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One of the largest churches in the country is the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.

A glowing architectural landmark along Quezon Ave., it is both traditional and modern.
The church-tower-conventoplan and the arches around the courtyard are reminiscent of
the colonial period, while the simple and sleek design of the church faade typifies the
modern spirit when it was built.
To date, it enjoys the distinction of having the largest nave with no rows of column to
divide the aisles. The nave is so wide that as many 6,000 devotees can be contained at
one given time.
The Dominican church, fashioned after the European Romanesque tradition with a
cloister at the left side, became a historical site in 1983 when it was used as the venue for
the weeklong wake for Ninoy Aquino. That time, the people trooped to the site to pay
their last respects to a fallen hero. Though the church was only a mute witness to the
unfolding of a stirring event in Philippine history, everyone must have seen the church.
As the wake was all over the media, the church was photographed, videoed, filmed and
beamed on national and international television while the nation was in mourning.
The church interior was a suitable backdrop for many reasons. The unusually ample space
of the crossing in the transept area, the expansive and awesome nave, and the hallowed
feeling of the interior brought by the diffused lighting coming from the stained glass
panels in the apse area, provided a somber setting to the grief-stricken situation.
Twenty-one years have passed since those fateful days in August. But nothing extensive
has ever been written about the church, much less about the man responsible for the
design and construction of the structure.
Lest history forgets, it was Jos Mara Zaragoza who took the arduous task to design and
construct the church and nearby convent in 1951.
The Santo Domingo Church as it stands today is a completion of a historical cycle, so to
speak. The old Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros, Manila was designed by his
granduncle Flix Roxas Sr. in 1864. The church made history because it was the first
earthquake Gothic church in the country. In December 1941, however, the church became
the first casualty of the accidental bombing of Intramuros by the invading Japanese
Imperial Army. From the ruins, only the images of the La Naval, Sto. Domingo, and San
Jos were later installed at the new site in Quezon City. The present church boasts eight
paintings of Botong Francisco on the life of Sto. Domingo, portrait paintings done by
Antonio Garca-Llamas of the four evangelists adorning the pendentives in the dome
area, the stained glass panels designed by Galo B. Ocampo and executed by the Kraut Art

Glass, and sculptural reliefs on the faade by Francisco Monti.

Joseling, as he was fondly addressed by family and close associates, belonged to a family
of artists. Another granduncle, Miguel Zaragoza, did the painting decorations of the
Recollects Church and monastery of San Nicolas de Tolentino, also in Intramuros of
colonial Manila. He also did botanical drawings for Fray Blanco’s book on
Philippine flora.
Zaragoza’s architectural passion rubbed in in his son, Ramn, who in his own right
is an architect of note, and now more known for his architectural restoration projects.
Ramn’s interest in antiques has propelled him to be actively involved in
archaeological expeditions. Recently, together with the most benevolent efforts of
Admiral Jos Ignacio Gonzales Aller, former director of the Museo Naval in Madrid, they
were able to pave the way for the permanent display of a handsome part of the San Diego
archaeological collection gathered from an expedition undertaken by Frank Goddio in
Batangas in the 1980s.
The Museo Naval in Madrid ranks as the finest naval museums in the world. The San
Diego artifacts, a gift from Goddio himself, constitute the largest collection of Asian
underwater archaeological finds on permanent exhibition in Europe. The objects occupy a
sumptuous space in the Museo, and which is now known as the Salon Filipino.
Zaragoza was born on Dec. 6, 1912. During that time, the Philippines was steadily
experiencing American influence, even as the country’s Spanish heritage was very
much in evidence.
At the time of Zaragoza’s birth, Manila was being designed to suit Daniel
Burnham’s plans. Burnham, who was known for his work as the director of works
for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, was aiming for something
simple yet acknowledges Philippine conditions and traditions. To execute his plans and
designs, Burnham chose William Parsons, whose works in the Philippines included the
Manila Club (1908), the Philippine General Hospital (1910), the Manila Hotel (1912) and
the first University Building in the University of the Philippines (1913).
One Philippine condition that Burnham recognized when he planned Manila was the
strong influence of Spanish architecture in the country.
For close to three centuries, the country was a Spanish colony. Spanish architecture
constructed large cathedrals and government buildings as statements of power. City

