catholic churches?”, when some close friends know how critical I am of the Catholic Church. First and foremost, the Catholic Church has been instrumental in forging present Philippine society, both the good and the bad; thus my stance on the Church has eased a bit. Second, the Catholic churches are the most public of all religious institutions, as anybody can just walk into any church at any day of the week. Third, modern Catholic churches have the best samples creative architecture in the Philippines that maximizes scale, light and air flow; because these are not limited with the commercial and residential box-designs for maximizing real estate profit.
In my walking the city streets of Manila, Quezon, Pasig, Pasay, Makati, Taguig, Marikina, San Juan, Mandaluyog, Parañaque, Baguio, Los Baños, Antipolo, San Pablo, Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, Talisay, Minglanilla, Naga, San Fernando, Carcar, Sibonga, Argao, Dalaguete, Alcoy, Boljoon, Tacloban, Ozamis, Pagadian, and Davao (so far); I have documented hundreds of churches. These churches are either described as chapels, parishes, shrines, cathedrals, and minor-basilicas; so what is the difference between each term?
What is a Parish?
First and foremost, all these edifices are considered a church, which is basically a structure for worship. The most basic of all churches is the parish church, which means that the church has an assigned parish priest, with the responsibility to attend to the spiritual needs of a specific territory, which is known as the parish. Even with the parish church as the center of all religious activities (the sacraments) of the community, the parish priest still has responsibilities to the faithful outside the church premises.
Many of the old towns and cities, especially those founded during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines (1565-1898), started when Catholic missionaries established a parish while evangelizing to the farming or tribal communities in the area. As these parishes develop, they become the hub of community activity and even the initiators of events that would eventually become traditions of the community.
The oldest parish church in Quezon City is the San Francisco del Monte Parish (Saint Francis of the Mount, also called the Santuario de San Pedro Bautista), which was founded by Saint Pedro Bautista (born Pedro Blazquez 1542-1597) in 1590, on an elevated area beside the northwest bank of the San Juan River. As a Franciscan missionary, Saint Pedro dedicated the church to Saint Francis of Assisi, the Santuario de San Pedro Bautista is the only Catholic church with its patron saint and founder is buried in the premises.
What is a Chapel?
A chapel is a church with no parish priest, hence no territorial jurisdiction over a residential population. Chapels may be private or public, depending on those who had the church constructed. However, most parishes did start as a community chapel, often put up by residents with a priest from the closes parish giving mass.
However, many community chapels, such as the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chapel and Our Lady of Remedies Chapel, have the chance to become a parish, as the population of Catholics in the area continue to grow.
There are also chapels of some religious institutions that are just as important to the community, as the local parish church. These chapels may be pilgrimage sites, for the faithful to seek for special prayers, such as the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration and the Monasterio de Santa Clara.
Whereas other seminary and monastery chapels were once the first churches in the area, before the local parish was established with its own church structure, which is in the cases of the Our Lady of the Angels Seminary and the Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux.
The school chapel may be the primarily the place of worship for the populace of a school, such as the St. Joseph’s College of Quezon City and the Miriam College Chapel. However, there are some school chapels that open their doors to the neighborhood for Sunday services, such as the Stella Maris College and Convent and the Ateneo de Manila’s Church of the Gesù.
What is a Cathedral?
A cathedral is a church that holds the territorial care of the all the parishes in a diocese, which is the bishop’s jurisdiction. Taken from the Latin word cathedra, which means “seat,” a cathedral is literally the place where the bishop has a special throne for him. Derived from the Greek word dioikesis, which means “to administer”, a diocese is the dominion of the bishop, whereas an archdiocese is under an archbishop. There are two dioceses in Quezon City: the dioceses of Cubao and Novaliches.
Each diocese is subdivided into several vicariates, which are subsets of parishes, and have a possibility of becoming a diocese itself if the population grows big enough. The Diocese of Cubao was established in 2003, and has its seat at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Cubao. The vicariates of the Diocese of Cubao are the Holy Family, Santo Niño, San Pedro Bautista, Saint Joseph, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Santa Rita de Cascia.
