One of the country’s most important cultural treasures is the San Sebastian Basilica in Quiapo, Manila. The said Neo-Gothic structure is the first and only all-metal church in the country.
The basilica was built in 1891 thru the collaborative efforts of brilliant minds from Spain, Belgium, and France, and the able hands of Filipino laborers and craftsmen. It was built as such to withstand earthquakes, fires, and termites.
It bears wall paintings of statues and saints masterfully crafted by the Academia de Dibujo Pintura y Arte, headed by multi-awarded painter Lorenzo Rocha. Its walls and ceiling also feature the work of Filipino sculptor Isabelo Tampinco and painter Felix Martinez. For its majestic beauty and history, the iron church was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1973 and a National Cultural Treasure in 2011.
While the 130-year-old iron church has survived major earthquakes, it’s not without issues, among these are the leaks that corroded and created holes on its columns and walls, and damaged its paint, says an article in Manila Bulletin.
Samantha Pacardo, San Sebastian foundation’s fundraising and communications manager, says efforts to restore the church have been ongoing, thru the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation, Inc. According to her, the past few years have been dedicated to hiring local and international experts to better understand the unique structure and what needs to be done for its restoration.
“Our technical team has been running tests, designing repairs, and refining them for a larger scale implementation to the rest of the Basilica,” she tells ANCX. “Emergency repairs are also an ongoing task for the team.”
By next year, the technical team will be starting Phase 1 of repairs (2022-2026) in the top priority areas. These areas have been sealed off to the public beginning 2021. “We invested in a 24-meter high, custom-made scaffolding system that will allow the team to assess and repair the dome columns and its surrounding area—which includes dome crockets, stained glass windows, and original paintings,” says Pacardo.
For Phase 1, which will begin next year, the foundation is looking to raise P263,513,000. “With this amount, the Foundation will be able to finally complete repairs to the dome and the roof which is the source of many issues like leaks around the Basilica,” says Pacardo. Phase 2 is projected for 2027 to 2029, and Phase 3 is scheduled for 2030 to 2033.
Baste at Home
The idea for the fundraising project “Baste at Home” was born out of a concept to bring San Sebastian to people’s homes and own a piece of its story, says Pacardo. As people spend most of their hours behind a workstation in the privacy of their residences, the organizers thought of items they themselves would want in their own work-from-home spaces. Visual elements of San Sebastian could be included in the design or the material itself.
Jaime Machuca of Machuca Tile was instrumental in kickstarting the project. He offered to donate tiles and linked the organizers with interior designer Macie Lorenzo of Disenyo Lorenzo Interiors. For the Baste at Home Collection, Lorenzo developed products such as coasters, trays, risers, and sets.
As for Heritage Prints by Gio Abcede, the Foundation was already carrying the label’s designs on the church shop before they approached the artist about a collaboration. “Our audience responds to his art and his perspective on heritage sites. Gio reimagined San Sebastian and applied his designs on mugs, tote bags, postcards, posters for this collection,” says Pacardo.
The project was launched exclusively on their online shop last August, and Pacardo is happy to share it has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response. The foundation has started their second pre-order period last September 27. “We really want to accommodate everyone who wants to help #SaveSanSebastian with us by supporting this Collection,” Pacardo says, adding that they will be offering their bestsellers from the first round with a few special additions for the Christmas season. There are bulk order options for some items and customers can choose to have their orders already gift wrapped for an added fee.
The foundation is also on the lookout for other local makers and designers to collaborate with. “It’s exciting to work with artists who are just as excited to help us #SaveSanSebastian,” says Pacardo.