METRO MANILA | Malabon Church, the San Bartolome

Monday, November 28, 2011

San Bartolome Church Malabon

The original plan of shooting the old Manila Chinese Cemetery for this year’s All Saints’ Day was abruptly cancelled (just temporally, it still pushed through later). We were weaving through the traffic of people along M.H. Del Pilar and the thought of swimming further on a sea of humanity along Rizal Avenue was just not that appealing. We headed towards the opposite direction and boarded a jeep going to Malabon’s Bayan instead.

I hazily recall, from years past, of a huge church with a cemetery right beside it. The new plan was to check out the scene at the graveyards at Bayan then revisit Malabon’s old church.

San Bartolome Church MalabonUnfortunately, the cemetery was pretty small and there was not much to see. After a few photos, we went inside the church. Malabon’s San Bartolome Parish was founded in 1614 after it became independent from Tondo, Manila. Construction of the church itself was started six years after and wasn’t completely finished until exactly 233 years later.
San Bartolome Church MalabonGazing upon its towering ionic columns, I can definitely say that this church is indeed massive. I can’t even get a full frame of its facade through my camera along its plaza and had to go all the way out its gates.

I was, however, confused with its exterior; everything seemed hodgepodge and doesn’t connect too well. I know for instance that this was supposed to be an old church but I can’t seem to see that on its yellow-painted columns and fake adobe walls.
San Bartolome Church MalabonI took shelter inside its thick walls, walked along its intricate Mediterranean-styled Machucha tiles and gazed up at its domed transepts. The ceilings were painted in the three dimensional style of trompe l'oeil, a popular technique used in old churches, with a few vividly painted with biblical scenes in betweens. Its domes were impressive.

The ceiling along the nave was in the process of being repaired and was bare during our visit.
San Bartolome Church MalabonI had mixed feelings after exiting the immense archway of San Bartlome. The interiors looked beautifully intricate and the size of its exterior can be felt through its lofty interior, but its facade really bothered me; it just does not feel right.

After some research, I found through Cecile M’s post at My Malabon that San Bartolome has been going through some restorations for quite some time now. Its once rough adobe walls, which were smoothly plastered with concrete and painted during the sixties, were now painted over with fake adobe lines; its interiors which were once bare and simple, as with churches of the era, were now painted over with, again, fake adobe lines and flourishes of every kind.
San Bartolome Church MalabonI agree wholly with the author and could not have said it any better in her article’s conclusion:

I couldn't help asking myself, how do you define "glory," anyway? And how do you really restore it?

Certainly not by making something shiny and new and masking it with a gaudy veneer, but by reconstructing or rehabilitating it as faithfully as possible to the original. Old churches, especially, provide a valuable linkage into our own history as a people of faith. We should value and preserve them; to alter them is to deny future generations a precious legacy: a faithful glimpse into the past and an opportunity to be proud of ourselves as a people.

The renovation of San Bartolome Church has sought to restore its "glory."

And it has succeeded -- in a way that makes me profoundly sad for future generations...

I haven’t grown up with this church and I really have no notion regarding its history; but there I was transfixed with its painted ceilings thinking how nice and beautiful it was, impressed that this was how it must have looked for centuries past and how they did quite a good job of restoring it. But it was not so; I was fooled with a grandness initiated for just grandness itself.San Bartolome Church MalabonI saw an old photograph of the church through Cecile’s site and was stricken with its simple beauty; it was something that can compete with the likes of the Manila Cathedral. I never thought we have something like it in Malabon; it’s something any resident of this flood-stricken district could be proud of.

But the keyword there is could.

I really hope that old churches such as San Bartoleme Church can be restored to its true identity and not transformed to something it is not. Let’s not cover our history with a brush of colorful latex paints; not everything needs to look new.

