Nuestra Senora de Gracia: Quaintly Hispanic

“Historic old Spanish church” would probably be most unlikely on anyone’s mind when hearing of Makati City, which conjures images of tall skyscrapers and establishments such as elite malls and posh hotels or restaurants. But, believe it or not, such a church exists in this city: the Nuestra Señora de Gracia parish church.

The parish church of Nuestra Señora de Gracia (literally, “Our Lady of Grace”) is, in fact, the oldest church in Makati. It is located at Bernardino St. in Guadalupe Viejo, right behind the Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, near the MRT Guadalupe station. It is near the Rockwell area and the rest of the Central Business District.

The parish church and the adjacent monastery are both run by the friars of the Order of Saint Augustine (OSA) of the Augustinian Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu. The OSA is a religious order that is actively involved in education, parish administration, missionary work, and formation of candidates for the religious life.

According to the marker installed by the Historical Research and Markers Committee in 1937, the foundation of the church and monastery were laid in 1601; the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was chosen as the church’s titular patroness in 1603; and the construction work was completed in 1629. The church survived at least four earthquakes before the masonry roof collapsed in the earthquake of 1880. In 1882, the structure was rebuilt as a site for an orphan asylum and trade school for the benefit of children of victims of the cholera in 1882. However, in 1898 fire destroyed the church and monastery during clashes between Filipinos and Americans, and the church thus had to be reconstructed again.

The overall baroque look, made up of massive adobe stones, seems to be a testament to the church’s historic past, and contributes largely to its old-world charm. The main entrance is adorned by leaf carvings as well as Doric columns reminiscent of Greek architecture. There is a bell tower by the side, and stone steps lead up to the wooden church door – in totality, similar to the Manila Cathedral but on a less grander scale (cheaper, too). Although the stone walls give an impression of the church being massive, it is actually a bit small. The interiors are simple though a bit dimly lit, and, added to the church’s size and narrow aisle, gives an intimate and solemn atmosphere to any ceremony, particularly weddings.

Photographers and videographers, however, may gripe about the church’s policies on shooting during weddings, which can be quite restrictive. Lensmen are confined to the side of the altar and can only shoot for a limited time, especially because wedding schedules in the church can be quite hectic. Photo-taking can be taken more freely outside the church, where the stone steps in front, or the Garden of Monasterio de Guadalupe (or the garden beside the church) provide for fantastic photo ops.

Weddings at the Nuestra Señora de Gracia are held in the mornings or afternoons, for a P13,000 fee which includes the red carpet, flowers, and white tulle along the aisle, as well as services of usherettes, reader and priest. The church charges an additional P500 for rolling the red carpet out to the staircase – which actually makes another fantastic photo. As earlier mentioned, wedding schedules can be hectic since the church is a sought-after venue for weddings. Thus, any couple who wishes to get married here are advised to schedule at least nine months to a year in advance, and be ready with a 50% downpayment.

Venues for pre-wedding preparations and post-wedding receptions are no problem, with its location being accessible to or from Makati hotels and restaurants. That is, if the couple decide not to hold their reception at the garden.

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