planning during the Spanish occupation had the church as its focal point, as in the case of
the Manila Cathedral. The Manila Cathedral, rebuilt in 1880, due to the earthquake that
damaged the first edifice completed in 1595, resembles many traditional churches in
Like other European churches, it was made of stone and based on a cruciform plan. It has
a freestanding bell tower and a traditional faade divided into three portals, the central
being larger.
In spite of the evident Spanish marks, indigenous architecture in the country remained. In
many Philippine provinces, particularly in city outskirts, the traditional bahay
kubo (nipa hut) could be seen. The organic materials used (bamboo, nipa, thatch) abound
in the country. They were favorable for air circulation inside the house because of the
country’s tropical climate. This type of native architecture reflected simplicity
– providing only the immediate needs of its inhabitants.
It was in this milieu that Zaragoza grew up.
Zaragoza was one of the first Filipinos educated in architecture in the Philippines. He
graduated with a BS in Architecture from the University of Santo Toms (UST) in 1936.
One of his professors was National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil, who belonged to
the first generation of architects educated abroad. Another architect was Toms Mapua.
Zaragoza passed the board examination in 1938, making him the 82nd registered architect
in the country. One of his early achievements was his winning design for the new
headquarters of the San Miguel Beer Corporation. This put Zaragoza and his firm (Jos
M. Zaragoza and Associates) in the forefront of architectural scene in the Philippines.
A crowning achievement of Zaragoza’s early career was the completion of the
Santo Domingo church and convent in 1951.
At that time of the commissioned work, Zaragoza, a staunch believer of the Filipino
capability to execute things exceptionally well, was president of the Philippine Institute
of Architects, an aggrupation of professionals aiming to put the Filipino talent at par with
his counterpart anywhere in the world.
His position afforded him to represent the Filipino architects in many gatherings around
the world and in many occasions, was the only Asian present at the conferences.

Zaragoza’s travels allowed him to meet other architects and in effect, exposed him
to the different architectural movements in the world.
One major figure he met was Frank Lloyd Wright whose ideas influenced
Zaragoza’s works in the 1970s, as seen in the Virra Mall and the Escolta Bank.
In the latter part of the 1950s, Zaragoza traveled to Rome, Italy to attend a conference on
the new standards of design for Catholic Churches at the International Institute of
Liturgical Art, an effort to bring the priest and the parishioner closer. He was the only
Asian present in the conference. It was also there that he earned his diploma in liturgical
art and architecture.
In 1960, Zaragoza was a guest architect of the Companhia Urbanizadora Da Nova
Capital Do Brazil, a project of Brasilia, Brazil’s new modern capital. There, he
was able to hobnob with Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, the latter also an influence to
Zaragoza’s architectural style.
Like Niemeyer, Zaragoza was exposed to similar challenges in his designs. Niemeyer had
to balance Brazil’s colonial past of baroque with the new technology and the needs
of the government, together with the country’s climate and physical conditions. In
a similar vein, Zaragoza had to balance his designs with respect to the
country’s’ colonial past and the modernizing trend in Manila, plus the
country’s climate and physical conditions.
In all his architectural projects, Zaragoza was ably helped by his wife, Pilar Rosello. At
the height of the architectural career of Zaragoza, the husband and wife tandem was a
team to beat – Zaragoza doing the structural aspects, and Pilar doing the interiors,
particularly wood carpentry and furniture. In the Meralco Theater, for instance, the
wooden paneling in the auditorium was designed by Pilar, the strongest feature of which
was the interplay of textures involving the natural grains of wood.
Living with the motto "land should not be wasted," Zaragoza was honored in 1973 with
the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award by the City of Manila. Four years later, the
PIA presented him the Gold Medal of Merit, bestowed to him by no less than his mentor,
Juan Nakpil.
Apart from the Santo Domingo Church, Virra Mall and Escolta Bank, Zaragoza also

