Magallanes Church

St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church
Humabon St., Magallanes Village, Makati City, Philippines
Structural Engineer: Carlos M. Villaraza
completed 2007

Photo by Takuya Wakabayashi, 2019

Architectural Design Statement
April 16, 2005

The Parish Church of St. Alphonsus was built in 1968 and consumed by fire in September 2004. We are rebuilding the church, preserving the concrete structure that survived the fire while adding a soaring roof that increases the height from six meters to 28 meters. With a new mezzanine, seating will also increase from 300 to 900. The new structure will be a symbol of a community transforming tragedy into grace.

In 1968, Architect Leandro Locsin designed an 800-square-meter parish church that was intimate and low, with an interior that was dark. The plan was a perfect square, 28 meters each side, with a four-meter-high ceiling that was flat. The central aisle ran along the diagonal of the square. Marching along the perimeter were 28 concrete buttresses four meters tall, which were wide at the base and narrow at the top. They seemed to support a massive roof slab, which was actually a tall parapet wall that shielded the corrugated metal roof.

Thirty-five years later, it was one of the busiest churches in Metro-Manila. A 22-story college building had risen to dwarf it. Beside it, a country road had become a two-level highway. Makati had become the country's financial capital.

When fire destroyed the building, only the 28 buttresses remained. After much deliberation, the parish decided that it would be more economical and symbolically pithy to salvage the buttresses, rather than demolish them and start from scratch.

The new structure will consist of 13 roof vaults resting on new composite columns. The central roof vault, eight meters wide, will travel the longest distance, which is the diagonal of the square plan, to a height of 28 meters. Independent roof vaults, 4 1/2 meters wide, will ascend to it on either side, beginning at 11 meters from ground level, then 14 meters, 16 meters, 18 meters, 21 meters, and 25 meters, like the 12 apostles who accompanied Jesus Christ. The vaults will be thin-shell concrete membranes clad in unglazed clay tiles, which will help reduce heat gain. The vaults are separated by clear glass windows, which, in the upper reaches of the building, are also operable.

The 28 buttresses, originally designed for aesthetic effect, were hollow. They will now be filled with concrete to fulfill a new structural purpose of providing lateral support to the new composite columns that carry the roof vaults.

The goal, ostensibly, is a sustainable building that by its architecture minimizes its waste of materials and dependence on fossil fuels.

The project will also serve to sustain things other than tangible material resources: Memory and Faith. The most important thing that we are doing here is to reuse the existing structure as the springboard for our soaring roofs. The existing structure will serve as an agent of Memory, a reminder of the many events that the community celebrated in it, as well as a reminder that the community survived a tragedy together. It is as a phoenix rising that the structure will serve as an agent of Faith. The symbolism is multivalent and instructive, demonstrating tenets of the Catholic faith: the original structure speaks of mortality, suffering, death; the soaring new space speaks of paradise, grace, and resurrection.

The Altar Wall
The Altar Wall acts as the backdrop of the Sanctuary. It is about 6.8 meters tall and curved in plan, but if one were to stretch it out, it would be almost four and a half meters wide. The upper part of the wall is stained glass, and the lower part is wood-clad concrete.

The concept of the Altar Wall is inspired by the Burning Bush, and in that moment when God tells Moses “I am that I am.”

The colors of the stained glass – there are six (white, yellow, yellow orange, orange, red orange, and red) – are distributed in 50 mm by 50 mm squares of stained glass, creating the vibrant blaze of the Burning Bush. White is used only in the three strokes that comprise the Hebrew letter called the Aleph, which is the first letter of the unutterable name of God. 
The sun rises directly behind the stained glass.

(For photographs of the construction process, 

Article on Magallanes Church as seen in April 2009 issue of BluPrint Magazine. 
Please right-click an image to enlarge.   Text of article follows below.

BluPrint Vol 2 2009

Space and Spirit

Dominic Galicia Articulates Man’s Spiritual Dimension Through Geometry


Written by: Nikki Flancia 

Photographed by: Paolo Buendia


Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race... Every human thought has its page in that vast book.”            Victor Hugo


A story of loss, desolation, hope and faith is embodied in the new St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church, rebuilt on the ashes and ruins of the old church of Magallanes Village, Makati.


Designed in 1968 by Leandro Locsin, National Artist for Architecture, the old church was built with a perfectly square floor plan, laid out diagonally such that the altar was approached from the northwest corner.   Twenty-eight concrete buttresses, seven on each side, angled inward, bearing what appeared to be a massive flat concrete box, but was actually a corrugated metal roof bordered by a concrete parapet.


  The original modernist structure served the Magallanes community for thirty-six years, changing little as its surroundings sprouted a skyway, a high-rise college and commercial arcades.  In 2001, an adoration chapel was incorporated within the rear corner of the church, its design respectfully integrated into the original structure by the architect, Dominic Galicia. 


A unique highlight of the church site was The Garden of the Way of the Cross, landscaped by the National Artist Ildefonso P. Santos, with each station depicted by a noted artist, among whom were National Artist Napoleon Abueva, Eduardo Castrillo, Ramon Orlina and Solomon Saprid.


In September 2004, a fire consumed the entire structure of the church, leaving nothing but the concrete buttresses.


