San Fernando de Dilao (Paco), Manila


The first church in Paco, dedicated to the Purificacion de Nuestra Señora., was made of light materials -- nipa and bamboo -in 1580.  But from 1599 to 1601, it was rebuilt of stone by the inhabitants of Paco, under the able direction of Father Juan de Garrovillas.

On October 3, 1603, it was attacked and burned by rebellious Chinese, but in 1606 was repaired and made into a stone church at the expense of Don Francisco Gomez de Arellano, archdeacon of the Manila Catholic Cathedral, who wished to see an everlasting temple built in Paco.

Then in 1762, it was burned again, this time by the English who occupied Manila.  In 1791, a provisional bamboo and nipa church was constructed and the different pueblos were combined and called San Fernando by order of the Superior Governor.  During the period from 1793 to 1794, the stone convent was constructed under the direction of Father Joaquin Segui.  However, it was repaired in 1854.

The people, nevertheless wished to have a better church. The religious order and the people worked together to realize their desire.  It was in 1800 that the construction of a new and fine temple called "antigua iglesia de Paco” begun under the direction of Father Bernardo de la Concepcion.  It was completed in 1814.  From 1839 to 1841 the church tower was being built under the direction of Father Miguel Richar, who in 1842 directed the casting of a sonorous bell.

In 1852 the church was ruined by the earthquake of that year, and in 1880 both church and convent were completely destroyed by the great upheaval of that year.  This was a great loss to the people of Paco.  The reconstruction of the church by Father Gilberto Martin commenced in 1881 from tile alms and donations given by the people as well as from the kind help of a Spaniard, Don Manuel Perez, who donated all the galvanized iron used in the construction of the church.  When it was about to be completed, it was partly destroyed by a typhoon in 1892.  The reconstruction was completed in 1896, under the direction of Father Gilberto who labored with zeal as a Christian missionary and benefactor.

This last Paco Church constructed under the Spanish regime was built of stone and wood.  The altars were magnificent. The dome presented an aspect of grandeur with its splendid glass windows all around.  The church was famous for its ancient Santo Sepulchro which was visited by those devout Catholics during Fridays and Lenten seasons.  But unfortunately, during the Filipino-American war, the church was bombarded and completely burned together with the costly and much venerated image of the Santo Sepulcro, on February 5, 1899.  This was felt to be a great loss by the people of the community.  Only some parts of the same basement of the old church remained while the rest was completely devoured by the hungry flames.


In 1908 the Belgian Mission took possession of Paco parish, and in 1910, Father Raymund Esquenet worked hard for the erection of a provisional concrete church near the place where the former one stood.

This church was small.  At the middle altar was the statue of La Candelaria between San Jose on the right and the Sacred Heart of Jesus on right.  Above this statue was a small image of the Holy Child.

Near the main altar, just at the right comer was a small altar that was dedicated to La Candelaria.  The new Santo Sepulcro was on the left side near the main altar and, near this stood the Virgen Dolorosa.  The baptistry was at the left side near the main entrance and the portrait of Saint John the Baptist was placed there also. BACK TO THE TOP


In 1924 the parish priest, Father Jose Billet thought of constructing a new and large concrete church for the district of Paco.  He was able to raise some P40,000 from Sunday collections and donations from parishioners.  It was, however, Father Godofredo Aldenhuijsen who actually pushed through the construction of the church when he was appointed parish priest of Paco. Employing the services of Engineer Marion Karolchuck, a French national, Father Godofredo formally launched the building of the concrete church with an estimated expense of P200,000.

The church took two years to build, 1931 to 1933.  The formal inauguration, however, was made in April, 1934, with Archbishop Michael O'Doherty of Manila officiating.  The huge bell, which was the pride of the pre-war Paco church, was a donation of Father Godofredo's brother in Holland.  It was destroyed in the battle for the liberation of Manila.

Ruined by World War II, Paco Church was reconstructed in 1948 by Father Godofredo through donations and contributions of the parishioners.


Through the years, the church went through a series of renovations and remodeling. When the ceiling was repainted, the cherubims that adorned the dome were coated with plain white. Same with the Jerusalem cross on the ceiling and other trimmings.

In order to make the church cooler and comfortable to the faithful that attends the services, the windows were made bigger. Later, the walls were removed and move outwards. The Stations of the Cross were transferred to the area near the main entrance of the church.

To make the interiors brighter, additional fluorescent lamps were installed to complement the incandescent-lamp lit arañas. Much later, the church lighting were changed to compact fluorescent (CF) lamps.

In 1996, Msgr. Domingo Cirilos commenced a reconstruction project.  To begin with, the communion rail in the church was knocked down and the sanctuary's dark gray granolitic floor was retiled with light-colored marble slabs.  The columns were likewise covered with marble slabs. The whole church was once again repainted and gave the over-all effect of added brightness especially around the sanctuary. The church exterior was also painted.

The ceiling was replaced with arches and painted white. The galvanized iron long-span roof was replaced with tegula tiles after a series of waterproofing works.