Diocese of Cubao, Vicariate of the Holy Family (est. 1974):
Shrine of Jesus the Divine Word (established 1934)
Sacred Heart of Jesus (established 1939)
Immaculate Conception (established 1949)
Holy Family (established 1953)
Most Holy Redeemer (founded 1954)
Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (consecrated in 1958)
Our Lady of Fatima (established 1974)
Saint Paul the Apostle (established 1978)
Diocese of Cubao, Vicariate of the Santo Niño (est. 1974):
Our Lady of Hope (established 1956)
Our Lady of Perpetual Help (established 1958)
Our Lady of Mount Carmel (1961)
Santo Niño Parish Shrine (founded 1967)
Mary the Immaculate Conception (established 1967)
San Nicolas de Tolentino (founded 1975)
Holy Family (consecrated 2003)
Diocese of Cubao, Vicariate of San Pedro Bautista (est. 1989):
Santuario de San Pedro Bautista (established 1590)
National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (established 1941)
Saint Joseph the Worker (established 1947)
Santo Domingo (established 1954)
Santa Perpetua (established 1975)
Immaculate Conception Damar (established 1964)
Santa Teresita del Niño Jesus (established 1977)
Most Holy Redeemer Masambong (established 1994)
Diocese of Cubao, Vicariate of Saint Joseph:
Holy Sacrifice (established 1949)
Saint Joseph Archdiocesan Shrine (established 1952)
Immaculate Heart of Mary (established 1972)
Holy Family Kamias (established 1980)
Santa Maria della Strada (established 1981)
Lord of Divine Mercy (established 1993)
Holy Cross (established 1997)
Our Lady of the Pentecost (established 1999)
San Isidro Labrador (established 2017)
Diocese of Cubao, Vicariate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (est. 1974):
Our Lady of Perpetual Help (established 1946)
San Roque (established 1976)
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish (established 1976)
Christ the King (established 1979)
Transfiguration of Our Lord (established 1981)
Nativity of the Lord (established 1982)
Saint John Paul II (established 2012)
Diocese of Cubao, Vicariate of Santa Rita de Cascia (est. 1974):
Santa Rita de Cascia (established 1955)
Christ the King (established 1961)
Saint Jude Thaddeus (established in the 1960s)
Resurrection of Our Lord (established 1975)
Santo Cristo de Bungad (established 1977)
Hearts of Jesus and Mary (established 1988)
San Antonio de Padua (established 1981)
The Diocese of Novaliches was established in 2002, and it is seated at the Cathedral-Parish and Diocesan Shrine of the Good Shepherd. The Diocese of Novaliches does not only oversee the vicariates and parishes of the northern part of Quezon City, but also five vicariates of the southern part of Caloocan City. The Caloocan vicariates are that of Vicariate of the Santo Niño: Ang Muling Pagkabuhay Ng Ating Panginoon (1998), Ina Ng Laging Saklolo (1997), Saint Paul Of The Cross (2015), San Jose, Amang Mapagkalinga (1994), San Roque (2011), Santo Niño (1986); the Vicariate of the Holy Cross: Holy Cross (1982), Holy Spirit (1998), Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (1986), Saint John Paul II (2018), Saint Joseph the Worker (1997); Vicariate of the Our Lady of Lourdes: Epiphany of the Lord (1997), Mary, Mother of the Church (2005), Our Lady of Guadalupe (2005), Our Lady of Lourdes (1986), Saint Agnes (1995); and Vicariate of the Christ the King: Christ the King (1983), Mother of the Redeemer (1997), Our Lady of Fatima (1972), Our Lady of Peace And Good Voyage (1998), Sacred Heart of Jesus (1995), Santa Krus (2003), Santo Kristo (2018), Santo Niño De Congreso (1998). The Quezon City vicariates are the Our Lady of Mercy, the Good Shepherd, the San Bartolome, the Holy Spirit, the Ina Ng Lupang Pangako, Saint Peter, the San Isidro Labrador, and the Ascension of Our Lord.