designed the Union Church of Manila, the Saint John Bosco, the Meralco Building, the
Zaragoza building and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. He was
also one of those who designed the National Library on T.M. Kalaw in Manila, being a
member of the Hexagon Associated Architects and the Bataan Power Plant of the
National Power Corporation.
Zaragoza passed away on Nov. 26, 1994, 56 years after he joined the architectural
profession. Throughout his career, he had made a mall, a bank, ecclesiastical buildings
and an array of residences, both here and abroad. One church that Zaragoza built in 1975,
which visibly reflected the spirit of Filipino architecture, was the Union Church of
Manila. The shell exterior of the church reflected the Philippines’ tropical location.
It also resembled the Philippine Exposition Hall in New York in 1936. Unfortunately, it
was leveled to the ground in the late 1990s to give way to a new structure of the same
A book on Zaragoza will be forthcoming, authored jointly by his daughter, Ma. Lourdes
Zaragoza Banson on her father’s life, and this writer on Zaragoza’s
architectural works. Data that readers may wish to share for inclusion in the book are
most welcome.

still the most
building in

Zaragozas most famous structure, the Santo Domingo Church and Convent in
Quezon City
Jos Maria Zaragoza (1912-1994) played a key role in the reconstruction of postwar
Philippines, helping reshape the landscape of Manila ravaged by the Second World War
through his striking structures that melded modernism and Philippine motifs and styles.
He designed some of the most famous religious structures in the Philippines such as the
Santo Domingo Church and Convent and the Pink Sisters Convent, both in Quezon City;
the Union Church of Manila (a Protestant church) and St. John Bosco Parish Church on
Arnaiz Avenue (Pasay Road) in Makati; and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous
Medal in Posadas Village, Muntinlupa City.
He also designed the Pius XII Catholic Center in Ermita, Manila; and the Tala
Leprosarium in Caloocan City.
Perhaps his most controversial liturgical work was his redesign of Quiapo Church.
Vatican recognition
Zaragoza had a diploma in liturgical art and architecture from the International Institute
of Liturgical Art in Rome. He also obtained a diploma in comprehensive planning from
the Hilversun Technical Research Center in The Netherlands.
He also became ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the Philippines,
a Catholic order with charities around the world. The order has a permanent non-stateobserver status in the United Nations.
Recognizing his contributions to the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II conferred on
Zaragoza the title Gentiluomo di Sua Santita (Lay Member of the Papal Household) in
1992. Men who receive such title serve as lay attendants of the Pope in Vatican City.
Futuristic lines
In 1975, Zaragoza designed the sci-fi-inspired Vira Mall in Greenhills, San Juan, which
depicted intergalactic travel through the ingenious use of glass tubes. The Union Church
in Makati was also designed along futuristic lines.
the Battle
of La
Naval by
the Italian
For its
architecture and its liturgical artworksby Monti, Galo Ocampo, Antonio
Llamas and National Artist Carlos Botong Franciscothe Santo Domingo
Church/ Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of La Naval de Manila has been
declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines.

Sadly, both structures have been demolished or altered beyond recognition, meeting the
fate of visionary buildings designed by other National Artists for Architecture, such as the
Jai-Alai and Avenue Theater in Manila, and Rizal Theater in Makati (Juan Nakpil);
Magnolia in Quezon City; Hyatt Regency Hotel in Pasay City; and Benguet Center in
Ortigas (Leandro Locsin).
(Another Locsin structure, Manila Mandarin, may meet the same fate soon.)
Among Zaragozas designs that have reshaped the Manila landscape are the Meralco
Building; the National Library; Commercial Bank and Trust Company in Escolta, Manila,
with its ingenious half-dome greeting motorists and commuters from Jones Bridge.
Old and new
His most famous office building is the Meralco Building, still the most beautiful building
in Ortigas Center.
The late architect and architecture historian, Benedictine Father Rodrigo Perez III, said
the 15-story Meralco is slightly curved to give it more stability and to avoid the boxlike
appearance of rectangular buildings and the train effect of straight corridors. Tapering
vertical sunbreakers enhance the gentle curve of the concave faade.
But without a doubt, Zaragozas most famous building is Santo Domingo Church and
Convent, which he designed for the Dominicans, his mentors at University of Santo
Tomas. The design married old and new and follows the plan of the church-towerconvento complex of the colonial period, said Father Perez. While the building
embodies the simplicity of modern design, such features as arches give it a traditional
Zaragoza took up BS Architecture at UST and graduated in 1936. Two years later, he
placed seventh in the licensure examination and became the countrys 82nd licensed