       Led by the newly-installed parish priest, Fr. Benito Tuazon, the parish held a competition for the church’s new design in November 2004. The winning entry, by Dominic Galicia Architects, was conceived with the idea of literally rebuilding from the ruins, using the surviving buttresses as springboards for renewed growth, in the form of a series of soaring roof vaults.


The highest vault reaches 28 meters and, marking the diagonal axis of the square plan, is also the longest.  It is flanked by six ascending roof vaults on either side, adding up to a total of 13 roof vaults – symbolic of Christ and the twelve apostles.


The 28 concrete buttresses, though massive to look at, were originally hollow.  They are part of a theme that Architect Locsin often employed, that of massive buttresses carrying a massive parapet.  Carlos M. Villaraza, the structural and earthquake engineer of the rebuilding, specified that the hollow buttresses be filled, to provide lateral support for the new concrete columns that carry the load of the arched roofs.  The new columns are designed to carry the roof and so, strictly speaking, the filled buttresses are not needed.  But the additional lateral support does not hurt, in a country that experiences its share of earthquakes.


The new columns also carry the load of the new mezzanine floor, which holds about 250 people and brings the church’s seating capacity to almost a thousand.  The mezzanine is carried by giant I-beams that stretch from one end of the church to the other, resulting in a stepped ceiling that accentuates the drama of arrival.


The ceiling is relatively low at the entrance, and steps even lower as one proceeds down the central aisle. One is led forward, drawn by the colors of the stained glass above the altar, until the mezzanine disappears, and the soaring ceiling becomes fully apparent.


Standing at the center, right under the highest portion of the ceiling, the diagram of the church becomes clear.  One is at the intersection, where the main axis, extending from the Main Doors to the altar, meets the cross axis, extending from one confessional to the other.


The Main Doors, almost four meters high and made of solid narra, were carved in the woodworking town of Betis, Pampanga.  The carvings are based on famous images of the life and death of Christ painted by the Italian master Giotto on the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy.  Architect Galicia intended the doors to be three-dimensional renditions of these famous images of Christian iconography.  When open, the doors provide a dramatic introduction to the church, perfectly framing the stained glass at the altar.


The altar serves as the focus of the church.  The base of the altar table was salvaged from the Broken Bread altar of the previous church.  The previous altar was composed of the two halves of a large block of white marble.  The relatively undamaged half is now used for the main altar table, while the damaged half is now the base of the lectern.


In the background, the stained glass screen glows with the colors of fire.  Its symbolism is that of the Burning Bush.  Among the reds and oranges are translucent whites that form the three strokes of the Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and also the first letter of “I am who am”, God’s response to Moses’ question.


At either end of the cross-axis are brick-clad cylinders that anchor the stairs leading to the mezzanine.  Inside each cylinder is a confessional. According to the architect, “St. Alphonsus Liguori, the patron saint of confessors, wrote that when one confesses to a priest, it is equivalent to confessing to Christ. We wanted to express this link, as well as the primacy of confession, in a clear diagrammatic way.  This is why the confessionals, clad in brick, look very solid, very much like visual anchors of the architectural composition.”


Inside each confessional is a circular window that opens out to the landscape outside, symbolizing the renewal that the sacrament of confession brings.    


Seen as the building’s crowning feature, the new roof strengthens the church’s presence in the landscape.  The 13 roof slabs are made of reinforced concrete, and are sufficient to shelter the interior, but the additional layer of clay tile reduces heat gain.  The tile highlights the presence of the church in the skyline, setting it apart from the stark concrete of the surroundings.  It also links the structure to the early churches built in the country.  Handcrafted in Vigan, the tile uses the same pattern used in the roofs of heritage houses.


Born out of fire, the new Magallanes church is an expression of the triumph of hope and faith over calamity, in a poem of geometry, symbolism and space. #


St. Alphonsus and Confession

March 13, 2009

St. Alphonsus once wrote that when one confesses to a priest, it is equivalent to confessing to Christ himself.  This is why the confessionals in Magallanes Church are built as two equal cylinders, massive brick drums that visually support either end of the main roof vault.  They are architectural expressions of St. Alphonsus' equivalency of confessing to a priest and confessing to Christ.

There is also an inner drum, concentric with the brick drum.  This inner drum, as originally designed, is a deep and narrow well where the penitent enters and kneels.  It is an architectural expression of the depth of sin that a penitent may feel himself to be in, and deep within this depth he kneels to confess.  He looks through the confessional screen that separates him from the priest, past the silhouette of the priest's profile, and towards a large circular window that frames the view of a garden beyond.  This is an architectural expression of the saving power of confession, of the paradise that awaits one if one confesses, even from the deepest depths of sin.

Thus is St. Alphonsus' championing of confession expressed in architectural terms, and in varying scales, from the physical composition of the church building to the inner, spiritual landscape of the penitent's experience.

 The Main Doors

I AM THE DOOR. Here is a guide to the narrative images carved in narra on the main doors of St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church in Magallanes Village, Makati City. The main doors of St. Alphonsus contain 20 images of the life and death of Jesus Christ based on early 14th century frescoes painted by Giotto on the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, in Padua, Italy, and carved in narra by early 21st century carvers from Betis, Pampanga.

Life of Christ

Death of Christ

Link to YouTube walk-through video