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Binondo Church: The Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz

by Nathalie Santos - Dayo

Who is Saint Lorenzo Ruiz?

Lorenzo Ruiz was born to a Chinese father and a Filipina mother in the early 1600s (exact date unknown). He learned three languages, Chinese from his father, Tagalog or Filipino from his mother and Spanish from the Dominican priests of the church where he served as an altar boy.

He is the first Filipino martyr and Saint, beatified by Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981 during his Papal visit to the Philippines. The beatification of then Blessed Lorenzo Ruiz was the first to be done outside of Vatican City in Rome. The canonization of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was held on October 18, 1987 by Pope John Paul II in Vatican City, Rome.

The Facade of the Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz (Binondo Church)

The Basilica's History

In 1596, Dominican priests founded the Binondo Church to service the Filipino and Chinese converts in the area. The original church has been damaged by natural disasters, as well as wars which have plagued our country. The only original structure existing is the octagon-shaped bell tower of the Church.

Today the Church holds masses in three different languages, Chinese (dialects Hokkien and Mandarin), Filipino and English.

My Experience

The Crucified Christ

I went to the Basilica last January, as my friends and I were busy hunting good subjects for our Architecture Theme shoot. We were in Intramuros when a friend of mine suggested that we go to the San Lorenzo Ruiz Church in Binondo. Upon seeing the church, I felt a certain sense of awe, inside my head, I was saying to myself,  faith and determination made it possible for the church to survive the many challenges that it faced.

The beauty of the facade is not something that one sees everyday. There is a sense of continuity, one wouldn't know where the new structure began to meet that of the old structure of the Bell Tower.

Going inside, we were thinking twice about taking some photos of the interior, but we can not resist capturing the beauty of what was inside.

Upon entering the church and to your right, you will see this image of the crucified Christ.

In front of the Crucified Christ, is a place where you can light candles to offer prayers for deceased loved ones or to pray for guidance during exams.

This is a common practice among Filipinos, especially for those Catholic students who are about to take their board exams.

 The Main Altar of The Church

Seeing the main altar of the church, I understood why this church is popular among those who are getting married. It is magnificent! I was breathlessly impressed by the details of the altar.

The painted frescoes on the ceiling

In the middle is an impressive statue of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, it goes without saying that aside from Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, this church is also a devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

The most impressive part and one that is easy to miss are the frescoes painted on the ceiling of the church.

The paintings may not compare to the ones found in the Sistine Chapel, but the ones found on the ceiling of the Binondo Church are unique in their own way.

The paintings depict all of the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, again showing the patrons’ devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Unfortunately though, the ceilings may need more maintenance as there are some signs of water damage on some of the paintings.

It is a sad thought that one day, the next generation would not be able to see these artful depictions of faith.

I do not regret getting married in the church that we chose, since it had significance in our lives. But given the opportunity to celebrate my marriage and renew my vows in the future, I will not think twice about going to the Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz. It is not only a church with significance in our history as a nation, but it has significance to the faith of the Filipino people.

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