San Bartolome Church Malabon  
    San Bartolome Parish Church
    Address: Rizal Avenue, Tañong, Malabon City, Metro Manila
    Contact Number: (632) 281-1266 | (632) 283-3512
    Click to view location on Google Maps

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  1. i've never been to Malabon... i didn't know there's such a beautiful old church there... i must visit this soon! thanks for sharing... :)

  2. I grew up in Malabon but haven't been inside the San Bartolome Church since Bayan is quite far from our place. But I agree with your entry and what Ms. Cecile said. It's just sad that not only churches, but other historical sites as well, are not restored for history's sake.

  3. So far this is one of few churches I have visited with an impressive dome.

  4. been attending mass since I was born until high school years.
    anlayo di ba, haha jan kasi pinanganak si Mama ko. mas malapit ka jan di ba, Tugatog ka eh.

  5. lagi kami dito dumadaan ni misis pag bakasyon ng mga anak ko sa inlaws ko, I hope restoration ang ginawa sa church instead of external renovation, may mga available materials naman sa Las Piñas.

  6. I love structures with dome. And this one is a must-see.

  7. The place reminds me of something in Mexico, just can't figure out where was it :)

  8. I studied in St. James Academy, the school beside San Bartolome Church. I've heard mass here almost half of my life.

    I agree with you - I wished they didn't renovate it in a way to ruin the beauty of its original structure or appearance. They converted the whole area into a commercial area, which sucks. When I first saw the changes, my jaw dropped. The church doesn't even look like it's there anymore because of all the commercial spaces, tiangge, etc., surrounding it. *sigh*

  9. ako din! d ko alam na mag ganito kagandang church dun. ganda ng ceiling!

  10. Really wonderful photos! I didn't know Malabon has this. All I know of that city is that it gets flooded there often :) Congrats nga pala for the win!

  11. Pinoy Adventurista
    No problem Mervs, I just hope they'd restore it properly :)

    Sumi Go
    Wow another Malabon blogger. I never knew marami pala tayo dito :)

    Yup impressive dome nga :)

    Naku layo rin namin jan :P

    Oo nga, sana they consulted with those people who do restorations muna before they went ahead in "beautifying" the church

    Check it out sometime bro :)

    Crazy sexy fun traveler
    Really? That's interesting :)

    I agree, sayang. Hope it is not too late though

    Sometimes nasa paligid lang natin di natin napapansin :)

    Thank you Aleah!

  12. I went to school in St. James Academy, just right beside San Bartolome church. There is a door at the side of the church where it connects to the school's lobby. I was in grade 1 when I had my first communion in this church. We lived in the area just at the back of the church where my grandma had her bedroom way up where I can see the inside of the cemetery beside the church. The San Bartolome church, though old, had some kind of beauty in it. Now that beauty has gone especially seeing the fake adobe lines making it look like something out of Disney World. We now live in Las Pinas because we can't stand the flooding anymore. But me and my wife, who is also from Malabon, visit our birthplace every now and then. My wife's parents had a small sari-sari store just beside the parish house in the church's compound along side Ben and the Salazar stores.

  13. Anonymous
    It's just sad that the church was renovated rather than restored. Blame it on the Filipino culture of always wanting things to be new.

  14. for those interested to visit malabon City, the City Government have a tourism project, just drop by at the city hall for info.

    1. Hi, it's good to know that Malabon is now being active in promoting its cultural and gastronomical treasures :)

  15. Actually it was 1614, where it became independent. You can actually see this in Wikipedia. The information indicated (the date) were wrong.

    1. Thank you for the correction! Edited the article :)

  16. Good evening, I am a tourism student here in Negros can I have a favor? I have a report about this Church Complex do you have any copy of the history? Please can you share it to me? It would be a big help, thank you. :)

  17. I am a resident of Malabon and San Bartolome Church is just a 2-minute walk from our house. I just wanna say that, plastering the old adobe walls are good for 4 centuries old structure like the San Bartolome Church because it helps to hold for at least a small percentage the walls itself. The good news is since 2015 the Ionic columns in the façade are already back to its original glory, theadobe walls are exposed but the problem is, it is eroding, mainly because of air and water exposure.