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of Our Lady of Mercy:
Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy (established 1856)
Ina Ng Buhay (established 1986)
Immaculate Conception (established 1997)
San Isidro Labrador (established 1999)
Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe (established 2000)
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of the Good Shepherd (est. 1983):
Cathedral Shrine and Parish of The Good Shepherd (established 1975)
Holy Trinity (established 1982)
Santa Lucia (established 1985)
Kristong Hari (established 1991)
Divine Savior (established 1993)
Mabuting Pastol (established 1993)
Corpus Christi (established 2012)
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of San Bartolome:
Resurrection of Our Lord Parish (established 1978)
Banal Na Sakramento (established 1981)
San Bartolome De Novaliches (established 1986)
Holy Family (established 1997)
Christ, King of The Universe (established 2004)
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of the Holy Spirit:
Holy Spirit (established 1980)
San Jose, Ang Tagapagtanggol (established 1997)
Jesus, Lord of The Divine Mercy (established 1993)
Saint Benedict (established 2006)
Hearts of Jesus and Mary (established 2007)
Jesus of Nazareth (established 2008)
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of Ina Ng Lupang Pangako:
Ina Ng Lupang Pangako (established 1990)
Mother of The Divine Providence (established 1991)
Christ The King (established 1991)
San Isidro Labrador (established 1997)
Sagrada Familia (established 2008)
San Pedro Calungsod (established 2018)
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of Saint Peter:
Saint Peter (1993)
Saint Michael The Archangel (2008)
Presentation of Our Lord (2010)
San Antonio De Padua (2011)
Nuestra Señora De La Paz y Buen Viaje (2013)
San Antonio Maria Claret (2018)
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of San Isidro Labrador:
Our Father (established 1986)
Our Lady of Consolation (established 1986)
San Isidro Labrador (established 1987)
San Lorenzo Ruiz (established 1987)
Diocesan Shrine of The Incarnation – Our Lady of The Annunciation Parish (established 1992)
Saint Joseph Parish (established 2013)
Diocese of Novaliches, Vicariate of the Ascension of Our Lord:
Ascension Of Our Lord Parish (established 1977)
Mary, The Queen Parish (established 1989)
Saint Francis Xavier Parish (established 1992)
Jesus, Lord of the Divine Mercy Parish (established 1994)
Visitation of Our Lady Parish (established 1999)
Saint Paul Shrine (established 2019)
There is another cathedral in Quezon City, but does not have a diocese to administer: the St. Ignatius de Loyola Cathedral (est. 1964), in the military Camp Emilio Aguinaldo. What makes the St. Ignatius de Loyola a cathedral is that it is the seat of the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines. Established in 1950, the Military Ordinariate has jurisdiction over the Catholic faithful within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and the Philippine Coast Guard; from the soldiers, police officers, coast guard, civilian staff, their dependents and families.
What is a Shrine?
A Shrine is a church with a sacred relic housed within. Shrines have become important for pilgrimages, as the devout would visit these sites to pray to the saint represented by the relic, or an icon that has believed to be miraculous. As mentioned earlier, the Santuario de San Pedro Bautista contains the remains of its founder and patron saint, making it a shrine.
Chapels can also be shrines such as the Santo Niño de Leyte Shrine along Common Wealth Avenue, which has a blessed replica of the miraculous Santo Niño de Leyte (the Christ Child of Leyte).
Some shrines do not have a sacred relic, rather there is a historical religious importance to the church or a special devotion conducted in the church. Such historically important churches are the Saint Joseph Archdiocesan Shrine, the Santo Niño Parish Shrine, the Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish Church: Shrine of the Incarnation, the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, and the St. Peter Parish: Shrine of Leaders.
What is a Basilica?
A Basilica is a special canonical designation given by the pope to a church, making it an important site to the Catholic Church. A basilica may be a shrine, as it should have religious historical significance and well as notable beauty. Churches granted the title of basilica are given the privilege to install a conopaeum (a special baldachin or altar canopy), a tintinnabulum (a little bell that symbolizes the church’s connection to the pope), the Porta Sancta (the Holy Door that can only be opened in special occasions), as well as clergy to wear cappa magna. There are major basilicas and minor basilicas, with the four only major basilicas found in the City of Rome: the Santissimo Salvatore e Santi Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista in Laterano, the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano, the Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura, and the Basilica Sanctae Mariae Maioris. Of the fifteen minor-basilicas in the Philippines, the Minor Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the only one found in Quezon City.
Each church that I have visited tells a story of the community and its people, as I get to observe speak to the residents at and around the church. And with each city I document, there is more to discover about the Filipino spirit, which is imbibed in these churches.