SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH
in QUEZON CITY
The Church of Santo Domingo in Quezon City was my home for less than eight years as a student-brother. Every ordination that I have witnessed in that Church brought tears of joy to my eyes. There had been times when I used to walk at the center aisle after dinner, imagining that one day my dream will be fulfilled. And that happened on November 30, 2007, my ordination to the priesthood. Every Filipino Dominican holds this Church dear to his heart as a sacred place of formation and ministry. A glimpse of history will make us appreciate more the mother house of the Order of the Preachers in the Philippines.
The Spanish Dominican Province did not have a specific territory in spite of its name. It was uniquely a missionary Province for the evangelization not only of the Philippines but also of the other countries of the Far East. While the other Provinces had several convents as their basic nucleus headed by their respective priors, the Provincia del Santisimo Rosario de Filipinas had only one convent, the Convento de Sto. Domingo in Manila under an elective prior.
On August 6, 1587, some Dominican Fathers started the construction of a wooden Church along the marshy and mosquito-infested land in the south bank of the Pasig River. The first Bishop of Manila, the Most Rev. Domingo de Salazar, OP (†1594) bought this property from a certain Spanish gentleman named Don Gaspar de Isla for tres sientos pesos (P300.00). He donated another tres mil pesos (P3,000.00) for the building of the first Church. As a general rule, Spanish Dominicans dedicated the first house to their Founder and Patriarch, St. Dominic, whenever they started a new mission.
Unfortunately, the original Church lasted only for over a year. In 1589, its ceiling suddenly collapsed. The second Church was made out of stone but was devastated by a great fire on April 30, 1603. The third Church did not stand the strong earthquake of Nov. 30, 1610 either. Out of the ruins, a fourth temple of stone arose. As a preventive measure against earthquakes, it had a wooden vault and three aisles. But after 250 years, the greatest earthquake in Philippine history occurred on June 3, 1863 that destroyed the Church along with 249 buildings and a dozen other Churches. The Church crumbled and yet, in the midst of the catastrophe, the image of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary survived all these destructions.
After the war, Dominican authorities searched again for a fitting home for the Queen of the Rosary. Our Lady’s devotees expressed their love to her with their generous support. In October 1952, the cornerstone of the proposed sixth Church was laid by the Most Rev. Peregrin de la Fuente, OP, Prelate of Batanes-Babuyanes in its new site in Quezon City. This one is a structure totally different from previous ones in Intramuros. It was built not on the same spot where it used to stand up time and again, but in a place some seven kilometers from the old site. On October 10, 1954, on the occasion of the Church’s inaugural blessing, the Archdiocesan Marian Congress of Manila made the year’s La Naval procession its concluding act.
The sixth Church is bigger in dimension than the last one in Intramuros. Despite its width of thirty (30) meters extending to fifty (50) at the transept, accommodating a standing capacity of 7,200 persons; there was no column at the center for support, and not a few considered this a feat in construction engineering pioneered by Mr. Alberto Guevarra.
The interior of the Church had its own artwork as soul-stirring as it is majestic. Below the cupola were murals painted by Mr. Carlos “Botong” Francisco depicting different episodes in the life of St. Dominic and pre-fabricated sculptures of the Biblical figures of the four evangelists done by Professor Monti, above which were paintings of the evangelists in vivid brown tones crafted by Mr. Antonio Garcia Llamas.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE NEW SHRINE
When the Virgin was transferred in 1954, the construction work of the church was on going.
When the construction was finally completed and the altar of the Virgin had been covered with marble brought from Italy, the image was transferred to its throne, located then at the right side looking towards the main altar. On the left side altar there was the beautiful and inspiring carving of the Cristo del Santo Entierro, a very popular confraternity in the church of Intramuros.
At this stage, the apostolate and pastoral activities started being organized. The schedule of masses was established, both on weekdays and on Sundays and Holydays of obligation.
The Church is now more than half a century old. Only time will tell if this sixth shrine will be the one that would claim the title as the perpetual and final home of La Naval and her Order of Preachers. Fires, Earthquakes and War never hindered the faith of the devotees. Like the proverbial phoenix, Santo Domingo Church always rises from its ashes.
STO. DOMINGO CHURCH TRIVIA
2. Sto. Domingo Church occupies a lot of four hectares, bounded by Quezon Avenue (front), Sto. Domingo Street (left side), Biak-na-Bato street (right side), and Pi y Margal (rear). It is 1.8 miles from the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.
