the old san sebastian, part 2

Basilica Minore de San Sebastian
Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo

I know we are not playing ‘spot the difference’ here but here’s a very similar image of San Sebastian. The afternoon sun worked against me here but I liked the fact that this hit the balance between the detail of the facade and the shape of the structure. Kidding. I don’t particularly love this photo. I’ve taken tons during that specific session but my amateur self could not bear cutting the final set down further.

the old san sebastian

Basilica Minore de San Sebastian
Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila

As co-CDP Manila blogger Pusa had mentioned in one of her recent entry, San Sebastian Cathedral had already undergone another major restoration this year. My previous post about this Catholic building was a close up of rust taking over it. For the following days I will post more San Sebastian photos, this time photos that will give an idea on how it actually looks. However, since these photos were taken prior to the repainting, it won’t be in its current pale aquamarine-ish neat new makeup.


close up of rust taking over Basilica Minore de San Sebastian
Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila

San Sebastian is probably one of Manila’s Best kept secrets. Its magnificent gothic towers surely dominate its neighborhood but in this dense district of Manila the colleges and the universities, the bargain shops, the black and public markets and more importantly, the other basilica (Black Nazarene or simply Quiapo Church) and its historic Plaza Miranda grab all the attention. How come?

San Sebastian is also the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the prime example of Gothic revival in the Philippines, Asia’s only all-steel church or basilica (according to UNESCO), the first prefabricated building in the world (and most likely the only prefabricated steel church), and a designated National Historic Landmark (1973). It is designed by Spanish architect Genaro Palacios with the famous Catedral de Burgos in mind, with possibilities of Gustave Eiffel taking part in the designing and construction process (no less than IM Pei and local historian Ambeth Ocampo researching about this issue). It is also currently in the tentative list for possible designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

San Sebastian is definitely a treasure and is also a witness to the city’s history and its district’s progression. But rust is taking over its Belgian steel, paint is peeling off its Spanish designed exterior. The Filipino skill that enriches its richly gothic interiors, paintings and statues, the German-made stained glass and the prized Mexican image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel may never witness appreciation again if the exterior continues to ward people off, or worse- if it becomes too dangerous to contain anything.


A new building
San Rafael Street, Quiapo, Manila

Last March I went out to check San Sebastian, and that explains why i have been (and will be) posting much photographs from the neighborhood. I saw this interesting building along San Rafael Street. It is obviously new and is yet to be occupied. It stood out from its sad old neighbors (which can benefit some fresh paint and major repair; enough tearing down of traditional structures in pathetic conditions). I love the fact that it isn’t carrying a bad design either.

If you’ve been to University Belt lately, specifically this area, please give updates.

getting around

a Jeepney
along Legarda, Quiapo, Manila

It is day two and we have to keep going around the city. To explore it, one needs a trusty ride, and no other ride gets the job done as nicely as the regular jeepney, the primary mode of transportation of Metro Manilans. Of course, there are tons of other vehicles to choose from- the mere fact that there are tons of them plying a combination of routes on the same streets more than make the 50% of the reason why Manila traffic jam is legendary. But the jeepney, is definitely the king (or queen) of the road. Why? Let’s check its rivals:

1) Private cars – Not everyone can afford them. And now that fuel prices are up there, everyone is reconsidering public transpo.

2) Buses – Size allows this vehicle to serve more passengers but that same size hinders it from accessing the much more numerous narrow streets, that leads to most residential enclaves. Buses take forever on major pick-up points because they always anticipate that there will be passengers getting off on the next drop-off points. And missing a drop off point, when you take too long squeezing through the jampacked aisle is always possible and definitely never fun.

3) LRT/MRT – They don’t run on the road to begin with. Speedy and pretty cheap, alright. But, the Metro system in Metro Manila unfortunately, isn’t that extensive as of now. Lots of routes and major centers do not have stations within their vicinity yet.

The layout, format, standard and whatever of some major terminals do not allow speedy transactions for single journey tickets on rush hour. In Manila, save for siesta, every hour is seemingly a rush hour.

4) FX – The aircon jeepney thing did not manage to pull off successfully but this Toyota vehicle is actually working on that aircon jeepney concept. Similar looking vehicles soon became FXs too (Adventure, Revo, uhh and tons of other unknowns) to the public and FX terminals become a staple in every major, minor and even non-transportation hubs.

But FXs focus on the beginning and the ending, the starting point and the finish line. The path they take to get to the destination vary from time to time depending on the usual traffic condition of the optional streets they usually ply. Getting off somewhere along the middle of the journey, a major feature of the jeepney, is dropped in the FX equation. Besides, people squeezed uncomfortably for the entire journey with the possiblity of broken car aircon and shut windows isn’t a very nice scenario.

5) Tricycles – These noisy, bumpy little vehicles are thankfully limited to minor roads and smaller routes. Tricycle drivers usually always overprice people unfamiliar to the locality and their rates.

6) Padyaks – The manual leg-muscle powered tricycles are rare and slow. Their drivers overprice as well.

7) Calesa – The romantic combination of horse dung and saliva are thankfully restricted to Intramuros, Rizal Park and nearby touristy spots.

Much has been said about the current evolution of this WWII relic. Whether you think it is a blessing to the commuting public or it is the primary reason for the city’s failure to come up with a much more efficient transportation system, jeepneys, old and new, are always nice subjects to capture.