When visiting Manila and taking a tour of the historical Malacañan Palace, travelers should also make it a point to give its surrounding cultural landmarks its due as well. Being the only predominantly Catholic country in Southeast Asia, the city of Manila is filled with old, historic Catholic churches. For a church tour, I suggest travelers to start out at San Sebastian church, the only church in the whole of Asia made from steel, and brought in piece by piece from Belgium, using the ancient empire trade routes.
A stroll away from San Sebastian Church is the quiet yet still dignified San Miguel District. Home to Manila’s crème de la crème, the de buena familia flaunted their wealth and economic power by building posh colonial-style villas with of the many summer houses along the Pasig river becoming the official residence of the President of the Philippines. San Miguel is also the place where the famous San Miguel Beer was produced hence the name, but the brewery buildings were demolished after being transferred to the government as property of the Malacañan Palace.
National Shrine of Saint Michael and the Archangels
Also called Villa de San Miguel Church and Malacañang Chruch (due to its proximity to the Palace), the Shrine was first built in the 1630s as an ex-voto by a Spanish Governor-General who miraculously escaped death while on a military campaign. This church has been through quite a lot, as it also once ministered to Japanese Christians fleeing persecution by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Many of the exiles had belonged to the Samurai class, and so because of that, the church was dedicated to the Archangel Michael – a heavenly general and angelic warrior.
Surrounding the alter of the church are seven Archangels. Devout Catholics would come to pray to their chosen Archangel for guidance, protection, or help. As each angel has a specific purpose, here’s a quick summary of each of their areas of responsibility, so to speak:
Archangel Michael is the first Angel created by God, Michael protects us physically, emotionally and psychically. He also oversees the lightworker’s life purpose. Call on Michael if you find yourself under psychic attack or if you feel you lack commitment, motivation and dedication to your beliefs, courage, direction, energy, vitality, self-esteem, worthiness. Michael helps us to realize our life’s purpose and he’s invaluable to lightworkers helping with protection, space clearing and spirit releasement.
Archangel Raphael is a powerful healer and assists with all forms of healing – humans and animals. He helps to rapidly heal body, mind and spirit if called upon. You may call upon Raphael in behalf of someone else, but he can’t interfere with that person’s free will. If they refuse spiritual treatment, it can’t be forced. As well as a healer, Raphael is known as the “Patron of Travelers” because of his help with Tobias and his travels. In addition, he assures that all your transportation, lodging and luggage details go miraculously well. Raphael also helps with inward spiritual journeys, assisting in searches for truth and guidance.
Archangel Gabriel is the only Archangel depicted as female in art and literature. Gabriel is known as the “messenger” Angel and is one of the four Archangels named in Hebrew tradition and is considered one of the two highest-ranking Angels in Judeo-Christian and Islamic religious lore. Contact Gabriel if your third eye is closed and your spiritual vision is therefore blocked and you wish to receive visions of Angelic guidance regarding the direction you are going in or if you wish to receive prophecies of the changes ahead. Gabriel helps anyone whose life purpose involves the arts or communication. She acts as a coach, inspiring and motivating artists, journalist and communicators and helping them to overcome fear and procrastination.
Archangel Uriel is considered one of the wisest Archangels because of his intellectual information, practical solutions and creative insight, but he is very subtle. You may not even realize he has answered your prayer until you’ve suddenly come up with a brilliant new idea. Uriel’s area of expertise is divine magic, problem solving, spiritual understanding, studies, alchemy, weather, earth changes and writing. Considered to be the Archangel who helps with earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, natural disaster and earth changes, call on Uriel to avert such events or to heal and recover in their aftermath.
Archangel Chamuel is the Archangel of pure love and can lift you from the depths of sorrow and find love in your heart. Chamuel helps us to renew and improve existing relationships as well as finding our soul mates. He works with us to build strong foundations for our relationships (as well as careers) so they’re long-lasting, meaningful and healthy. You’ll know he’s with you when you feel butterflies in your stomach and a pleasant tingling in your body. If there’s a breakdown of your relationship, if you cling to your relationships and don’t allow your companion the freedom to be able to express themselves freely, call on Chamuel for guidance and support.
