Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Iturralde House (Old Embassy of Monaco)

By: Paolo M. Bustamante
Last month, my friends and I toured around Quiapo, Manila. It was a very fulfilling experience because I saw a different side of Manila that I have never seen before. I saw the beauty of what Manila used to be. It felt so nostalgic that I wish I could travel back in time just to relive those days. I feel like I am the only person who can see the potential of Quiapo to be a better tourist spot that it currently is today. However, I sure do hope that I am not alone in having that notion. I believe that Quiapo is a very underrated place, because despite of all the colorful chaos going on, it has a certain “feel” to it –like it has a “spirit”, a strong pulse that is not present in other places in Manila. It has a distinct kind of community, culture and history that will stick with every visitor or passerby. 

Quiapo is so much more than its Black Nazarene or the issue of unsafe travels –it holds a special place in the hearts of every Filipino. I got the honor of getting to know the families who presently live in the pre-war houses in Quiapo. Believe it or not, they are very warm and friendly –debunking the age-old idea that they’re the opposite.


 Yes, Quiapo may be grubby and scruffy, but if to get to know your city and its community with an open mind and heart, you will be hooked just like me. Who knows, right? After, dropping by Quiapo, my friend Stephen and I waited near San Sebastian Church. We ended up there because he insisted we make a left leading there, and so we did. 

Upon reaching that destination, I couldn’t believe my eyes with what I saw. The street was dotted with ancestral houses, and it was there that I admitted to myself that there is always so much more to discover. But one house in particular caught my eye, and that was the “Iturralde House”. 

According to Stephen Pamorada, the “Iturralde House” is located along San Sebastian St. just behind the San Sebastian Church. It used to be the old embassy of Monaco during Manila’s heyday. (Yes, it’s Grace Kelly’s Monaco!) The house looks like a typical old mansion in downtown Manila, while the grillwork of the gate is very Art Deco. 

Unfortunately, just like most of the old houses in Manila, it was unmaintained. It really fascinates me to visit old places in Manila because it is very fulfilling and exciting for me. Yes, it is truly tiring, but at the end of the day I feel exhilarated like I just did something worthwhile. The most amazing part of doing what I do is my chance to interact with the community and hear their stories. From that I say, explore and get to know Manila –give it a chance.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

St. Scholastica's College Chapel

 By: Paolo M. Bustamante
I recall my sister’s stories about her experiences in the halls of St. Scholastica’s College, as I browsed my mother’s pictures during her Oblation.  An Oblation is a ceremony undertaken by an oblate novice, granting them spiritual affirmation to the Benedictine monastery.   There are no vows taken, but as indicated by the Latin word “oblati”, this entails the oblate to offer his/her gifts, talents, skills and life to God. 

My mother underwent the same ceremony, not long ago.  My sister and I were there to witness the entire event, as she fulfilled her dream of serving God and the community by being an active member of this Benedictine group.

My mother has been expressing her desire to serve people and to be closer to God.  Being a devout Catholic, she has been active in various church and outreach activities for many years now.  I was so glad when she made her promise to serve God and the people during her Oblation.  My mother’s Oblation ceremony was set in the chapel of St. Scholastica’s College.  It was so beautiful.  A blanket of peace settled upon us who watched the oblate novices commit themselves to God, underneath a pre-war gothic chapel ceiling.  My mother received the Benedictine medal right before the ceremony ended. Her face was filled with immense joy and fulfillment that I could feel her happiness even if I was seated in the far left corner of the chapel.  That is one moment in my mother’s life that I will remember forever.

My sister who was there with me during my mother’s Oblation told me stories about the chapel of St. Scholastica’s College, right after the ceremony took place.  She told me that masses were held there every morning.  Teachers and students would attend those masses every morning.   There were regular faces, she remembers.  Students packed the chapel during tests and exams, she tells me with a smile.  When entering the chapel, Scholasticans and some teachers would touch the image of the Virgin Mary near the entrance and make the sign of the cross after dipping their fingers on the holy water.  The same thing goes before they leave; only they dip their hands on holy water after.

She said that the chapel has heard every story of every Scholastican.  It has been a huge part in the Retreats and Recollection processes that the students undertake.  My sister also has her Recollection there, as well.  The chapel was filled during the time she underwent her Recollection.  She recalls her First Friday masses, singing Benedictine songs of praise in her gala uniform… and she told me that when she remembers it, she feels very nostalgic.  My sister may not have felt a strong attachment to religion then (until now) but she felt a strong attachment to her memories in her alma mater –her  home.

Being inspired by the stories on my mother and my sister regarding the chapel of St. Scholastica’s College, I decided to feature it here in my blog and do a little research about it.  

The chapel of St. Scholastica's College is a pre-war, gothic structure.  St. Scholastica's College first settled in San Marcelino St. (where Adamson University stands today) then they moved to Leon Guinto in 1914.  Their first priority was to build classrooms for their students then.  Soon after that, they decided to build the school's chapel.  During the liberation of Manila, the school was badly hit and damaged.  The chapel was completely destroyed, as well – leaving behind the columns and the pillars.   However, during 1949 the school built a new chapel, keeping its original design.