3. Sto. Domingo Church is 58 meters in length; 30 meters in width at the entrance, increasing to 50 meters at the transept; and 44 meters in height. There are two lateral naves, each with a 5-meter width.
4. Compared to the old (5th) neo-Gothic Church in Intramuros, Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City is 13 ft longer; 18 feet wider; and 28 ft. higher.
5. In spite of its width, there is no column at the center for support, a feat of the construction engineer.
6. Sto. Domingo Church is the tallest of all churches in the Philippines.
7. The total floor area of the church is 3,400 sq. meters with 7,200 person standing capacity. Actually, its sitting capacity is good for 2,000 persons.
8. There are five aisles at the central nave and two more aisles at the transept, making a total of seven aisles.
9. The architectural style utilized in the construct\ion of Sto. Domingo Church is called Spanish Colonial Moderne.
10. There are three main doors across which murals are engraved. The murals depict the devotion to the Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in the Philippines. On the sides, thee are 13 doors.
11. All in all there are 15 huge stained-glass windows. Five on the right side show the five joyful mysteries; seven on the left side illustrate five sorrowful mysteries and two glorious mysteries; and the three in the façade depict the three other glorious mysteries. These stained-glass windows were done by Galo Ocampo.
12. Eight smaller windows (3 meters wide by 9 meters long) are above the copula. These windows have colored murals showing the important incidents in the life of St. Dominic. The murals were painted by Carlos Francisco.
13. On the corners of the copula are the figures of the four evangelists. The pre-fab ornaments used in these figures were prepared by noted sculptor Monti.
14. Another series of windows have the pictures of the leading saints of the Order of Preachers., like St. Vicente Liem de la Paz, Dominican martyrs of Indo-China, Japan and China.
15. The Sto. Domingo Church has natural ventilation. Its white plywood ceilings are perforated so that the warm air escapes through these louvers placed between double roofings, and fresh air comes in through the wide doors to replace it.
16. Contrasted against the white ceilings are the colored tiles from Belgium and Spain.
17. Inside the Church, there are 2,000 forty watt fluorescent lamps which is not visible. The device used is indirect lighting system.
18. The dome is illuminated by 1,000 watt floodlight. Neon lights at the cove above the altar brighten the place during mass.
19. All lights are operated by the switches in the sacristy which were regarded as high-tech during the 1950’s.
20. When any bulb gets out of order, it can be changed without the use of a ladder. One has to repair it by climbing to the ceiling which was purposely constructed to meet such eventualities.
21. At night, the huge cross atop the main door and the smaller crosses on its sides are lighted, illuminating brightly the church façade.
22. There are 4 bells which are not functioning. They were made from the bells of the old Sto. Domingo Church that were melted and refashioned for the purpose. The original bells were made in the Philippines during the 19th century.
23. The altar of the Sto. Domingo Church in QC is simpler than the old sto. Domingo Church. There are only the mosaic, the altar table, the tabernacle and chandeliers.
24. The church has three altars characterized by utmost simplicity. Right altar has a niche for the Lady of the Most Holy Rosary; the center altar has a huge mosaic of St. Dominic and the left altar has the shrine of St, Martin de Porres. The Church is both the National Shrines of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and St. Martin.
25. In front of the two side altars are elevated rostrums for the priests. Pasage to the right rostrum is through a helicoidal steel stairway behind a hollow column. The left rostrum is reached through a convent passage way.
26. The huge mosaic of St. Dominic, central altarpiece, (at the lower part of the 44 feet tower) has a surface pattern made of natural color stones imported from Italy.
27. A master clock used to echoes forth Westminster chimes every quarter hour. It was electrically operated. These chimes were used to be heard within the radius of 2 miles because of the 4 trumpet type lous speaker attached to the tower.
28. Sto. Domingo Church is designed by architect Jose Zaragoza. Its construction is done by Engr. Alberto Guevarra of the Philippine Builders, Inc.
ADUARTE, Diego, OP, “History of the Dominican Province of the Holy Rosary (Manila, 1640) in the Philippine Islands: 1493-1803. Vol XXX eds. Emma Blair and James Alexander Robertson.
Boletin Eclesiastico de Filipinas Vol LXXX, No. 845 (November-December 2004)
Unpublished Notes on Santo Domingo Church, PDCIS Library.