National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels

Facade of the National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels

The National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels holds a very rich historical background coupled with the distinction of being the National Shrine dedicated to the Holy Archangels of God.

When King Philip III created the community in 1603, it was for the purpose of administering the enclave of Japanese settlers. It was started by the Jesuits in 1591 for the special mission for the Japanese in the village of Dilao (north bank of the Pasig River) followed by a mission work of the Franciscan order headed by Fray Luis Sotelo in 1600 and finally went back to the Jesuits in 1603 with a special authorization from King Philip III. By this time, the Jesuits decided to adopt a saint, no less than the warrior and defender of God, St. Michael the Archangel. In 1618, the Japanese mission finally became the Parish of San Miguel. In 1627, when a rectory was built for the Jesuits, missionaries were sent to Japan and they died in defense of their faith. Hence the place would go down in history as a Seminary of Martyrdom.

Ten years after (1637), Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera was almost killed in battle against the Moros. The bullet that just missed him pierced instead the banner of the image of St. Francis Xavier. The Governor General was more than gratified that he ordered a church built in honor of St. Michael, to whom St. Francis Xavier had a great devotion and love. The church was located in the left bank of the Pasig River where the Tabacalera, the Mirador Hotel, and the Sweepstakes office are now located.

In 1762 the British occupied Manila and dropped San Miguel from its original site and moved it across the Pasig River on the opposite bank. Five years later, in 1768, the British was expelled from the Philippines and San Miguel was attached to the Parish of Quiapo and finally ceased to be a Japanese enclave.

Interior of the National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels

Fire razed the San Miguel site in 1778 and the villagers were ordered transferred to the opposite bank of the Pasig. Hence, the original San Miguel is now the Parish of San Vicente de Paul. In 1783, according to Fray Felix de Huertas, the chapel built in 1637 was abandoned and moved across the Pasig in the north bank.

In 1799 Fray Pedro Malo de Molina started the construction of a provisional church in the north bank, a camarin, which actually looked like a bodega. A new parish church was finally built in 1835 after a period of 36 years and 17 parish priests. The completed church of San Miguel was inaugurated by Fray Esteban Mena and transformed the sleepy San Miguel district into one of Manila's busiest places.

The present structure suffered many damages after surviving several earthquakes and fire. When Father Arceo Hipolito became parish priest in 1900 (the longest in the history of the parish from 1900 to 1940) he renovated and remodeled the church with material help from Doña Carmen de Ayala de Roxas. The remodeled church was blessed and inaugurated on September 28, 1913 and the feast of St. Michael was celebrated the following day, September 29. Henceforth, the parish fiesta was celebrated on that date.

Fr. Arceo who later became a Monsignor was replaced by Fr. Vicente P. Reyes who later was elevated to the rank pf a Bishop. At the height of the liberation in 1945, the American forces with their mass firepower forced the retreating Japanese soldiers to blow up bridges and burn structures along the way. Fr. Reyes rushed to the altar and positioned the image of St. Michael towards the advancing fire that was about to raze the church. By a strange whiff of the air, the flames reversed its course, sparing the church and the convent. This was considered by the parishioners of San Miguel the first known intercession of St. Michael. In recognition of its merits, Msgr. Michael O'Doherty, Archbishop of Manila designated San Miguel Church as the Pro-Cathedral until a new Cathedral was built in Intramuros. The seat of the Archdiocese was also temporarily housed in San Miguel.

Altar of the National Shrine of St. Michael and the Archangels

The work of reconstruction of Manila continued in the aftermath of the World War II hoping that with the face-lifting, the morale of the people may also be boosted. The parish church was never left behind with the face-lifting. In 1950, under Msgr. Hernando Y. Antiporda, Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of Manila gave the church a new look with blue and cream colored ceiling and inaugurated the Lourdes Grotto at the east part of the patio. In 1954, the old rectory of the parish church was replaced with a more elegant house and office both for the parish and the archdiocese. San Miguel then remained the Chancery and Archdiocese until 1987.

