The Church of Tondo is mentioned in my book A Tourist Guide to Notable Philippine Churches by Benjamin Layug. I have been fascinated by its structure since I saw it on TV during its fiesta celebration almost two years ago. I have been meaning to visit the church, but has been procastinating to go and visit the church.
The opportunity to visit the church came when my cousin gave birth at the Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo, which is some few walks away from the church. I cannot pass that opportunity, since I will be visiting my newest inaanak (goddaughter) and my cousin and at the same time, finally, I will be able to visit the fascinating Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish Church and more importantly to give thanks for my cousin’s safe delivery.
It was a cloudy April 8, 2014 when I visited the church. I only have my mobile phone camera with me, my donation money and no bag at all when I visited the church. The church is located in Chacon Street facing a plaza with a marker for Amado V. Hernandez. A nearby police station stands nearby, vendors are located few steps away from the church’s stairs and a variety of people roam and loaf around the church’s vicinity.
The Church was first built in 1625 and its first Catholic minister was the Augustinian priest Father Alfonso de Alvarado. Tondo was the residence of Lakan Dula and he was subsequently baptized by the Augustinian priest Father Martin de Rada. The church’s early ecclesiastical jurisdiction extends up to Pasig, Cainta and Taytay. It became the center of Catholic activities especially among the Chinese. The church was damaged by the earthquake of 1641. In 1662, Governor Manrique de Lara ordered the demolition of the convent as a military precaution against the expected attack of the Chinese pirate Kue- Sing (Koxinga) on Manila. The church was also rebuilt in 1662 and was completed in 1695. The façade and bell tower were rebuilt in 1734 and was again damaged by the earthquake of 1740 and 1863. The present structure was built by Father Manuel Diez Gonzalez and was completed under the administration of Father Casimiro Herrero in 1874.
The church’s neo-classical façade was made of adobe. It has ionic pilasters, semi circular arched windows, massive buttresses, opening to side aisles, central nave and a picturesque altar (again, I visited during Lent, the reason why the altar was draped in violet), I am attaching the photograph the original Santo Niño image of the church from the novena booklet given to me by the parish staff. The other Santo Niño image was the one at the pilgrim’s area.
Every Friday, the Church has its novena to the Santo Niño. The church celebrates its feast day every third week of January and it continuously attracts pilgrims, devotees and visitors. According to the National Historical Commission, the traditional fluvial procession during the feast day was owed to the fact that the terrain of Tondo in the earlier years were consisted of water ways and tributaries which were connected to Manila Bay. It is also said to be the possible reason why the present church structure was constructed on elevated ground, to avoid inundation from the sea.
At the pilgrim area near the Parish Office and the convent
The church’s security guard is friendly and gave his usual warnings about the suspicious people (read pick pockets) around and even volunteered to take my picture which I politely refuse, since it is all about the church and not about me. The friendly security guard directed me to visit the iconic and miraculous image of the Infant Child inside the church and the pilgrim’s area near the Parish office and convent. Yes, I haven’t lost hope in humanity despite the reputation which precedes the place (I will have another post on it) because on that eight-day of April, I met kind people in Tondo.