Tondo Church

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Coordinates: 14°22′31″N 121°13′19″E / 14.3753°N 121.222°E / 14.3753; 121.222

Santo Niño de Tondo Parish Church
(Church of Tondo)
ChurchofTondojf1372 12.JPG
"Santo Niño de Tondo"
Basic information
Location 600 Lorenzo Chacon St., Tondo , Manila, Philippines
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Year consecrated 1572
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Suffragan Diocese
Leadership Bishop
Architectural description
Architectural type Neoclassical Church
Architectural style Neoclassical architecture
Completed 1695
Length 65 meters
Width 22 meters
Materials Masonry

Sto. Niño de Tondo Parochial Church is one of the most visited churches in the Philippines. It is located in Tondo, Manila, Philippines. The feast of Sto. Niño of Tondo is celebrated every third week of January. Many people come to participate in the fluvial procession, because back then the terrain of Tondo consisted of waterways and tributaries which were connected to Manila Bay,a possible reason why the current church was made up of stone. It was built on elevated ground to prevent sea waters from inundating the church.


The convent in Tondo, which one of the first structures built by the Spaniards in Luzon, was accepted on May 3, 1572 by the Provincial Chapter. It has more or less 2,000 inhabitants including its first visitas, namely Lubao, Betis ,Malolos and Calumpit. The first parish priest was Fr. Agustin de Albuquerque with Fr. Pedro Holgado acting as the resident priest. In 1575, its jurisdiction extended to Naga (Navotas), Misic (the small island Maysilo), and Bulakan (town) and became its visitas. During 1578, Fr. Geronimo Marin helped arrange peaceful dialogues and mediated the conflict between Lacandola and Maestro de Ocampo Juan de Salcedo in Nabotas.

The Tondo convent housed the Franciscans when their monastery got burned in 1583. It served as a Studium Grammaticae in 1587 because the San Agustin monastery was being rebuilt following a fire. By 1591, the convent of Tondo had two priests to minister to the 6,000 souls in the towns of Nabotas and Tambobong (Malabon).

The convent solely relied on the donations from the provincial treasury because it did not have any properties where they could get the money to repair and improve the building. Many found it uncomfortable due to lack of maintenance. Added to this fact, it is the only building near Manila that can accommodate the visiting priests. The condition worsened as a result and in December 12, 1597, the council fathers refrained the visitors from staying for more than 12 hours in virtue of virtute sanctae obedientiae and with a penalty of excommunication.

The house received novices in 1597 and was able to contribute 200 pesos and 130 chickens to the San Agustin monastery in 1599. Also in the same year, Nabotas, Tambobong (Malabon) and Caloocan were added in the visitas. After the council meeting, the father provincial relieved Tondo from paying its yearly collection because there are many visitas but few alms and there is a need to raise funds and build another house. The prior was given permission to purchase a vegetable garden near the convent which would aid in paying the 200-peso debt to Manila fund.

In 1896, there are already 47,284 souls covered by the convent.


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 for the enlargement of the church for the comfortable stay of the visiting priests. The facade and the two towers that were about to fall were reconstructed in 1734 through the help of Fr. Fernando Sanchez's complaint to the Chapter fathers. This rebuilding was done during the provincialate of Fr. Diego Bergaño. To somehow help in the financing of the project, each banca crossing the estuary that opened at the convent property was charged a quarter of a peso. The building were damaged again by the earthquake of 1740 and repaired the next year. It was declared a regular house in 1759 and given the administration of the visitas of Maysilo as it had been determined in the meeting of 1754.

The church was heavily damaged by the earthquake of June 3, 1863 and was rebuilt for the third time by Fr. Manuel Diez Gonzalez. The restoration was completed by Fr. Casimiro Herrero minister of Tondo from 1874 to 1880. He must have followed the plans of architect Luciano Oliver designed in 1873. Steel framing was used for the media naranja dome and iron sheets for the roofing, the first time these materials were used in the country. According to Castaneda, Condrado Gregorio took over the construction from Oliver and indicated his intention to use aramadura de hierro. The iron has to be imported from England. This was the first edifice to include in its plans the use of iron sheets and was favorably acted upon by the Junta Consultativa and the Inspeccion General de Obras Públicas.

There were additions The Cemetery was constructed by Fr. Mariano Gil during his priorship from 1889 to 1898. Architect Gregorio N. Santos designed the fence. The walls were made of stone that were imported from Guadalupe and Meycauayan. The project cost 2,150 pesos. The organ costing 12,000 pesos excluding the transport was ordered from the renowned Amezua Organeros of Barcelona, Spain. It was installed in 1893 and had one main keyboard with 56 keys and a peladier with 19 keys and four combinations. The main molave door was bought by Fr. Pablo Alvarez for 140 pesos in 1898.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, church services were held in the house of Primo Arambulo family at Santiago de Vera Street when the Japanese engineering corps was based in the church. During the last day of the Japanese occupation the church served as sanctuary to thousands of refugees who poured into its compound from the North Harbor area which was razed by the retreating Japanese.


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.

Feast Day of Sto. Niño de Tondo[edit]

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, inhis book entitled Almanac for Manileños (Published in 1979) describes the previous celebrations of the fiesta:

“At four in the afternoon on the visperas (meaning the Saturday before) the Sto. Niño of Tondo is borne to the sea by a dancing crowd among which groups of women in pastora hats, or in katipuneda attire: white camisa, red saya. The dancing is through sunny streets hung with bunting and here and there will be a giant heart of bell that opens up as the Sto. Niño passes to unloose a shower of petals. Everyone dances, even the barefoot men bearing the image and the boys bearing standard or farol.

At North Harbor waits the great pagoda with turreted altar. The Sto. Niño embarks, along with everybody who can squeeze abroad and the pagoda moves through the flaming hues of the sunset escorted by fishing fleets bedecked with banners the smaller boats racing each other round and round the pagoda. Dusk falls as the flotilla sails northward along the bay. On the pagoda the dancing continues but the trip has also become a picnic as the good old custom of caridad showers forth bags of biscuits and baskets of native oranges. The Sto. Niño moves in a blaze of light on the waters of his city. The voyage ends at the landing in the Velasquez and Pritil, densest tenement of Tondo is even livelier because folks back from school or works join in the merriment and besides, it’s always more fun to dance under the stars than under the sun. Parents not only from Tondo or Manila but also from the province come to dance before the Sto. Niño to pray for a sick child or give thanks for a child’s recovery.

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