Archangel Raguel is the Archangel for the underdog. Call on him for help when you need to be empowered and respected. He helps to resolve arguments, helps with cooperation and leads to harmony in groups and families. Raguel defends the unfairly treated and provides support with mediation of disputes.
Archangel Barachiel is known as the angel of blessings. He intercedes in prayer before God for people in need, asking God to give them blessings in all areas of their lives – from their relationships with family and friends to their work. People ask for Barachiel’s help pursuing success in their personal goals. He is also a powerful intercessor for the barren as well as for troubled marriages.
There are many stories where the parishoners of San Miguel implored help from their patron whenever calamity threatened their genteel arrabal. One of the more famous stories was when there was a great fire that was put to a halt, as if rebuked by the image of Archangel Michael when it was enthroned by the parish priest on the courtyard. This miracle saved the rest of the houses and business establishments behind the church, which also includes Malacañang and the old San Miguel Brewery.
After World War II, Archbishop Michael O’Doherty designated Church of San Miguel as the Pro-Cathedral of Manila until a new Arsobispado and cathedral could be built in war-torn Intramuros. San Miguel has become twice regal for aside from being the parish of Malacañang, it was also became the seat of the Prince of the Church. The old rectory was replaced by a grander edifice to house both the parish and the archdiocese. Moreover, both the last foreign and first Filipino Archbishops of Manila, Michael O’Doherty and Cardinal Rufino Santos were buried inside San Miguel Church when it was still a pro-Cathedral of Manila.
This Catholic landmark acquired its presidential association when several Presidents began frequently worshipping there, most notably President Carlos P. García and his consort, First Lady Leonila.
You can also find out what Archangel guides you, based on the day you were born. Michael looks over children born on a Sunday, Gabriel on a Monday, Raphael on a Tuesday, Uriel on a Wednesday, Chamuel on Thursday, Raguel on Friday, and Barachiel on Saturday. One can purchase little statures or medals of their favorite Archangel outside the church.
National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus
Another Catholic landmark is located a couple of blocks down the road, past Malacañan Palace, is the National Shrine to St. Judas Thaddeus. According to the Gospel, St. Jude was the brother of St. James the Less, one of the twelve disciples. They are described by St. Matthew as the “brethren” of Jesus, and are summized to probably be his cousins as the Hebrew word for “brethren” indicates a blood relationship. His mother, Mary, was a cousin of the Blessed Mother – who is also named Mary. St. Jude is more popularly known as the patron saint of the hopeless.
This church is popular with the Filipino-Chinese community. As the story goes, with the coming of the Spaniards, the evangelization and pastoral care of the Chinese in Manila came under the Dominicans, and the growing Chinese Parish was attached to the Binondo Church. This arrangement lasted until 1954, when Archbishop Rufino J. Santos obtained from the Roman Consistorial Congregation permission to erect three more parishes for the Chinese – one of these was St. Jude Parish.
In January 1955, the parish set up its first rectory by renting part of the premises of a former hospital – now St. Jude Catholic School – in San Miguel, Manila. The next month, Archbishop Rufino J. Santos made St. Jude Thaddeus the patron saint of the parish as proposed by Father Provincial Herman Kondring, SVD. The present site of St. Jude Parish was donated by Archbishop Rufino J. Santos and the blessing and laying of the cornerstone of the church was held on September 28, 1958.
The weekly novena to St. Jude started in June 1959 and has been held every Thursday since then. The devotion spread over the years and has become very popular in Metro Manila. Devotees come from far and wide including students, board examination reviewees, office workers, parish and others with all kinds of requests and seemingly hopeless problems. Thursday is always a busy day, with preaching, confessions, and counselling forming an important part of the work. Masses and novenas are scheduled hourly throughout the day from early morning until evening. As a result of this, the church was conferred the title of Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Jude on June 21, 1994.
To make sure you don’t get lost along the way, I would recommend travelers to book an adventure of your choosing with Jeepney Tours. Not only do you get to explore the Catholic landmarks and the rest of the city in a fully air-conditioned jeepney, but you have informative tour guides to give a bit more insight on the cultural landmarks in the beautiful, old city that is Manila.