In 1941 the Japanese bombed Intramuros. The Church of San Agustín is also the only colonial church that has retained the vaulting (ceiling) with which it was originally built.
This was despite the destructive forces that shelled the church during World War II.
The next year, the Japanese forces began their three-year occupation of Manila. They made San Agustín a strategic post and a concentration camp for prisoners. The Church again became a shelter for hundreds of families and religious priests of various communities.
It was the only building still standing when Intramuros was almost totally destroyed during the liberation of Manila from the forces of Japan in 1945.
During the final days of Japanese occuption, when the Manila Massicre occurred, Intramuros became the centre of the last stand of 10,000 Japanese and supporting Korean troops.
Conservative estimates state that the Manila Massacre, which took place in February 1945, claimed the lives of over 111,000 civilians, an estimate of 35,000 more than the number who died at either Nagasaki or Hiroshima six months later.
At that time, a majority of the Spanish priests and brothers in Intramuros – about eighty of them - were separated from the Filipino population and led by the military police to two shelters in front of the Cathedral.
When they were penned in the shelters, the Japanese soldiers threw hand grenades among them. They then covered the entrances to the shelters with gasoline drums and earth, literally burying the prisoners alive. Out of thirteen Augustinians, only two were still alive when the American forces arrived.
Afterwards the Americans seized the church. Many of the church's items were stolen and lost.
An inventory made in 1951 stated that 270 paintings were lost during World War II, and also altarpieces, marble tables, a map collection, wall clocks, a baby grand piano and a dinner service for 100 persons.
Fortunately, vestments, many statues, and the jewels adorning statues were saved because there had been hidden elsewhere in the city.
In the warfare of 1945, the second floor of the adjacent Monastery of San Agustín was totally destroyed, and its walls and the roof were heavily damaged.
In 1945, with the nearby Manila Cathedral totally destroyed, the Church of San Agustin was made into a parish. In 1960 an annex building was reconstructed to house the offices of the parish and as quarters for candidates of the Order of Saint Augustine.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photos (at right):
Pictures 1 - 3: The "realejo" pipe organ, assembled on site in the Church of San Agustín in 1810. (See next page for details.)
San Agustin Church. The web site of this ancient Augustinian church at Intramuros in Manila.
To view the photo gallery of the Augustinians in the Philippines in this web site, select Philippines: Province of Cebu and Philippines: Intramuros after you click here.