In 1960, Archbishop Rufino J. Santos who was then residing at the San Miguel Pro-Cathedral was named Cardinal, adding more prestige to his temporary palace, as well as becoming the Seat of the Prince of the Church. San Miguel held then the distinction of both Pro-Cathedral and Arzobispado until the inauguration of the now Manila Cathedral on December 8, 1958 and subsequently, the building of the now Archdiocesan Office in 1987, both in Intramuros, Manila.

The declaration of Martial Law in 1972 did not stop the parish from its life and mission. In spite of severe restrictions, the parish church continued to grow in faith and attendance under the help of Msgr. Benjamin L. Marino who was also the Chancellor and Vicar General of the Archdiocese. Inspite of the barricades, Malacanang residents and parishioners of San Miguel Church did not stop the faithful from coming here for their spiritual, liturgical and sacramental requirements.

In 1983, Msgr. Josefino S. Ramirez was appointed Parish Priest of San Miguel. Ditto with his other appointments as Vicar General and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Manila. It was his vision that every Filipino soul would have a devotion to St. Michael. He started it by having the prayer to St. Michael as composed by Pope Pius XXIII recited at every Mass.

In 1984, through the generous assistance of Col. Antonio Cabangon Chua, a gigantic image of St. Michael with the dragon underfoot was displayed at the churchyard. The beautiful image, created by sculptor Florante Caedo was blessed in September 29, 1984 by Papal Nuncio Bruno Torpigliani with His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal L. Sin and Col. Antonio Chua as unveilers.

In 1985, Msgr. Ramirez proposed to Cardinal Sin to make his church as the National Shrine for the Archangels. The Cardinal endorsed the matter to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. The proposal was approved by the bishops' conference unanimously.

With the able assistance of Col. Antonio Cabangon Chua and Imelda Cojuangco, a new altar was constructed. The new high altar made of fine wood and stately marble tabernacle with St. Michael in the center crushing the enemy and with the six archangels flanking him was actually a replica of the old altar during 1800. The architect was Fr. Ramon Dodero, an Opus Dei priest.

The fitting climax to the historical significance of San Miguel Church came with its inauguration and consecration as the National Shrine of the Archangels on February 22, 1986, the night when EDSA I began. In attendance were His Eminence, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal of the Archdiocese of Cebu and His Excellency, Bruno Torpigliani, the Papal Nuncio. Henceforth, a weekly novena to the Archangels are celebrated every Monday at the Shrine.

On October 1, 1989, Msgr. Marcelino A. Montemayor took the helm as Rector and Pastor of the National Shrine. Because of the succeeding political unrest prevailing during this time, including coup d'etat against the administration of President Corazon Aquino, more and more rich benefactors left the district and transferred to more secure and well protected villages. At this time, too, San Sebastian and St. Jude Parishes were flourishing as new parishes. Residents of the parish of the Archangels attended Mass at churches including Quiapo Church and San Beda Chapel which are just nearby. As a result, attendance at the Shrine's liturgical activities dwindled.

It was to the credit of Msgr. Montemayor that in spite of all these difficulties, he was able to construct a Perpetual Adoration Chapel blessed and inaugurated by no less than His Eminence Jaime Cardinal L. Sin on Easter Sunday in 1993. Likewise, he was able to refurbish the main altar.

When Msgr. Augusto G. Laban became the Parish Priest of the National Shrine on June 16, 2000, his first battle cry is to bring back the glorious days of the parish. He went back to the people through street Masses, organized committees to attend to the liturgical and social requirements of the parish and managed its finances very well.

Undeniably, the Parish of St. Michael and the Archangels has become an important landmark in Manila.

Prayer to St. Michael

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Excerpt from Shrines, Incarnating Christ Today. St. Paul Philippines, 2004. Photos from and

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