History and museums
Santo Niño de Tondo Church (also known as Tondo Church) is a Roman Catholic church in Tondo, Manila in the Philippines established by the Augustinians. It houses an image of the Infant Jesus which originally came from Acapulco, Mexico and was handed over by a wealthy merchant to the Archbishop of Manila at that time, who later turned it over to the parish priest of Tondo, Manila. Since 1572, the image of Santo Niño has been enshrined in this church. Tondo Church is one of the most visited churches in the Philippines.
Tondo Church is one of the earliest churches established by the Spanish friars in Luzon and was recognized as a Provincial Chapter on May 3, 1572 and Fray. Alonzo Alvarado, OSA was the first minister who directed the church.In 1572 Tondo Church has its visitas in northern suburbs of Tondo namely Calumpit and Malolos thru Fray Diego Ordoñez de Vivar.(Conquistas delas Islas) In 1575 Bulakan town together with Lubao,Betis Macabebe was added and in 1599 Tambobong now Malabon.Tondo also extends its ecclesiastical territory to Morong.
It is believed that the construction of the first stone monastery started in 1611 under the term of Fr. Alonso Guerrero, then minister of Tondo.
The convent of Tondo was relieved from its ten percent contribution to Manila in 1620 because of the needed costly repair of the convent and the church. This resolution was repeated the following year because of the needed assistance to be provided for the father provincial who was then staying in Tondo.
During 1625, Fr. Antonio de Ocampo pawned the convent for 800 pesos, the sum to be spent during a three-year term improvement of the house facilities like the cenador, the staircase, etc. It is believed that the construction of the church and convent was finalized at around this time.
In 1641, the prior was authorized to repair the church due to the turmoil caused by the Sangleys and in addition, water cisterns were installed to save budget for purchasing. Four years after, the church was in need of immediate repair because it was devastated again by an earthquake. The repairs and restoration were done and the "church looked magnificent and strong in its full masonry construction." This magnificence was short-lived because in 1661, Governor Sabiniano Manrique de Lara who feared Koseng (Koxinga), a Chinese pirate from Hermosa Island (Formosa, Taiwan) might fortify himself inside the structure. He commanded that the structure be pulled down. According to a clause of the Chapter of 1661, "the convent suffered so much during the war of the Sangleys that now it cannot be sufficient by itself."
The income of Sangley stores, the alms for the souls in purgatory, some donations and tax exemption were utilized for the rebuilding of the church and the convent.
In 1714, the Private Definitory proposed that the church and convent of Tondo pay back from their own properties the funds that were spent for the reconstructions of the church.
In 1728, the convent used 2,000 pesos from the provincial funds to renovate and enlarge the church. The facade and the two towers that were about to fall were reconstructed in 1734. This rebuilding was done during the term of Fr. Diego Bergaño. The building was damaged again by the earthquake of 1740 and was repaired the next year.
The church was heavily damaged again by another earthquake in 1863 and was rebuilt for the third time by Fr. Manuel Diez Gonzalez. The restoration was completed by Fr. Casimiro Herrero, parish priest of Tondo from 1874 to 1880, who followed the plans of Architect Luciano Oliver in 1873. For the first time in the country, steel framing was used for the media naranja dome and iron sheets for the roofing. Condrado Gregorio took over the construction from Architect Oliver and used aramadura de hierro, which came from England.
Fr. Mariano Gil led the construction of the cemetery during his priorship from 1889 to 1898. The fence was designed by Architect Gregorio N. Santos. Walls made of stone were imported from Guadalupe and Meycauayan. The entire construction project costed 2,150 pesos.
The organ was imported from the renowned Amezua Organeros of Barcelona, Spain and was installed in 1893. It had one main keyboard with 56 keys and a peladier with 19 keys and four combinations.
In 1898, Fr. Pablo Alvarez bought a molave door for 1470 pesos to be used as the main entrance door.
Church services came to a halt when it was used as a cuartel during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. The services were held in the house of Primo Arambulo at Santiago de Vera Street. During the last days of the Japanese occupation, the church was reopened for thousands of refugees.
In 1997, aside from major repairs, Carillon bells were installed under the term of Msgr. Emmanuel Sunga as Parish Priest.
The structural envelope is characterized by minimal ornamentation with Ionic rectangular pilasters attached at the main facade. Massive buttresses also support the unproportional domes of the bell towers. There are also blind arched openings that contrast with the rectangular voids and a triangular pediment. The neoclassical architectural style has its big influence the construction of the church and convent. In its interiors, It is composed of a main central nave that is flanked by two aisles that are linked by solid columns. The internal space spans 65 meters in length, 22 meters in width and 17 meters in height.
The feast day of Sto. Niño in Tondo is celebrated in the third Sunday of January. The fiesta in Tondo has the biggest participation in Manila, not only because Tondo is the most populous district in the city and poorest but perhaps because of the many anecdotes connected with the Sto. Niño of Tondo. According to Philippine Historical Commission, the peoples of Tondo celebrated the feast day with a fluvial procession that “attracted thousands of visitors.” Tondo’s terrain at that time consisted of waterways and tributaries which were connected to Manila Bay, a probable reason why the present stone church of Tondo was constructed on elevated ground (several meters above sea level) to prevent sea waters from inundating the Church.
Nick Joaquin, in his book entitled Almanac for Manileños (Published in 1979) describes the previous celebrations of the fiesta: