The historic past of the second shrine of San Miguel de Manila includes being the parish church of Philippine Presidents as well seat of the Archdiocese of Manila when the Arsobispado and the Cathedral, both in Intramuros were destroyed during World War II. More to the historical accounts was the miracle attributed by the parishioners to the Prince of Heavenly Hosts which save the church and houses of San Miguel from a great fire.
With expulsion of the Jesuits from all Spanish territories, the new San Miguel settlement across the Pasig River was placed under the care of the Franciscan friars. In 1799, the first Franciscan parish priest, Fray Pedro Malo de Molina started constructing a provisional chapel. The new shrine of Saint Michael took 36 years and 17 parish priest to construct before it was finally inaugurated in 1835.
In 1871, Doña Margarita Roxas de Ayala, matriarch of the old-rich Ayala clan, funded the reconstruction of the San Miguel parish rectory. At the time, San Miguel fiesta was celebrated on May 8 during the feast of the Apparition of the Archangel and not on September 29. Nick Joaquin suggested that the shift of the fiesta from May to September apparently occurred in the 1900s, when a renovated church financed by the Roxas de Ayalas was inaugurated on a September 29, which thus became fixed as the fiesta of the San Miguel de Manila.
At the end of the 18th century, the rustic village of San Miguel rivaled with the upriver arrabal of Sta. Ana as favorable summer places for the wealthy and powerful. During our Afternoon Stroll at San Miguel with Ivan Dy of Old Manila Walks, we went inside to one of the most elegant villas in the district. Owned by Don Luis Rocha, this villa would later be the summer residence of the Spanish Governor-Generals. By the latter half of nineteenth century, the Church of San Miguel had become a regal parish. Thanks to the fame of the Rocha summer villa that has been glorified into a palace where the Spanish and later American Governor-Generals then later by Philippine Presidents held residence in what is known today as the Malacañang Palace.
After World War II, Archbishop Michael O’Doherty designated Church of San Miguel as the Pro-Cathedral of Manila until a new Arsobispado and cathedral could be built in war-torn Intramuros. San Miguel has become twice regal for aside from being the parish of Malacañang, it was also became the seat of the Prince of the Church. The old rectory was replaced by a grander edifice to house both the parish and the archdiocese. Moreover, both the last foreign and first Filipino Archbishops of Manila, Michael O’Doherty and Cardinal Rufino Santos were buried in San Miguel Church when it was still a pro-Cathedral of Manila.
Of the Malacañang residents, President Carlos Garcia and First Lady Inday Garcia were its active parishioners and generous as donors during their incumbency. One of their donations was the Lourdes grotto at the east end of the patio. Future tenants of Malacañang also add to the glamour of the Church of San Miguel when Romualdez-Marcos Nuptial was held there in 1954.
There where many stories when the parish folks of San Miguel implored their patron whenever calamity threatens their genteel arrabal. Famous of the stories was a great fire that was put to a halt, as if rebuked by the image of San Miguel when it was enthroned by the parish priest on the courtyard. This miracle had saved the rest of the houses and business establishments behind the church which includes Malacañang and the old San Miguel Brewery.
The mighty monument to prince of heavenly hosts and protector of San Miguel District that stands on the churchyard was donated recently by businessman and church volunteer Antonio L. Cabangon. The 12-foot statue of St. Michael the Archangel has become a landmark within the environs of Malacañang Palace. It was created by known Filipino sculptor, Florante “Boy” Caedo.
San Miguel de Manila by Nick Joaquin
Almanac for Manilenos by Nick Joaquin