Condo vs culture: Building project brings back calls to save Manila’s San Sebastian Church

September 22, 2020 - 6:55 PM
A photo of Plaza del Carmen where the San Sebastian Church is located (Manila PIO/Released)

Calls to preserve the San Sebastian Basilica, considered the last standing neo-gothic structure in the Philippines, were once again launched by conservation groups online amid the threats of another development project.

On Friday, a number of conservation advocate groups protested against the construction of a condominium near the church, citing possible destruction to the cultural heritage site.

“The controversial condominium project at the back of San Sebastian Church seen to mar its sightline and possibly affect the structural integrity not only of the church but of other heritage edifices in the area is about to start the foundation works for the highrise building,” El Reportero Filipino claimed.

San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to restore the church, initially thanked the people who informed them of the looming condominium project.

The Foundation would first like to thank everyone who reached out to us, concerned over the condominium building…

Posted by San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. on Monday, September 21, 2020


The organization also said that it will release an official statement to address the concern soon.

“The Basilica is an Augustinian Recollect legacy which was born from resilience almost 400 years ago. It stands as a symbol of permanence in our city and a true historical landmark. Today, the Order and the Foundation are jointly committed to protect this shared National Cultural Treasure and the community that it serves,” the group’s statement read.

“The Foundation, which has been entrusted with the Basilica’s restoration since 2010, is now closely studying the next steps. An official statement will be released in the next few days on this official Facebook page,” it added.

In the meantime, the group also invited other people to sign up to their mailing list as a form of support to help them protect the cultural and historical site.

Facebook page Renacimiento Manila, a group that also advocates to preserve Manila’s culture, decried the construction as a form of “cultural vandalism and barbarism” and questioned why the project was given a thumbs up amid a global health crisis.


Posted by Renacimiento Manila on Friday, September 18, 2020


“We condemn the wave of cultural vandalism and barbarism that is sweeping the capital – during the time of pandemic and during a time when the LGU claims to be creating a new Manila,” the group said.

“As Manila’s heritage is being endangered by institutional neglect and lack of appreciation, we are losing a great cultural inheritance that has the potential, when properly harnessed and taken care of, to revitalize the city and make it a unique cultural hotspot in South East Asia. Instead, we get condos and malls,” it added.

In its statement, the group also tagged the official Facebook accounts of Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and the previous foundation.  Moreno previously vowed to restore the important landmarks in Manila

In 2018, a blogger posted that a high-rise condominium called University Home Recto was set to be built beside the basilica and therefore, possibly ruining the conservation groups plans to include the latter to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

San Sebastian Church which was built in 1891 is considered the only all-steel basilica featuring neo-gothic architecture that remained in the whole country.

It was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 2011 and was included in the 1998 World Monuments Watch due to constant structural threats.