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Philippines bestows special status on centuries-old church

The 435-year-old Baroque-style Malate Church has been recognized by the National Museum for its historic and cultural role
Church and government officials seen on April 22 near the belfry of the 435-year-old baroque-style Our Lady of Remedies Parish, more popularly known as Malate Church, which was declared an 'important cultural property' by the National Museum of the Philippines

Church and government officials seen on April 22 near the belfry of the 435-year-old baroque-style Our Lady of Remedies Parish, more popularly known as Malate Church, which was declared an 'important cultural property' by the National Museum of the Philippines. (Photo: Jef Delamonte)

Published: April 24, 2023 11:00 AM GMT
Updated: April 25, 2023 04:35 AM GMT

A 435-year-old Baroque-style church in the Philippines was declared an “important cultural property” by the government on April 22. 

Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Our Lady of the Remedies), more popularly known as “Malate Catholic Church” in the capital Manila, was recognized by the National Museum of the Philippines for its historical and cultural role.

“A panel of experts was convened on Dec. 5, 2018, by the director-general of the National Museum of the Philippines” to decide which of certain cultural properties should “be designated as National Cultural Treasures and Important Cultural Properties,” according to a citation by the National Museum.

An “Important Cultural Property” is known for its outstanding “historical, cultural, artistic and/or scientific value” which is highly significant and important to the country, the citation added.

The Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act, the National Museum Act of 1998, and the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 mandates the government to declare “Important Cultural Property.”

Leonista Distor, the Columban missionary and parish priest, thanked devotees of the Malate church, saying the greatest miracle has been the growing number of devotees that visit each day.

“Our mission is not only to protect the church’s structure but to protect the faith of the Filipino people. Our work in the parish is not focused on taking care of the cultural aspect of the church but also in honing the spirituality and faith of every Filipino,” Distor said during a speech on April 22 when it was conferred the honor by the National Museum. Among those in attendance was Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan. 

The Columbans-run church played a key role in the Philippine liberation and in 1898 Augustinian friars secretly allowed revolutionaries to take refuge in its belfry.

“For a time, it became a hideout for the revolutionaries because it was very near the Intramuros, the walled city that was the seat of power of colonial Spain” in the Philippines, historian Rafael Murillo told UCA News.

As the oldest church, built in 1588 in the archipelago, it survived the Chinese invasion in 1662, the British occupation in 1762, and a devastating earthquake in 1863, Murillo added. 

The church contains the centuries-old image of Our Lady of Remedies, which was shipped to the Philippines in 1538 from Spain by the Augustinian missionaries. 

Mothers with sick children and those experiencing diseases visit the church, seeking its intercession.

“In 1995, I was diagnosed with a lump in my uterus. It was growing fast. So, I prayed to Our Lady and attended the daily Mass. A year later, the doctor informed me that the lump had stopped growing and that it was benign,” Marian devotee Cathy Maristela, 43, told UCA News.

Since then, I photocopied novenas and left hundreds of copies in the church pews, Maristela recalled.

"Many women are seeking the help of Our Lady to cure their illness,” Maristela added.

Another mother claimed her second son had pneumonia when she asked the parish priest in 2009 if she could place her son at the altar table while she and her husband prayed to the image.

“We were desperate. We were on our way to the Philippine General Hospital and we passed by the Malate church. I offered my son to Our Lady to make him well. A week later, we were discharged from the hospital,” Manila parishioner Anna Liza Logrono, 47, told UCA News.

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